1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Leo Dobbins

Private 429 Leo Dobbins, 1/1st Denbighshire Yeomanry. Died 30 September 1914, aged 19.

Son of John and Bridget Dobbins, of 138, Wellington Street, Rhyl. Born Rhyl. Enlisted Rhyl. Plot 100, Rhyl Town Cemetery. Rhyl War Memorial. Prestatyn War Memorial. Not commemorated in the Abergele district.

Leo was a pre-war member of the Denbighshire Yeomanry and was mobilised immediately on the outbreak of war in August 1914. In civilian life he worked as a Clerk at Abergele Post Office and was well known and liked in the district even though he was not from Abergele itself. He died of natural causes in the military training camp at Bungay, Norfolk, where the Denbighshire Yeomanry were training at the time.

Old postcard taken from the outskirts of Abergele

I originally thought the photo for this old postcard might have been taken from the old hospital chalet at the top of Tower Hill’s Red Rock, but the orientation of Mynydd Seion in relation to St Michaels isn’t quite right. I’m wondering now if it might have been taken from the Doorknob on Tan y Goppa…? It all depends on whether the white in the foreground is limestone rock or flowers. Any ideas?

Old postcard looking down on Abergele from Red Rock

Old postcard looking down on Abergele from Red Rock

The pipe that filled the paddling pool

Have you ever noticed this rusty cast iron pipe in the Gele beneath the bridge at the top end of High St? Brian Haynes told me that its purpose was to fill the paddling pool that used to be in the Playnies (King George’s Field).

The concrete pool was there when I was a child in the 60s and 70s. During the 1980s it became a gardening project for Emrys ap Iwan students. This pool is filled in today.

I don’t have a photo of the pool but here’s one of where it used to be and one of the pipe used to keep it filled with water.



1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Stuart Kirby Jones

Updated 10/10/14

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)

Kirby's headstone, courtesy of Lisa Bell.
Kirby’s headstone, courtesy of Christine Hall.
Descendants visit Kirby's grave on the 100th anniversary of his death. Courtesy of Lisa Bell.
Descendants visit Kirby’s grave on the 100th anniversary of his death. Courtesy of Christine Hall.

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Gwilym George Jones

Lance Corporal 10939 Gwilym George Jones, 1st South Wales Borderers, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. Killed in Action 14 September 1914, Battle of the Aisne, aged 21.

Son of Abel and Jane Jones, of Quarry View, Llanddulas. Born Llanddulas, enlisted Brecon. No known grave, La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, Marne, France. Llanddulas War Memorial.

Gwilym Jones was a regular soldier who had been with the South Wales Borderers for 3 years, having enlisted aged 18. He was reported to already be at the front by 3 September 1914. He was killed just days before his 22nd birthday.

For further details of the battle, see Private John Roberts (below) who served in the same Brigade.

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: John Roberts

Private 6856 John Roberts, 2nd Welsh, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division. Killed in Action 14 September 1914, Battle of the Aisne, aged 29.

Born Betws-yn-Rhos, enlisted Cardiff, lived Llanrwst. Husband of Kate Roberts, of 19, New St., Ebenezer, Caernarfon. No known grave, La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, Marne, France. Not commemorated in the Abergele district. Caernarfon War Memorial.

John Roberts had already fought in The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, the Rearguard Affair of Etreux and The Battle of the Marne. He was now involved in The Battle of the Aisne. On 14 September 1914 the 2nd Welsh fought at Chézy sur Aisne. In that action Lance Corporal William Charles Fuller won the Regiment’s first Victoria Cross of the war when, under withering and sustained rifle and machine gun fire, he advanced one hundred yards to rescue Captain Mark Haggard who was mortally wounded; Captain Haggard’s dying words of encouragement to his men ‘Stick it The Welsh!’ are immortalized above the clock over the door of the main Barrack block at Maindy Barracks, Cardiff.

“To epitomize the day’s work the British divisions came piecemeal on to the battlefield to the support of the advanced guards already across the Aisne. They found the enemy not only in position, entrenched and supported by 8-inch howitzers, but in such force that so far from manifesting any intention of continuing his retreat, he made every effort to drive the British back over the river. Thus the 14th September passed in alternate attack and counterattack, and ended in no decisive result. It was the first day of that stabilization of the battle line that was to last so many weary months – the beginning, as it turned out, of trench warfare…..

Meantime the 3rd Infantry Brigade, which had been despatched by the divisional commander to reinforce the left of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, found itself about 10.30 A.M. upon the eastern flank of the [German] 25th Reserve Infantry Brigade which was pressing south-westward towards Vendresse, between Chivy and Troyon. Soon afterwards the fog lifted, and the 46th and 113th Batteries, unlimbering near Moussy, south-west of Vendresse, opened fire on this force with deadly effect. The advance of the Germans was checked, and the 2/Welch Regiment and 1 /South Wales Borderers delivered an attack upon them towards the northwest. The progress of the Borderers was much impeded by dense woods, but the Welch, having clear ground before them, pressed their assault with great determination and, carrying all before them, established themselves firmly on the south-eastern slopes of the Beaulne spur. It was now about 1 P.M. The Welch were in the position above described, and the South Wales Borderers in rear of them, between Chivy and Beaulne. They had done their work well ; but they had hardly completed it before the Germans launched a counter-attack….

The whole of the infantry of the 1st Division except the two companies in divisional reserve had been put into the fight. The situation remained practically unchanged for the next two hours, during which the Germans continued to make counterattacks at various points along the whole length of the line, attacks which grew weaker and weaker after each repulse, until by 3 P.M. they had practically died away….

The corps was successfully holding a line roughly facing north-west from the plateau of the Chemin des Dames opposite La Bovelle, through Troyon, Chivy and Beaulne, to La Cour de Soupir, and thence south-westward to the river; it had made appreciable headway and repulsed all counter-attacks with heavy loss to the enemy.”

Official History of the War. 1914 Vol I. Extracts taken from p.341-350.

Spes non fracta

On the coat of arms above the entrance to Pentre Mawr is the Latin phrase ‘spes non fracta’. In English it means ‘hope shall not break’. According to CADW,  the building was:
Constructed on the site of the C17 manor house, first mentioned in 1697. The C18 house, the seat of the Jones-Bateman family, was extended c1830, but burned out in 1850. The present building was erected three years later, in 1853. It is now converted into 24 flats.”

Pentre Mawr coat of arms