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Esau was born in Wolverhampton in 1896, the son of Esau and Sarah Ann Higgins. They were living at 23 Chapel Street, Heath Town, in 1901, along with Esau’s siblings Edward and Florence L. By 1911, they were at 86 Deans Road, Moseley Village, and Esau had an additional four siblings – Sidney, Harold, Doris and Leonard. Esau was a shop assistant for a tailor. Another sister, Hilda A., was born in 1912.

He enlisted with the 8th Service Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (service number 23841), rising to become Lance Corporal. On 10 February 1917, his name was listed in the Express & Star as having been wounded. He recovered from these wounds, but was killed in action on 12 October 1917. He is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium, as well as on those in Deans Road and Heath Park.