Robert Pierce Pritchard was born in Meliden during 1892 [his birth is registered at St Asaph, during the December quarter 1892. FreeBMD]. He was the son of Robert and Louisa Pritchard.
The 1901 census records the family living in Parliament Street, Rhuddlan. His Father’s occupation is shown as “horseman on a Farm”. In addition to their son Robert, there is a younger daughter Lizzie, aged 6. The widowed Mother-in-law, Jane Jones aged 63 is also living with the family. The children are reported to be Welsh speaking.
The 1911 census, records the family now living in a 3 room [including the kitchen] house, at 18 Cross Street, Rhuddlan. [Just round the corner from Parliament Street]. Lizzie is no longer at home and Mr Pritchard’s occupation is now “Plate-layer” on the Railway for the L&NWRCo. Robert, now aged 18 and single, was working at a Market Garden. That census shows, the family originally comprised three children, but only two were still alive at the time of the census.
Robert does have a Flintshire Memorial Index Card at Hawarden Records Office, which gives his period of service as 1 year & 7months.
After identifying him and naming his parents, the De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour [Ancestry], reported that; “Robert enlisted in the 20th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers on the 26th February 1916, and served with the Expeditionary Force in France & Flanders from the 17th March 1917. At some point he was transferred to the 84th Company Labour Corps and died from wounds received whilst working with a party at Ypres. His Commander wrote, “He was an intelligent and splendid worker, and, moreover, a good soldier, always smart and always cheerful”
In an initial attempt to cope with the demand for labour on the Western Front, each Division had a Pioneer Battalion, who were trained to fight as infantry, but whom would normally be engaged on labouring work. Subsequently, this arrangement evolved in January 1917, into the creation of the Labour Corps. By the time of the Armistice the Corps numbered 389,900 men.[10% of the total size of the Army]. The Corps was manned by Officers and other ranks, who had been medically rated below the A1 condition needed for front line service. However, they were frequently deployed on work with in range of enemy guns, often for lengthy periods. The Corps also suffered from its treatment as something of a second class organisation, for example the men who died are commemorated under their original regiment. [The Long Long Trail – The Labour Corps 1917-1918]
His death was reported in the Rhyl Journal of 3rd November 1917, under the headline; “Two Rhuddlan lads make supreme sacrifice.” According to the report he died in hospital half an hour after being wounded by a shell burst. The newspaper recorded that he was an active member of the Baptist cause and had been a gardener in the employ of Mr James Maxwell at the time of enlistment.
In 1917 Robert made a will in which he left £10 to his “intended” [Miss A Webb], £10 to his sister and the rest to his Mother. [Rhuddlan in Peace & War]
Having lost a child in infancy [1911 Census], then Robert to the war, further tragedy struck Mr & Mrs Pritchard, as their daughter Elizabeth [Lizzie] died in 1920 aged 25 years old [Family Headstone].
Robert is commemorated on the Rhuddlan Memorial, The Roll of Honour and Stained Glass Memorial in St Mary’s Church, The Royal British Legion’s Roll of Honour inside the Community Centre, and the North Wales Memorial Arch at Bangor. He is also commemorated on the family headstone in St Mary’s Churchyard.
I am indebted to Sarah Hodnett of the Rhuddlan Local History Society, for her help in compiling this report.