Saturday 9 September 2017

James Jones 1879-1917

James Charles Jones

23rd July 1879-9th September 1917   

James Charles Jones, my great great uncle, was born on 23rd Jul 1879 at Witley in Surrey, the middle son of three born to George Jones and Alice Underwood. George and Alice were married on 12 Aug 1877 at Hambledon Parish Church in Surrey. Both of their fathers were labourers in the village and on every record George is listed as a farm labourer. Two months before the wedding their first child, George Jones Underwood, had been born at Hambledon Workhouse and by the time James was born two years later, the family were living in Witley where he was baptised on 25 August 1879. They were still there when the 1881 census was taken but the following summer, when their third and last child, Frederick, was born they were living in Ash.

They had moved south again by 1891 and George, Alice and the three boys were listed on the 1891 census at Northbourne in Godalming. Later that year, Alice died at the age of thirty three and three years after that George died at the age of forty one. The children aged eighteen, sixteen and fifteen, went to live with their mother’s sister Elizabeth and her family at Klondyke in Grayswood.

A few months after his father’s death, James enlisted for twelve years in the Royal Navy.  He served a Boy 2nd class for nine months aboard the St Vincent, then as boy 1st class aboard the Pembroke, Swallow and Vivid until he left in August 1897. For some reason the navy was not for him and he came home. In 1901 was boarding with a family in Godalming and working as a carman.

On January 24th 1903, James married Rosina Bicknell at All Saints Church in Grayswood and five weeks later their son, also James Charles, was born in Haslemere.  Three more children followed; Alice Dorothy in the spring of 1906, Ruth Elizabeth on 1st January 1909 and William George on 27th October 1910.

The 1911 census records the family at Maythorn in Witley with James working as a bricklayer.
On 29th Dec 1914, he joined the 8th (Service) battalion of The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) which formed in Guildford in September 1914. He was aged 35 and he signed up for three years. The regiment fought at all the major battles on the Western Front throughout 1915 and 1916.   

As 1917 passed, the war changed. There was much activity in the air, with bombing raids on both sides. There was also much activity on the southern and eastern fronts but the summer of 1917 had been fairly quiet on the Western Front with two short fierce battles in August. The beginning of September found the 8th Battalion in camp well behind the lines. Although they were out of reach of shelling and gunfire there was the new danger from aerial bombardment. The use of aircraft to bomb behind the lines, civilian targets and even hospitals was increasing.

On September 7th, the 8th Battalion moved into trenches on the front line relieving the 9th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment and taking over the right sub-section of the divisional front.

The war diary for September 8th reports; “Day generally quiet except for 2 hours in the afternoon when the enemy shelled our support company in Clonmel Copse with 4.2s. At 10.15pm enemy heavily barraged our two front companies and support company. Hedge Street was shelled with gas shells about midnight till 2am.

9th The day was quiet. Our front and support companies were shelled from 9pm to 9.30pm. A few gas shells were fired.”

There were no reports of casualties on these days in the war diary but somehow James Jones was injured and he died on September 9th.

Rosina was left with four young children aged fourteen, nine, eight and seven. She did not marry again and continued to live in Surrey until her death in 1939.

In Memory of


G/3973, 8th Bn., The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment)

who died

on 09 September 1917

Remembered with honour


Aged 37

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