John Percy Fitzherbert Adams was born c. 1891, the second son of Colonel Herbert Cranstoun Adams, V.D., and Emma A. I. Adams, of 2 The Beacon, Exmouth. He was educated at St Bee’s School and St Augustine’s College Canterbury before matriculating to Durham University in 1912. Initially an Unattached member of the university, Adams was awarded a Licentiate in Theology on 4 November 1913. He joined University College in the same year and then attended the university as an Arts student, studying English and History, until Easter term 1914.
A prolific sportsman, Adams was awarded his colours by the University Rugby Football Club for the 1913-14 season - he is mentioned in the Durham University Journal as an ‘invaluable’ forward. He also represented University College at fives and cricket, playing 5 matches for the University College Cricket team in May to June 1914. He batted at 5 or 6 and also bowled, as top-scorer with 6-31 against Guisborough School. His mention in student magazine The Sphinx on 4 June 1914 is a little less complimentary than the Journal: ‘Adams, who is too fond of back play, batted very well when set. He would have taken more wickets if he did not lose his head.’
Adams was ordained Deacon at Advent 1914 in Canterbury and shortly afterwards travelled to Newfoundland to act as curate at St John’s Cathedral. In September 1915, after requesting permission from his Bishop, he returned to England to join the war effort. Adams very quickly obtained his commission to the Durham Light Infantry and in June 1916 left England for the Front with the 4th Battalion. He was confirmed in his rank of second lieutenant on 2 August. He was soon wounded by shrapnel and spent three months recuperating before returning to see further action.
In the summer of 1917 Adams volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps, and his commission as a Flying Officer (Observer) was gazetted on 24 September 1917. Adams served with 20th Squadron R.F.C. for under a month before being involved in a fatal encounter between his Bristol Fighter and an enemy aircraft. At 10.15 a.m. on 14 October Adams and his pilot Lieutenant N. V. Harrison took off in a Bristol F2B B1137 on a photo reconnaissance mission: his obituary in the Journal records what happened next.
A sudden attack was made upon his machine in the air by a hostile machine and an engagement ensued at close quarters, but after firing five rounds the pilot observed that no more were fired by Second-Lieutenant Adams, and he at once came down successfully on our side; the machine was much damaged and the observer dead and still holding his gun.
Durham University Journal, vol. 21, no.19, p.418.
Lieutenant Harrison made his forced landing at 6 Squadron aerodrome. Adams is buried in the military cemetery at Lijssenthoek, Belgium. His sacrifice is commemorated in Durham University’s Roll of Service (1920), and in Exmouth on the war memorial and on a plaque erected in Holy Trinity Church and which bears the inscription, “Hereby perceive we the love of God because He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren".