1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: John Thomas Jones

Private 8252 John Thomas Jones, 2nd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 19th Brigade, 6th Division. Died of wounds 31 October 1914.

Known as Thomas. A former professional soldier and army reservist called up on the outbreak of war and in France from 13 August 1914. Son of John Lloyd Jones. Born and enlisted in Abergele. Lived with his parents at 3, Mount Pleasant, Abergele, before getting married. Once married he lived in Penmachno, near Betws y Coed. He had three children. He is not recorded on the Penmachno War Memorial. Brother of Isaac Jones, who was killed the day before whilst serving with the 1st Battalion (see below). Plot C. 13, Bailleul Communal Cemetery, Nord, France. He shares a grave and headstone with Private J. Postlewaite of the 2nd Durham Light Infantry who was killed on the same day. Abergele War Memorial. Abergele Town Memorial.

John was seriously wounded in the head on 30 October and placed on a stretcher by a haystack, where he was seen by Private Bob (Robert) John Williams of Pwll Coch, who had, by chance, crawled for cover to the same haystack having been badly wounded in the back by shrapnel.

John’s father was informed of his son’s severe wounding in late November 1914. A week later came news that his son had died of severe wounds to the head. It was about the same time that news of Isaac going missing in action was also received.

Emyr ac Elwyn

Do you remember Emyr ac Elwyn?

They were a duo who used to perform at Nosweithiau Lawen and concerts all along the north Wales coast in the 1960s. They opened a record shop in Colwyn Bay in the 70s. They came from an era of duos; Iola a Nia were Abergele’s most famous.

These 45rpm EP records were often displayed for sale in the window of Jenkins shop, between the George and Dragon pub and Hywel the Barber’s.

Deryl Ann Mahon, whom I knew as Deryl Roberts at Ysgol Glan Morfa, wrote about Emyr ac Elwyn’s song “Sibrwd Cariad”. Her father wrote this song. Deryl picks up the story:

… “Dad gave them the song which he’d come up with on piano … He was a good pianist ! he played the piano for them on this track … They wrote lyrics … I’m trying to find a copy that dad played on in particular as I think the one we had has been mislayed years ago – long shot I know ! Searched internet .. No luck !”

I haven’t found a copy of the record, but here’s a photo of the cover. If you can help Deryl find the vinyl, please use the Comments section below.

Emyr ac Elwyn Photo of 45rpm by Nic Dafis from Flickr
Photo of 45rpm by Nic Dafis from Flickr

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Isaac Jones

Private 11126 Isaac Jones, 1st Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22nd Brigade, 7th Division. Killed in action 30 October 1914, First Battle of Ypres, aged 24.

[See Allen Davies (below) for details of events surrounding the annihilation of the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 30 October 1914. Amongst the casualties of that day were two Abergele men, Isaac Jones and Allen Davies.]

A professional soldier. Son of John Lloyd Jones. Lived 3, Mount Pleasant, Abergele, along with his family. Born Abergele, enlisted Wrexham. Brother of John Thomas Jones who was severely wounded in the head on the same day that Isaac was killed, and who died the following day whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion (see future entry). In 1911 Isaac was still living at home with his widowed father and his older brothers, David Lloyd and Evan. Evan was later exempted from conscription. At that time, Isaac was employed as a Farm Labourer. He therefore joined the army at some point between April 1911 and August 1914. No known grave, Panel 22, Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Abergele War Memorial. Abergele Town Memorial.

Isaac’s father received mixed messages as to the fate of his son for quite some time afterwards. In early January 1915 the family were informed that Isaac had been severely wounded on the one hand, and missing on the other hand. Officially he was posted as missing and this was still the case in July 1915. It was much later that assumption of his death on 30 October 1914 was received. Unlike Allen Davies, his body was either not recovered or not identified.

[ A memorial to the men, like Allen Davies and Isaac Jones, of the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers who died ay First Ypres has recently been unveiled: click here ]

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Allen Davies

Private 10936 Allen Davies, 1st Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22nd Brigade, 7th Division. Killed in Action 30 October 1914, First Battle of Ypres, aged 22.

Son of John and Alice Davies, of 1, Fron Hyfryd, Groes Lwyd, Abergele. Born Birkenhead, enlisted Wrexham, lived Ty Gobaith, Old Colwyn. A professional Soldier. In 1911 he had been a Labourer at Tyn y Caeau Farm, Betws yn Rhos. Brother of John Davies, 2nd Cheshire, who would die of wounds, 2 May 1915. Plot IXA. L. 10., Hooge Crater Cemetery, Hooge, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Abergele War Memorial. Abergele Town War Memorial. Rhyl War Memorial.

The 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 22nd Brigade, 7th Division, arrived in Zeebrugge, Belgium, on 7 October 1914 on board the troopship Winifredian. Within two weeks the battalion would all but cease to exist, and over 900 of the nearly 1,000 men on the Winifredian would be dead, wounded or missing.

They were to assist in the defence of Antwerp but the war of movement in this early part of the war was quite fluid and for the next week 7th Division was constantly marching to new positions in support of French and Belgian troops. On 14 October they arrived at the Belgian town of Ypres and were ordered into the line at Zonnebeke before moving forwards to Dadizele on 19 October and engaging the Germans for the first time in what is known as the First Battle of Ypres. The next days would be awful.

Between 19 and 21 October the battalion lost 87 men dead with many more wounded and missing. The battalion was withdrawn from action into a reserve role and a roll call on the 22nd counted just 6 officers and 206 men, with as many as 213 men listed as missing. Despite the reserve role, pressure from the Germans was still intense and another 15 casualties were recorded up to 24 October when the depleted battalion found itself at Veldhoek, north of Ypres. It was here that, in a rare moment of humour, the battalion adjutant recorded in the war diary that, in addition to the regimental goat, three further goats had attached themselves to the battalion and refused to leave. On the 26th a party of 90 reinforcements joined and the battalion, desperate for rest, moved a few miles south to Zillebeke on the 27th, suffering a further 20 casualties.

On 29 October 7th Division found itself under another strong German assault. 22nd Brigade and 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers were in reserve and avoided the worst of the attack, but once again they had to move and dig-in in a new location as the Division was pushed back 500 yards.

“This meant that the work of the previous days had to be begun all over again….the strain was telling heavily now on officers and men. They had been fighting almost continuously for ten days: they had been far from fresh when they started fighting; they were now shorter of sleep than ever, few had had the chance of a wash or a shave, meals had been scanty and irregular….” . [‘The 7th Division 1914-1918’, C. T. Atkinson, 1926, p.79.]

A new divisional line was established, with its right held by the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers slightly east of Zandvoorde, a village on a slight rise held by the Household Cavalry. As dawn broke on 30 October the Germans;

“…were at it again, shelling the whole line with renewed fury and devoting special attention to Zandvoorde and the ridge upon which it stands. This was held by the Household Cavalry, and it was on them that the brunt of the bombardment fell….the Household Cavalry hung on valiantly , but their trenches were practically obliterated by the bombardment, and when at length the German infantry pressed forward to the assault there were but few defenders left to meet it. The ridge and village appear to have passed into German hands rather after 8 a.m., and almost immediately the Welch Fusiliers, already well employed in keeping off the German infantry in their front, found themselves enfiladed from the right. They still held on stubbornly, but the Germans brought a battery right forward which came into action on the Zandvoorde ridge itself and did terrible execution among the Fusiliers, whose trenches had already been badly mauled by the storm of shells which descended upon them.” [‘The 7th Division 1914-1918’, C. T. Atkinson, 1926, p.81-82.]

The events of the day as they affected 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers directly are very unclear. The war diary is torn with a chunk missing and all that can be read is, “The enemy attacked the trenches of….the battalion at daybreak, and….cavalry on the right giving way…” [War Diary, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, WO 95/1665]  The Adjutant, Captain Dooner, had kept a very detailed diary until this point and was obviously writing these words in a shell-blasted trench as the disaster was unfolding about him. What we do know is that the battalion, already a shadow of its original self, was effectively surrounded and decimated. The war diary, now written in a different hand some time later, picked up the story:

“The exact nature of the casualties that day are unknown, but the following officers [12 are listed] and 320 NCO’s and men were found to be missing that day. No accurate information is available regarding this action…” . [War Diary, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, WO 95/1665]

The fighting around Zandvoorde was brutal and continued for many hours more but;

“….before this, however, the Welch Fusiliers gallant resistance had come to an end. They had fought stubbornly on, the hopelessness of their position notwithstanding, and had thereby greatly delayed the German advance. But, taken in flank and rear, enfiladed and hard pressed in front, their destruction was only a question of time. Of the 12 officers and rather over 400 men to which the battalion had been brought up, only 86 men were present at the end of the day. Colonel Cadogan, his Adjutant, Captain Dooner , and the great majority of the officers and men were killed, only four officers and about fifty men being reported later on as prisoners, and most of them wounded.” [‘The 7th Division 1914-1918’, C. T. Atkinson, 1926, p.84.]

Amongst the casualties were two Abergele men, Allen Davies and Isaac Jones (see above). Allen’s death was not confirmed for some time and, when news came through to his parents that their other son, John Davies of the 2nd Cheshires, had died in May 1915, Allen was still officially listed as missing in action. The precise details of Allen’s death may never be discovered and even the date is suspect: as his medal index card records, the date was merely ‘accepted’ at a later stage.

His body was recovered after the war and identified by means of his identification disc. He was exhumed and reburied at Hooge Crater Cemetery on 21 May 1919. Also exhumed at his location, and now buried adjacent to him in Hooge, were the aforementioned Lieutenant Colonel Cadogan and Captain Dooner.

1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: John Roberts

Private 7017 John Roberts, Somerset Light Infantry, 1st Battalion, ‘A’ Company, 11th Brigade, 4th Division. Killed in Action 21 October 1914, Attack on La Gheer, Battle of Armentières, First Battle of Ypres.

Listed as ‘John Roberts, Towyn’ on the Abergele War Memorial. Born Conwy, enlisted Swansea, lived Manchester Cottages, Towyn. No known grave, Panel 3, Ploegsteert Memorial, Berks Cemetery Extension, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium. Abergele War Memorial. Abergele Town Memorial. Towyn War Memorial.

John arrived in France 11 September 1914 as a reinforcement for the 1st Somerset Light Infantry which had landed 22 August 1914. The 1st Somerset Light Infantry moved from Armentieres to Ploegsteert on 20 October 1914. The following morning they marched to the north-east corner of Ploegsteert Wood and took part in an attack on La Gheer.

La Gheer was a hamlet in the British 12th Brigade area, astride an important crossroads at the south-east tip of Ploegsteert wood. At 5.15 a.m., 21 October 1914 a strong attack on the British 12th Brigade by eight battalions of the German XIX (Saxon) Corps was launched. The 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, holding La Gheer, were forced backwards losing many men as prisoners of war in the process.

Its posession by the Germans threatened British control of the entire wood and allowed them to enfilade British positions both north and south. It was vital that La Gheer was retaken quickly and the task was assigned to a mixed force of four battalions from 12th and 11th Brigades, including the 1st Somerset Light Infantry. The attack involved John’s A Company, supported by B Company, advancing from the eastern edge of the wood and turning southwards. The assault required a bayonet charge on German positions in the hamlet of La Gheer. The hamlet was soon cleared and taken.

The attack had been a great success and captured 143 German prisoners as well as releasing 45 Inniskilling Fusiliers who had been captured in the initial German advance. The cost of the success was 1 Officer and 7 men killed, including Private John Roberts of Towyn.

John’s body was either not recovered, not identified or buried in a grave that was subsequently lost, and his name is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Gwrych Halloween

There are some ghostly happenings planned at Gwrych Castle this Halloween, organised by the Gwrych Trust, according to the Trust’s Jake Basford:

“Gwrych Castle has been famous for its ghostly happenings, with stories coming from famous boxers who trained there having spotted the Countess wandering the Gardens, and pictures of ghosts making headlines in recent years (only to turn out to be Hermione from Harry Potter). This is why Gwrych Trust is recreating the spooky experience with a series of Ghost Hunts, Walks, and, a special themed Open Day over Halloween.”

31 October (Halloween Night): Ghost Walks (6pm-9pm) running around the Castle, 50 people per guide, age 16+, costing £15 per person which includes a hot beverage and pumpkin soup. Ghost Hunts (9pm-2am) taking place in the Gardens, 30 people per group, age 18+, costing £30 per person.

1 November (All Saints Day): Open Day (12-4pm) at Gwrych Castle, no minimum age requirement, £5 per person, Halloween theme. Ghost Walks (6pm-9pm) running around the Castle, 50 people per guide, age 16+, costing £15 per person which includes a hot beverage and pumpkin soup. Ghost Hunts (9pm-2am) taking place in the Gardens, 30 people per group, age 18+, costing £30 per person.


Tickets are on sale from Gwrych’s ticketing site from 15 Oct 2014

Mark Baker, Chair of Gwrych Trust, said, “With the success of previous Open Days at the Castle we thought we would really go for it with Halloween this year. There are many ghost stories rampant about Gwrych, from previous owners to current volunteers, so it may be necessary to do a second edition of Myths and Legends one day!”




1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Fred Roberts

Unlike all the other commemorations that I will post, this one is actually requesting help,  and any that can be given would be gratefully received as Fred has eluded me for many years.

He is recorded on the Abergele War Memorial and on the Town Memorial. He is listed on the ‘Roll of Honour of Abergele Officers and Men’ as printed in the Abergele and Pensarn Visitor, 30 January 1915, as having been killed, so he had died before that date. Another source suggests that he lived at Morfa Cottage on the border between Towyn and Bodelwyddan. Adding significantly to the confusion is the article below from the Liverpool Daily Post of 23 December 1914.

The only Fred Williams of Abergele to die in the war was from Bryntirion Terrace and he died in Gallipoli in August 1915. Therefore the article below must be referring to Fred Roberts of Morfa, despite getting his surname wrong. However, no Fred Roberts of the Royal Field Artillery died in 1914!

What the article does do is narrow the time period for Fred’s death to before 23 December 1914, but even this does not really help. There were three men named Fred Roberts who died in 1914, but two were killed in action, not by typhoid, and the other died in the UK.

The search goes on.

Williams (Roberts), Fred