Herbert Jones was born in Rhuddlan in 1898. He was Herbert and Catherine Jones’s first born child. Herbert senior came from Shropshire and his wife was born in Salford, Manchester.
In 1901 Herbert and Catherine were living in 7, Cefn y Gwrych, Meliden with their two young children – Herbert and baby Arthur. Herbert was working on the railway.
By 1911 they had moved to Prestatyn and were living in Railway Cottage. Their family had grown to six children although it would seem from the census they had already lost one child. Herbert and Arthur’s siblings now included Alice (7), Edith (5), Walter (3) and Evelyn(1). Herbert was still employed as a platelayer on the London & Great Western Railway.
Young Herbert enlisted with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers early in 1915 – presumably around his 17th birthday – and served for 2 years and 8 months in total. His father filled in a Roll of Honour card now held in the Flintshire County Archive. He declared that Herbert was wounded twice; on November 13th 1916 and March 17th 1917.
He also stated that Herbert was killed in action on the 24th of November 1917 at Bourlon Wood.
The Cambrai area was the scene of conflict more or less throughout the war. However the fighting at Bourlon Wood was part of the Battle of Cambrai which took place in November and December 1917. This was the first time that tanks were used in warfare and the British – who had developed them – employed around 400 in all.
Herbert’s name is on the Cambrai Memorial in France. The Commonwealth War Graves website gives us some idea of what happened:
“The CAMBRAI MEMORIAL commemorates more than 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and whose graves are not known.
Sir Douglas Haig described the object of the Cambrai operations as the gaining of a ‘local success by a sudden attack at a point where the enemy did not expect it’ and to some extent they succeeded. The proposed method of assault was new, with no preliminary artillery bombardment. Instead tanks would be used to break through the German wire, with the infantry following under the cover of smoke barrages.
The attack began early in the morning of the 20th of November 1917 and initial advances were remarkable. However, by the 22nd of November, a halt was called for rest and reorganization, allowing the Germans to reinforce. From the 23rd to the 28th of November, the fighting was concentrated almost entirely around Boulon Woodand. This was when Herbert lost his life. By the 29th of November it was clear that the Germans were ready for a major counter attack. During the fierce fighting of the next five days, much of the ground gained in the initial days of the attack was lost.
For the Allies, the results of the battle were ultimately disappointing but valuable lessons were learnt about new strategies and tactical approaches to fighting. The Germans had also discovered that their fixed lines of defence, no matter how well prepared, were vulnerable.”
Back home Herbert’s family had to deal with this devastating news. Their son’s body had not been recovered. These days we talk about ‘closure’ after a distressing event. I suspect there was little closure for Herbert and Catherine Jones.
In time they were sent the balance of his wages: £7/13/2 (seven pounds, thirteen shillings and two pence) and a War Gratuity of £12/10/00.
By commemorating him on both the Dyserth and Prestatyn War Memorials they could ensure he would not be forgotten.