Wilfred Jones was born in Saint Asaph Flintshire in 1898.
The 1901 census on Ancestry.co.uk shows that the Jones family were living at an address on Chester Street, Saint Asaph, Flintshire.
Head of the family was John Charles Jones age 39, born in Saint Asaph, a joiner by trade. His wife was Margaret age 40 born in Flint, Flintshire and their children were William C. age 11, Thomas age 8, John Herbert age 6, Wilfred age 3 and Margaret Elena age 1. All the children were born in Saint Asaph.
Ten years on, the 1911 Census on Ancestry.co.uk reveals to us that some of the children have left home and that there is an addition to the family.
The Jones family were still living at 13 Chester Street, Saint Asaph, Head John Charles Jones was still in the same trade of Joiner, age 49. Margaret his wife was 51 years of age and the children remaing at home were Thomas, age 18, a Railway Porter by trade, Wilfred age 13, Margaret age 11 and Edith Ann age 1 born in Saint Asaph. John Herbert was not shown at this address in 1911.
Record of Service Card at Flintshire Archives Office, Hawarden.
Wilfred’s Record Card shows that he enlisted on 8th March 1915 into the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and his home address was 13, Chester Street, Saint Asaph. There is a comment on the bottom of the card , “Torpedoed on the 15/4/1917 while crossing to Egypt” The card was dated 23rd September 1919 and signed by H. Simon.
Soldiers who died in the Great War 1914-1919 on Ancestry.co.uk
This document states that Wilfred enlisted in Rhyl, Flintshire and that at the time of his death he was in the 24th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. It also confirms that Wilfred “Died at Sea” on 15th April 1917.
The RWF Archives have information in a casualty list for the 1st Btt RWF which includes information about Wilfred Jones who embarked on the 2 September 1916 and joined the Bn in France/Flanders on the 7th September 1916. He was returned to base on 27th October 1916 because it was discovered he was underage. He was admitted to hospital with an inflamed larynx and returned to England on 28th January 1917.
UK WW1 Service Medals and Award Rolls 1914-1920 on Ancestry.co.uk
This document shows that Wilfred had a regimental number of 3006 and was posted to an Infantry Base Depot after enlistment and then transferred to 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers also an Infantry Base Depot. He was probably transferred to the 24th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in readiness for posting to Egypt.
He was awarded The British War Medal and The Victory Medal.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Register of Buriels and Commemorations.
I found this extract from the Diaries of Trooper Reginald Huggins.
The sinking of the Arcadian
Trooper Reginald C. Huggins enlisted in March 1915 in the City of London (Rough-riders) Yeomanry. Underwent period of cavalry training in Ireland (Curragh and Dublin) and drafted the East Riding of Yorkshire Imperial Yeomanry for service on the Palestine Front.
From there in early part of 1918 to France in the 102nd Machine Gun Corps. Wounded in the fighting before Valenciennes on October 28th, 1918, and discharged from hospital in May 1921.
First published in Everyman at War (1930), edited by C. B. Purdom.
Memoirs & Diaries –Torpedoed in the Aegean Sea
The early part of April 1917 found H.M. Transport Arcadian, as she then was, with a full complement of “cannon-fodder” pushing her nose through the grey seas in the direction of the Eastern theatres of War, Salonika and Palestine.
At that time the submarine blockade, which was intended to bring Great Britain to her knees, was in full swing, and the constant fear of the ocean traveller was the making of the unwelcome acquaintance of a torpedo, or “tin fish”, as that death-dealer was familiarly known.
Apart from one or two scares, no untoward incident occurred this side of Malta, and reaching that stage of the journey, one of the two Japanese destroyers that, so far, had afforded us protection, remained in harbour, leaving the Arcadian for the remainder of the journey with only one destroyer zigzagging at a respectful distance across our bows.
The Japanese destroyer brought us, after days and nights of steaming, within sight of the African coast. This was the scene of our first brush with the enemy.
A submarine had been spotted, and with the destroyer circling around at full speed, belching out the while a thick black smoke screen, we raced as fast as the engines would turn over, to a place of comparative safety, that being a small river on the north coast of Africa.
There we were literally bottled-up for three days together with another crowded transport, while our underwater foe patrolled the river’s mouth waiting and watching for us to come out. Upon the morning of the third day, the other transport set out only to return in the early afternoon in a sinking condition.
After that, we were not too optimistic as to our chances, but in the early evening the Arcadian directed her nose seawards once more, steaming out into the open without mishap. Our Japanese friends, of course, still playing the part of protector.
Arrived at Salonika, the troops intended for that front disembarked, and, under cover of darkness, we of the Egyptian contingent put forth to sea bound for Alexandria. Three hundred souls of us, however, were destined not to reach that objective.
Through the night we sped on our way down the Aegean Archipelago, and the following evening, a Sunday, saw our real encounter with the U-boat that had dogged us so relentlessly. Without one moment’s warning, a terrific explosion occurred, made hideous by the splintering into matchwood of great timbers, the crash of falling glass and the groaning of steel girders wrenched asunder, followed by the hissing rush of escaping steam from the ship’s boilers.
Nobody needed enlightening as to the fact that the old Arcadian, which had so often completed the Eastern trip, had received a “Blighty” one, and was shortly due for Davey Jones’s locker.
If doubts existed, these were soon dispelled, since, having given one convulsive shudder from end to end, the great ship began to settle down on her port side with the loose deck paraphernalia slithering about in all directions and dropping into the sea.
To get away easier, I discarded my military boots, and donned a life-belt. On reaching the side of the ship and peering over, one of the two small boats which had survived the explosion was to be seen putting away full to overflowing with men. Nothing else remained but to make the descent into the sea by a rope conveniently to hand, and this I attempted.
Unfortunately, my equilibrium on the ship’s rail was disturbed by someone in great haste to be among the rescued, and, falling, my arm became jammed at the wrist between two steel uprights employed as supports.
For moments that seemed long years, I was dangling from the side of the rapidly sinking Arcadian, but was rescued just in time from that perilous position by two comrades, one easing my weight from underneath the shoulders while the other wrenched the caught arm from the fixture.
I do not know the identity of my rescuers to this day. Seizing the means of escape, I shinned quickly down into the sea – my hands suffering badly from rope-burns, and was surprised to find the water comfortably warm. My attire consisted of trousers, shirt and socks.
The lifebelt, I found, supported my body so that my head from the chin was above water, and I looked about me, taking in the seascape. Being a non-swimmer at that time, I was unable to get clear of the ship, and her enormous bulk seemed likely to topple over upon me at any moment, supposing I was not sucked down one of the huge funnels by the inrush of water.
That actually did happen to our Chaplain. He was, subsequently, vomited out again like a rocket and suffered no ill effects, when the water charging up against the heated boilers caused an explosion.
Having read about the vortex a sinking vessel will make, I was ruminating on my chances as a survivor. The suspense, fortunately, was brief.
For a moment or two the Arcadian partly righted on her keel and then with much hissing of escaping steam and explosions from the boiler rooms, she slid for ever out of sight of human eyes, carrying with her hundreds of troops and her own crew caught like rats on the lower decks.
Within three minutes (official Admiralty time) from the time that she was struck all that remained of the ship was bits of floating wreckage.
It is difficult to describe my sensations during the minute or so following. Down and still further down, I was dragged by the suction till it seemed that I must soon touch bottom. I was spun round with great rapidity and swirled about in an alarming manner.
I held my breath and closed tightly both eyes and mouth, until forced by bursting lungs to take in air, I opened my mouth, getting a large helping of Aegean Sea.
My mind was functioning normally. I can recollect that I had quite decided that H.M. Army was about to lose one live cavalryman. And though I cannot justly claim to being more courageous than my neighbour, it is curious that having made up my mind that my name would shortly appear in the casualty lists, I was not the least bit afraid.
I can give no reason. I was young, eighteen at that time, having declared a false age on enlistment, and naturally I had no overwhelming desire to provide provender for the denizens of the deep.
At last, however, I came with a rush to the surface, and was violently ill for some time. Glancing at my wristlet watch, I found it had stopped. The time was 5.45 p.m. Large numbers of drowned, the survivors, and a quantity of wreckage were close by me.
After desperate efforts to propel myself through the water, I gave up in despair, finding that no headway was being made.
That fact, however, was of no importance, as only miles of ocean waste stretched around.
The sun now was lowered on the horizon: the sea became chilly and turbulent. The heads of the survivors by this time were dotted about with great distances between, they having drifted with the wind and the currents.
After some hours, I was brought by the same means within reach of a small raft, which was clutched with considerable gusto, and I found myself in the excellent company of five officers, three Navy and two Army.
Only an occasional word was spoken. Darkness descended quickly, and the sea was bitterly cold.
Wafted across the waters, our ears received the words of the hymn “Nearer my God to Thee”. Apparently every poor devil – more than three-quarters drowned – was doing his level best to swell the chorus on that awful night. The incident has imprinted itself indelibly on my memory.
The combined weight of our six bodies completely submerged the slender support, but, nevertheless, by arrangement we each of us managed in turn to scramble on to the raft’s surface and to get for a short spell as much of our numbed bodies above sea-level as was possible in the circumstances.
This we continued to do, helping each other as best we could. Towards midnight a small white light was plainly visible in the far distance, and later another, and some time after, another.
Through the ingenuity of one of the Navy officers we were shortly located. In his possession was an electric torch – quite unaffected, apparently, by its prolonged immersion – and with the instrument he proceeded to signal in the Morse code.
We watched intently. The beam of a searchlight shot into the sky from the rescuing ships.
It swung from side to side, missing our little group again and again. Eventually, however, it found its mark.
Then quickly the lantern shut down to allow of a message to be flashed out. Slowly this was read to us by our friend with the torch. “Will pick you up soon as possible with other survivors”.
Utter blackness again and another long waiting; this time, however, with a hope. At last there came stealing upon us the tall black bows of a ship. The “Q” ship Redbreast she was. Voices hailed us from the deck. She drew swiftly alongside, and dropped a rope ladder. Down this came a couple of men, who heaved us up.
A basin of piping hot grog, a belabouring with rough towels, a berth with an abundant supply of blankets and to bed.
Wilfred Jones is commemorated on Panel 11 of The Mikra Memorial, Thessloniki, Greece.
Historical Information The following information is from The C.W.G.C. website.
At the invitation of the Greek Prime Minister, M.Venizelos, Salonika (now Thessalonika) was occupied by three French Divisions and the 10th (Irish) Division from Gallipoli in October 1915. Other French and Commonwealth forces landed during the year and in the summer of 1916, they were joined by Russian and Italian troops. In August 1916, a Greek revolution broke out at Salonika, with the result that the Greek national army came into the war on the Allied side.
The town was the base of the British Salonika Force and it contained, from time to time, eighteen general and stationary hospitals. Three of these hospitals were Canadian, although there were no other Canadian units in the force.
The earliest Commonwealth burials took place in the local Protestant and Roman Catholic cemeteries, and the Anglo-French (now Lembet Road) Military Cemetery was used from November 1915 to October 1918. The British cemetery at Mikra was opened in April 1917, remaining in use until 1920. The cemetery was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from a number of burial grounds in the area.
MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY now contains 1,810 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, as well as 147 war graves of other nationalities.
Within the cemetery will be found the MIKRA MEMORIAL, commemorating almost 500 nurses, officers and men of the Commonwealth forces who died when troop transports and hospital ships were lost in the Mediterranean, and who have no grave but the sea. They are commemorated here because others who went down in the same vessels were washed ashore and identified, and are now buried at Thessalonika.
The ships were:
HT “Marquette”, torpedoed and sunk by ‘U35’ on 23 October 1915, 57.5 kilometres south from Salonika Bay, carrying the 29th Division Ammunition Column and the New Zealand Stationary Hospital.
HT “Ivernia”, torpedoed and sunk on 1 January 1917, 93 kilometres from Cape Matapan, carrying reinforcements for Egypt.
HT “Arcadian” was torpedoed and sunk on 15 April 1917, 41.5 kilometres north east from the island of Milo (Melos), carrying reinforcements for Egypt.
Hospital Ship “Britannic”, of the White Star Line, sunk by mine on 21 November 1916 in the Zea Channel between Greece and the Cyclades, on her way from Naples to Mudos.
Fleet Messenger “Princess Alberta”, sunk by mine between Stavros and Mudros on 21 February 1917.