Jacob De Meza was born in 1893, although some records list him as ‘Jack.’ He was the son of Nathaniel and Cora, and the family lived in the Islington area of London.
Jacob’s father, Nathaniel was born in 1865 in London and married his mother, Cora Price, in late 1891. At that time, Jacob had a younger sister, Winifred, and a younger brother, Denis. The 1901 census puts home as 127 Seven Sisters Road, Tottenham, London. The 1911 census then puts the family, seven siblings in all, living in Islington along with two servants.
The De Meza family were well off. Nathaniel’s profession in the 1911 census is listed as ‘Director of Public Company Tobacco.’ An 1894 commercial directory, sourced from the Commercial Directory of Jews of the UK, lists the store ‘De Meza and Sons’ at 122 High Holborn. The family were also involved in tobacco manufacturing, with Jacob & Sons de Meza Tobacconists Manufacturers listed at 99 Tottenham Road according to London City Directory. The Islington Daily Gazette and North London Tribune February 1912 report a court case against the tobacconists.
Nathaniel was a Freemason, admitted into the Earl of Zetland Masonic Lodge in 1888, but resigned a year later. His profession is listed as ‘Cigar Manufacturer’. The Lodge was ‘erased’ 10 June 2009 due to deceased membership (Lane’s Masonic Records).
The family had two servants living with them in 1911. At his death on 18 December 1926 Nathaniel was living at 115 North End Road Golders Green, Middlesex. The National Probate register 19 January 1927 shows assets of £6798 16s 4d to his widow and Denis de Meza ‘clerk’.
The 1911 census lists Jacob as ‘Student (Indian Police).’ This highlights Jacob was training to become a career soldier. This is reflected in his service in the First World War.
Jacob served in the 19th Battalion of the London Regiment. The London Regiments were different to most other regiments. The Long Long Trail outline ‘Not only were all of its battalions of the Territorial Force (although the first four were affiliated to the other City of London Regiment, the all-regular Royal Fusiliers) but each battalion was regarded as a corps in its own right.’ This evidences the experience of those in such regiments, as well as reflecting the size of the London Regiment.
Jacob was fairly successful in his military career. He rose from Lieutenant to Captain, which is particularly impressive given the experience and size of the London Regiments. He also received a Military Cross, the third highest achievement in the army. The Military Cross is awarded for acts of gallantry.
Jacob was also ‘Mentioned in Despatches,’ shown on the image below which states ‘M.I.D.’ This means his name is recorded in a report written by a superior officer. Despatches were sent to the high command. This further shows Jacob’s gallantry which was recognised by his superiors.
In 1916, on a period of leave from service, Jacob married Adelaide ‘Daisy’ Heilbronn. Daisy’s family lived in Hove, and it seems Jacob moved to the area to live with Daisy. The marriage was registered in Brighton and Jacob’s subsequent records list his address as Brighton based. Jacob’s wife Daisy was born in late 1892 in Edmonton, Middlesex.
Her father Felix was born in Mulheim, Ruhr Germany and became a British Subject in 1906. Around 1800, Jews living in German states were required to adopt a surname. Many used the name of the town they were living. It is, therefore, possible that Daisy’s ancestors originally came from the large town of Heilbronn.
Daisy’s mother was named Priscilla. Priscilla and Felix had four children including Daisy. The Brighton Hebrew WW1 memorial lists ‘L Heilbronn.’ It is not known whether this person was a sibling of Daisy, or whether another family in Brighton whose ancestors adopted the name of their hometown.
The Heilbronn family lived at 10 Portland Road, Stoke Newington in 1901. Felix was a dealer in Cycle Accessories (1911 Census).
Jacob and Daisy had a daughter named Doreen Cora de Meza on 12th March 1918. Doreen was born in Steyning, West Sussex.
The Second Battle of the Somme began on 21st August 1918. Jacob died on 23rd August 1918 during part of the conflict, just months after the birth of his daughter. He is buried in Bonnay Communal Cemetery Extension in France.
Jacob’s death is recorded in the minutes of the Brighton Hebrew Congregation in 11th September 1918. He is also named on the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation WW1 Tablet.
His headstone includes an inscription written by his wife: ‘Beloved husband of Daisy De Meza, You had the death you wished.’
In 1939 the Heilbronns (Jacob’s wife’s family) were still living at Aymer Road Hove. Priscilla is listed as Widow (Retired). Jacob and Daisy’s daughter, Doreen married Louis Frederick Lowenthal in June 1939. Doreen is listed as Domestic Duties Unpaid (housewife?). Perhaps Frederick Lowenthal was in the army and Doreen was living with her family, although Daisy is not listed on the street register.
Doreen died in July 1995 in Hendon, Middlesex.