Richard Arnold Seymour-Jones was born in Wrexham, Denbighshire, North Wales on 18th May 1889 the eldest of four brothers to Alfred Seymour-Jones CBE and Fannie Taylor Seymour-Jones [née Groom]. His father was a leather manufacturer1.
After his education at Wellington College2, believed to be around the period 1899-1906, Richard went up to Leeds University where he studied applied chemistry, graduating with a first-class honours BSc in the chemistry of leather manufacture and was also given the distinction of being awarded the Le Blanc medal. The year after his graduation he took his MSc whilst also being engaged as a research assistant.
In 1911 Richard was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s certificate for a ‘gallant attempt to save a woman from drowning’; the circumstances surrounding this incident and whether or not the woman survived is not known.
In 1912 he moved to Warrington and became Chief Chemist at Messrs Brunner Mond at Winnington, Cheshire; the firm having only recently acquired the business of Joseph Crosfield & Sons. In 1919 the soap and chemical side of the business was sold to Unilever and the remainder of the operation absorbed into ICI, becoming one of the largest and most successful companies in the world.
Whilst living in Warrington Richard’s spare time was taken up as the Scoutmaster 2nd Warrington Troop [Crosfield’s Own], as well as serving as a territorial officer with the 1/4th Battalion, The South Lancashire Regiment, thereby gaining some valuable skills which would stand him in good stead in the ensuing conflagration.
Having received his mobilisation orders Richard left his employment at Brunner Mond and joined his Battalion at their Warrington base and by early February 1915 they had moved down to Tunbridge Wells, Kent awaiting embarkation for France. On the 12th February the Battalion, fully packed and as ready as they could be, climbed aboard three troop trains for the journey to Southampton docks where the troopships ‘SS Trafford Hall’ and ‘SS Queen Alexandra’ awaited them. A total of 31 officers and 1038 other ranks, numerous horses and tons of equipment were on board the two ships that afternoon, and at 5.30pm they set sail for the overnight crossing to Le Havre, many of the men destined never to return.
Upon arrival the following morning they disembarked and proceeded to No.2 Rest camp where they spent their first twenty-four hours in France. Over the course of the next few days by means of route march and train journey they moved ever closer to the part of the front line destined to be their new home for a while.
On 26th February the Battalion arrived in LOCRE, a small village in the Belgian province of West Flanders and by 6.00pm that same evening the forward elements had entered the trench system for the first time in the rural village of KEMMEL. Thus began the daily toll of casualties.
During the first few weeks of March the Battalion took its turn in the ever rotating cycle of life in and out of the trenches and whilst the weather was mainly fine but cold, they were constantly susceptible to heavy shelling and sniper fire which took an increasing toll on the men.
On 26th March the Battalion had moved from its previous location[s] and arrived at DICKEBUSCH where it entered the trenches at 6.30pm. Less than twenty four hours later, on Saturday 27th March 1915 the Adjutant made an entry in the War Diary to the effect that at 5.45pm in the evening First-Lieutenant Seymour-Jones, 1/4th Battalion, The South Lancashire Regiment, was shot in the head by a sniper but succumbed to his wounds at 8.30pm. He was 25 years of age and had been in theatre for forty-three days, which would prove to be the shortest period of all his fellow OW’s.
Later that same evening his Commanding Officer, Lt-Colonel Fairclough penned the following letter to his father which differs slightly in timings.
I regret to have to inform you that your son was wounded this afternoon about 4.15pm, dangerously and that he died almost in about an hour. He was shot through the temple, the bullet passing right through the head and coming out at the other temple, without disfiguring him in any way.
Our trenches are about 200 yards from the Germans. The doctor states that he must have been unconscious from the moment he was hit. I have arranged to have him buried in the soldiers burial ground in a village about three miles away, as we are right away from anywhere.
He had endeared himself to all ranks and I considered him one of my best subaltern officers – always cheerful, always willing to live as he had died – a man.
Today the burial ground referred to in the letter is known as Dickebusch New Military Cemetery and Richard lies here alongside 623 fellow soldiers of the War. He is also commemorated on the Wrexham War Memorial and at The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Richard was the only fully qualified university trained leather trades chemist serving in World War 1, of which there was a severe shortage.
Two of Richard’s brothers who attended Wellington College also served and survived. Donald Seymour-Jones served with the 1/4th (Denbighshire) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers and ended the war as a Captain in the 4th Battalion, The Welsh Regiment. After the war he spent time in Kenya.
Frank Leslie Seymour-Jones served with the 1/5th (Flintshire) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and took part in the Gallipoli campaign. For part of the war he also served in Egypt with the Intelligence Corps in the rank of Lieutenant, finishing back in his old regiment as a Captain.
The South Lancashire Regiment is perpetuated today in the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (King’s Lancashire and Border).