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.
Posted in WWI

10 thoughts on “1914-2014: Abergele & District Commemorations: Stuart Kirby Jones

  1. E M Bell:

    Very interested to read the article about my great uncle S. Kirby Jones. Four of his brother’s descendants visited the grave last week on the 100th anniversary of the interment.

    1. Andrew Hesketh:

      Lisa Bell, great niece of Kirby Jones, and poster of the comment above, writes:
      “Very many thanks for your reply. I was quite staggered to find your long and fascinating article when I googled Stuart Kirby Jones – although it is of course timely – and it provides more information than we had. No corrections! It was also full of facts we knew. We were aware that he was known as Kirby, as was a nephew born in 1917, doubtless named in his memory. I have a copy of the very poignant letter sent to his mother at the time of the funeral. We also know that he had some connection with Sir Frederick Hobday who made his mark in the veterinary world and introduced a technique used to this day to help horses with a breathing problem. I note from the 1911 census (when Kirby was living with the Rowlands family) that he was a welsh speaker. I’ve always understood that my grandfather was too. Their mother was of scottish descent and didn’t speak welsh but their father did.
      The cemetery at Versailles is easy to find and not very far from Paris. It is much as described in the letter, with heather on the hillside. Louis Bleriot is buried there and several members of the Pasteur family. Kirby’s gravestone is not in the best condition, but entirely legible. Some headstones were missing and were being renovated – what a pity it would it have been to arrive and find it wasn’t there. The soldier in grave 2 was killed on the 17th I noted, and I suspect that the wrong date may be on Kirby’s headstone. I hope so as it must have been a terrible ordeal. So much suffering in that conflict. His name is also on the Liverpool University memorial.”

  2. john whitehead:

    My grandfather Joseph Hughes (and there were probably lots of Joseph Hughes in north Wales) I was told was on the Somme looking after horses. He never talked about it so we don’t know very much. I was wondering which regiment he might have belong to. We understand he was gassed and evacuated back home and then received a war pension but when he lived longer than the authorities thought they took his pension away. He died in 1978 aged 86.just wondered if you might have stumbled on his name.

    I also understand that my grandmothers relatives (prince) were killed in the gresford colliery disaster.

    All the best

    John whitehead

    1. Andrew Hesketh:

      Hello John. I would love to try to help but I need a little more to go on because, as you say, Joseph Hughes is not an uncommon North Wales name. There were three from the Abergele district alone who served, two of whom have traits similar to the man you mention. Would it be possible to answer any of the following questions? Was he from the district? Do his medals still survive within the family – if so his regiment and number will be on the rim of the two he would likely have received? Do you have any other circumstantial details that may help? Was he the son of Mary and husband of Eleanor? Was he the son of Jonathan and Margaret?

  3. P K Matthews:

    Dear Andrew.
    I am delighted to come across your post about Stuart Kirkby Jones. If you are interested I have an obituary for him from the Veterinary Record, which has a different photo of him wearing ‘civvies’. I also have a photograph of the crater from the shell which fatally wounded him which was published in the Veterinary Journal. The short article refers to him as Lt ‘Brainsby’ Jones.
    I’d be happy to pass these on to you. Are you able to send me a direct email?
    Kind Regards, Pete

    1. Andrew Hesketh:

      I have emailed you Pete, but would like to take the opportunity to thank you and to alert the relatives who have posted above.

      Update: thanks Pete. Your new sources have allowed me to develop and update Kirby’s story.

  4. Lisa Bell:

    Following research at the Public Record office in Kew and a further visit to Versailles, I find that Kirby in fact died on the 18th of September at 8am. The date is the 17th in most of the papers at the PRO, but there is a typed copy dated 19/9/14 of the Acte de Deces which clearly states the date was the 18th, and I now have a photocopy of the original entry in the Register at Versailles.

    1. Andrew Hesketh:

      Outstanding research, and thank you for the update clarifying the precise date. The evidence you cite would be sufficient for the CWGC to amend their register and the headstone should you wish to contact them.

  5. Bridget Clyde:

    I visited the grave of Kirby Jones yesterday with my two grandsons. He was my grandfathers brother. My grandfather was Edward Redmayne Jones and lived in Liverpool and Birkdale. My mother always said he died early in the war and wanted to visit his grave but never did. I didn’t know his grave was in Versailles until my grandson asked if any one in the family had been killed in WW1 as he was doing a school trip to the Somme. As I was visiting my son in Paris we went out on Remembrance Sunday. The graves were all in good repair and easy to find. I have a photo of us standing by the grave. My sister also has letters Kirby sent home from the war. Would you like me to send the photo?
    Kirby would have been my great uncle on my mothers side

  6. Lisa Bell:

    I see the excellent letter from the Chaplain is included in the section about SKJ in Steven John’s recently published book The Welsh at War.

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