William Hope Jones was born on 11 th November 1891, the son of James Jones and Ellen Jones [née Griffiths] of Hadley, Shropshire. He was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Hadley on 31 st January 1892. The census of 31st March 1901 shows William living in Stoney Hill, Wrockwardine Wood, Shropshire with his mother and two brothers; George b.1893, Thomas b.1896 and his sister Elizabeth b.1898.

William attended firstly, Wrockwardine Wood Boys School being awarded a Salop County Council Elementary Schools Scholarship in 1904, and then Wellington College where in 1906 he passed the College of Preceptors Elementary Exams with 2nd class honours: the Board of Education exams with passes in Theoretical and Practical Chemistry and finally whilst at Adams Grammar School, Newport, Shropshire he passed the Cambridge Schools Local Matric with 1st Class honours in 1908.

After leaving school William decided to become a School Teacher and in March 1910, aged 18 years old he was a working as a student teacher at Newport Church of England Day Schools having been recently accepted as a student teacher at St Pauls' Teacher Training College in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Whilst a student at St Pauls' William played for the 2nd XI college cricket team and was awarded his cricketing colours for the 1911/12 seasons.

There are no surviving records that tell when he joined the Territorials, enlisting with The Monmouthshire Regiment which fielded ten Battalions during the War, of which only three saw front line service; 1/1 st, 1/2 nd & 1/3rd.

On the outbreak of war, the Battalion was at camp in Abergavenny and received its mobilisation orders at 18.10hrs but moved by train to Pembroke Docks the following day. Here it remained until 9th August when it proceeded to Oswestry, Shropshire for further training until the end of August when it moved once more, this time to Northampton. At the beginning of November 1914, the Battalion was on the move yet again, this time to the village of Grundisburgh, Suffolk for a fortnights practice in trench digging before returning to Northampton: only to return to Suffolk at the beginning of December for further digging. By the end of the first week of January 1915 the Battalion was aware that before too long they would be leaving for the front line, in preparation for which they moved by train to Cambridge where extensive musketry practice took place on the University ranges.

On 6th February 1915 William married a local girl from Wrockwardine Wood, Louisa Gregory (who also happened to be a teacher), in Aberystwyth. A few days later, on 11th February His Majesty King George V inspected the Division, of which the 1/3rd Battalion was part, prior to their train journey to Southampton from where they embarked for France arriving at 09.00 hrs on 15th February 1915. Surviving military records reflect William’s own arrival in theatre did not take place however until 27th June 1915.

One of the Battalions first tasks soon after arrival was trench digging in and around Ypres and by mid-March had sustained the first casualties as a result of enemy action.

The second Battle of Ypres was fought from 22 April – 25 May 1915 for the control of Ypres and The Monmouthshire Regiment, then assigned to 28th Division, were key players. It was also the first time that the Imperial German army deployed poison gas on a vast scale on the Western Front.

The following three extracts from the War Diary give an indication of the time in the lead up to the battle: -

The Battalion left billets at Boeschepe on April 8th and proceeded by bus to Ypres. It was dark when we reached the Grande Place. The Cloth Hall and St. Martin’s Cathedral were wrapped in a mysterious gloom. We were conscious of a wide space, filled with moving bodies of troops, but unable to discern anything clearly. But it was not the time for such reflections. The order was to draw rations and go to the trenches…

Battalion Headquarters were in dugouts in the mound known as the Butte de Polygon, now surmounted by an Australian War memorial close to the ‘Squeaking Pump’ which was reputed to have found fame of that officer artist who created that delightful character “Old Bill”, and did much by his quaint humour to lighten our darkest hours…

On 12th…we went to billets in Ypres. There was now an opportunity to examine this famous old city by daylight. It was seriously damaged and there was occasional shelling, but the bulk of the Cloth Hall still stood and was not much more ruinous than it appears in the photographs taken in November 1914. The civil population had by no means all left. Cafes did a good trade and shops were selling not only wine and cigars, but such useful articles for the trenches as refills for electric torches and solidified fuel. British troops abounded and no doubt their presence was known to the enemy though no one was supposed to go out till after dark. It was a curious interlude in a strenuous life. One scene comes back to memory, a boxing competition between two companies in a school playground with a British band playing and a German Taube!..

By mid-September the Battalion was billeted around Elverdinge Chateau 1 alongside the Ypres canal and on 18th of the month left 28th Division to join 49th Division as their Pioneer Battalion; not all that surprising given that a large quantity of the men were miners from the Welsh valleys. This location was by no means a safe billet as they were under regular attack by the enemy and sustained many losses, mainly due to gunshot wounds.

Around 05.30 hours on the morning of 19 th December 1915 Battalion HQ received a message that the enemy was making a gas attack and the necessary precautions, such as they were, were put in place. The bombardment of the surrounding area continued all day and night with eight 17” gas shells falling in the grounds of the Chateau killing and wounding many men, William Hope Jones being one of them.

On Monday 20th December 1915 Lance-Sergeant [2286] William Hope Jones, 1/3rd Battalion, The Monmouthshire Regiment was admitted to the Australian Field Hospital, Wimereux, Pas de Calais, France where he died later that day. He was 24 years old and had been married for 10 months. William was subsequently buried in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery where, because of the sandy nature of the soil, the headstones lie flat upon the graves.

1915 had been a terrible year for the Battalion in the Ypres Salient and on 29th December alone a further thirty-three were killed and thirty-four wounded. This latest loss of life was to be the last in the Salient for the Battalion as on New Year’s Eve 1915 undaunted by their losses they marched out, never to return.

Within a few days of William’s death, his mother, with the aid of the Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Wrockwardine Wood wrote to the Army Chaplain at the Wimereux Field Hospital enquiring into the circumstances of her son’s untimely death. A copy of the reply is transcribed below.

Dear Mr MacCormick

Sergeant W.H. Jones was sent to this hospital on Dec 20th. He arrived in the early morning and was quite conscious. He remained so till the afternoon. At about 3 o’clock he lost consciousness and died the same night at 11 o’clock. His end therefore was painless. I was on the sick list myself at the time, but I saw him in the morning and had a short talk with him. He told me then that he was a Churchman and that he came from Wrockwardine Wood. In the mornings the doctors are in the wards and I could do no more than say a few words to him. His death was not expected so soon. If it had been I would have been told and would have been able to minister to him more than I did. But you and his relations may be sure that he died a faithful soldier of our Lord.  Such men as Sergeant Jones have almost invariably found that they find our Lord very near to them at the front. I have never seen men more fit to meet their Master than the majority of these splendid soldiers. Their hardships and their sufferings seem indeed to clense their souls and deepen and purify their faith.  His friends may well be proud of him. During the few hours he was in hospital he showed the utmost courage, patience & cheerfulness and gratitude for the work of the doctors and nurses. He was buried in the Wimereux Cemetery, very decently in a proper coffin by a Church of England Chaplain. His grave is marked with a white wooden Cross and numbered 724. The cemetery is well cared for and flowers are put on the graves by some ladies at certain times of the Year. I enclose a photograph of the Cemetery taken last year.

Yours Truly

H Pelham C.F.

P.S. His friends may be quite certain that in spite of the unexpectedness of his death, all that was humanly possible was done for him. The work of the Australian Voluntary Hospital has won highest recognition out here, and I believe too in England.

I was particularly sorry not to have the opportunity of getting to know Sergeant Jones better as I am a Salopian myself, and my home at Market Drayton is not very far from Wrockwardine Wood. 

The Monmouthshire Regiment was disbanded at the end of the First World War.

1. The chateau burned down in 1917 but in 1925 underwent major restorations to return it to its former glory. During WWII the owner was forced to "donate" the chateau and adjoining land to the German army. At the end of the war another restoration was necessary before the rightful owners could move back into their chateau.

n.b. I am indebted to John White for alerting me to William's place amongst his fellow OW's who gave all.

See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for WH Jones.https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/2179871