Owen, Joseph Heber

Joseph Heber Owen was born about 1894 in Abergele, the youngest child of the family.  His father was a Supernumary Wesleyan Minister, that is he did not have his own church, but moved around the area ministering and preaching where he was needed. Censuses show that the family had moved around various places in Mid and North Wales before coming to Prestatyn.

Joseph Heber was known by his second name, which seems to have caused some confusion, his name is variously written as Herber, Herbert, and Ebor.  Heber is a Biblical name.

In 1891, the Wales Census on Ancestry shows the family at Sea View, Wesley House, Abergele , Part of Pensarn.  Joseph Owen, age 44, Born at Llanfairtalhairn, Caernarvonshire, was a Wesleyan Minister.  His wife Susannah was 35, and had been born at Llanfyllin, Merioneth. David Osborne was 9, and had been born at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Merioneth. Mary Nesta 8, had been born at Llanfairfechan, Caernarvonshire, and Thomas Ewart, 5, at Ruthin, Denbighshire. All spoke both Welsh and English.

In 1901, the family were living at Bryn Ffynnon, Llanasa. Joseph , now 54, had been born at Port Dinorwic, Caernarvonshire, Susannah age 48, at Llanfyllin, Mary Nesta, 18, at Llanfairfechan, and they were now joined by Joseph Heber, 7, born at Abergele. All spoke both languages.

By 1911, their circumstances had changed. Ancestry records show the death of Susannah at Llanfyllin, in 1904.  Joseph, now 66 and a widower, described as a Wesleyan Minister born at Port Dinorwic, is staying as a visitor at Compton House, Bagillt, at the home of Elizabeth Catherine Williams. There were also two other visitors.

Heber’s sister, Mary Nesta, now 26, is living with their aunt, Margaret Edwards, age 52, at Sorrento, Pentre Avenue, Prestatyn.  Both were described as being of private means, and there were also two paying guests.

Heber himself is found at 57 East street, Horsham Sussex. The head of the household is Chas. C. Ireson, age30, born Yorkshire, and described as a draper and shopkeeper. Also living there is a housekeeper, one milliner, and two drapery assistants, all described as boarders, and a servant. Joseph Heber Owen, Age17, and a boarder, born Abergele, is described as an apprentice. He was obviously hoping to learn the drapery trade.

The Prestatyn Weekly for December 7th 1912, records the death of the Reverend Joseph Owen. He had gone to Bagillt to conduct a service, where he had been taken ill.  A doctor had been called, but he insisted on preaching despite being unwell. After returning home to Prestatyn, he had died. The article gives details of his over 30 years ministry, his funeral, and the fact that the body was taken to Llanfyllin by train, for interment. Heber, now 18, had lost both his parents.

The Prestatyn Weekly newspaper printed regular updates of serving soldiers, those who had recently enlisted, those home on leave, and those who had been wounded and were recovering, in fact, any news at all.  The heading of this column varied, it was sometimes “local heroes”, sometimes “our lads”, or “news from the trenches”. Ebor (sic) Owen is mentioned in January 1915 , so although we do not know when he enlisted, it must have been very early in the war. There are no surviving Service or Enlistment records for Heber.

The website Soldiers who died in the Great War confirms the known details. When he was killed in August 1915 at Gallipolli, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers were heavily involved in the fighting.

From the Prestatyn Weekly,  September 8th1915:

Miss Edwards, Penfro, Pendre Avenue, has been notified by the War Office that Private Ebor Owen has been missing since August 16th. Private Owen joined the 8th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers soon after the outbreak of war, and fought in the Dardanelles.

However, Heber was still mentioned in the rolls of serving soldiers from Prestatyn on October 18th 1915, so no further official news had been received by then, and the relatives would still have clung on to some hope.

In its’ edition of 20th November 1915, the same paper printed a letter from the Dardanelles, from Corporal Hughie Cooper RWF to a friend in Prestatyn, which included the following:

You might tell Heber Owen’s auntie that all I know about him is that he went out with an officer and eleven other men to try and get two snipers. The officer and four men were killed, four wounded, and four missing, I am sorry to say. He might have been taken prisoner, but we are unable to say.  Last night I had to go and bury two men out of my section who were killed going for the mails; it was not a very nice job because you never know when you will be killed yourself.

From the British Army Medal Rolls Index, we know that the medals awarded to Heber were the Victory Medal, The British War Medal and the 15 Star. His date of entry into the theatre of war, the Balkans, is given as 28th June 1915, and states “Death accepted 16.8.15.”

There is an entry in the U.K. Army Register of Soldier’s Effects, 1901-1929 for Heber, telling us that his death was presumed on 16.8.15.

On 13.3.18, monies owing to Heber were allocated as follows:

To his sister Mrs Mary Williams £1. 18s 2d.

To his brother Thomas E. Owen £1 18s 2d.

On 4.5.18 to sister in law Mrs Beatrice C. Owen £1 18s2d.

(As the written request of brother David.)

On 22.11.19, his brother David received a war gratuity of £3.00

There is an entry in the Abergele and District Commemorations 1915-2015, posted by Andrew Hesketh on 15th August 2015, stating that Joseph Heber Owen, born in Abergele, was in the 8th Battalion RWF, 40th Brigade, 13th Western division, and commenting that the fact that his death was later “accepted” as 16.8.15, indicates that he was missing for some time afterwards,

We do not know when his aunt received the official news, but it was she who signed the card in the Hawarden Archives on 30th October 1919.

She simply signs as Margaret Edwards, aunt, and sadly the only detail given is the one word – missing.

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