Lieutenant Stuart Kirby Jones M.R.C.V.S, Army Veterinary Corps. Veterinary Officer attached to 25th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, 1st Division. Died of Wounds, 17 September 1914, Battle of the Aisne, aged 25. (His Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone states 18 September 1914 but the death date of the 17th appears in every other document I have encountered and is accepted here)
Known as Kirby. Son of the late William and Alexandrina Jones. Born at Wavertree, Liverpool. Plot 1. 1., Les Gonards Cemetery, Versailles, Paris. Not commemorated in the Abergele district. Commemorated on the War Memorials of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Liverpool University.
Kirby’s late father was a Dental Surgeon in Liverpool and this medical background clearly influenced young Kirby who went on to study veterinary science at Liverpool University, graduating in 1911. He was already working in the Abergele area, serving a four year apprenticeship with Rowland S. Rowlands, the Vet for Pensarn. The 1911 Census captures him as a Veterinary Student boarding with Mr. Rowlands at ‘The Laurels’. Shortly after the Census, in November 1911, he undertook a course of training at the Army Veterinary School in Aldershot and was gazetted to the Army Veterinary Corps Reserve and attached to 2 Dragoon Guards. He had moved to Pembroke just before the outbreak of the war but, nevertheless he was still remembered well in Pensarn and Abergele and he had family in the area. His uncle, for example, was the Borough Rate Collector for Conwy.
At the outbreak of war, Kirby was appointed Veterinary Officer in charge of 25 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery and posted to the Western Front. He was amongst the first to be shipped to France, disembarking there on 14 August 1914. He was involved in the Battle of Mons, the retreat from Mons, the Battle of Etreux and the Battle of the Marne. He received his fatal wounding on 15 September when the 1st Division was involved in the First Battle of the Aisne (12-15 September).
On that day he found himself on the Moulins to Bourg road and turned his horse to the side to take a moment to himself. From his pocket he pulled a letter from home and began reading. Moments later a huge German shell landed just yards away. A large fragment caught him in the thigh, shattering his leg. Seriously wounded, he was taken to the nearest Field Ambulance which patched him up and evacuated him to the French No. 2 General Hospital near Versailles where he died two days later on 17 September 1914.
Kirby’s funeral took place on 21 September. The French had reserved a section of the local cemetery for British casualties and Kirby was the first Briton to be laid to rest there. The Chaplain who conducted the service took the time to write to Kirby’s mother.
“You will have heard already from here of the death of your brave son who has given his life for his country; but I think you will like me to write and tell you of his funeral which took place this morning, September 21st. It was carried out with full military honours, and a large crowd was present of French Dragoons and infantry. A large number of French officers were also there and also the Colonel commanding and the Major of this Hospital. At the close of the service a French Colonel spoke a few touching words as to the services rendered by your son to his own country and to ours. I know, too, that you will be touched to hear that several wreaths of flowers were sent by French people here. The grave is in a beautiful cemetery on the outskirts of this town, the Cimitiares des Gonards, which lies on the slope of a hill, and is surrounded by trees. It is in a portion in the cemetery which has been reserved for the British soldiers, and will be marked with a plain wooden cross bearing your son’s name. I am enclosing a small piece of heather which I plucked this morning within a few yards of the grave. May I be allowed to express my deep sympathy with you in your sorrow? It is my earnest prayer that the God of all comforts will Himself comfort you.”
Letter sent to Kirby’s mother by the Chaplain to the Forces stationed at Versailles.
Lieutenant Stuart Kirby Jones
Kirby in ‘civvies’. Photo from the ‘Veterinary Record‘, 3 October 1914.
(This, and other sources that allowed me to update the story, kindly supplied by Pete Matthews)