Roberts, Jane

Jane (Jennie) Roberts was born in early 1887, the daughter of Bryncrug school master William Roberts, who had been born in Bala and his wife Margaret Jane Roberts, originally of Borth (Cardigan)

The 1881 census shows the couple as being 27 and 26 respectively and living with Margaret’s father Griffith Evans at Cynfal Farm.

The1891 census shows them moving to a house called Bodlondeb in the village and living with their four children Dafydd (11), Margaret (6), Jane (4) and William (2) and a 15-year-old servant called Ellen Owen.

In 1901 they are still living at Bodlondeb and Jane is now 14 but listed on the census as Jenny Roberts, and by this time she has four additional siblings Griffith E (9), Meirion E (8), Byddug (5) and Edward E. Annie E Williams (17)was also living there listed as a  Domestic Servant.

The 1911 census does not show Jane living at home and her father, then 57 years old is headmaster of the school in Bryncrug, lives at Bodlondeb with his wife Margaret, 56 and youngest children Meirion (18), an ironmonger’s apprentice, Byddug (15) and Edward.(10) both listed as schoolchildren

No records related to Jane Roberts have been found until she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and was a sister on the hospital ship HMHS Salta, and little is know about her service record.

She died when His Majesty’s Hospital Ship “Salta” was sunk off Le Havre on 10th April 1917. She was lost at sea and her body was never recovered. Her name appears on the Salta Memorial at Ste Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, Normandy, France. Seven other QAs also lost their lives that day. A memorial in Plot 62 marks the graves of 24 casualties from the hospital ship ‘Salta’ and commemorates by name the soldiers, nurses and merchant seamen lost from the ‘Salta’ whose bodies were not recovered, and those lost in the sinking of the hospital ship ‘Galeka’ (mined on 28 October 1916) and the transport ship ‘Normandy’ (torpedoed on 25 January 1918), whose graves are not known.

There is also  a memorial at York Minster which lists all the QUAIMS sisters who died in WW1.

There is also a memorial (upper RHS: fourth panel) at Tywyn Church in the county of Gwynedd (formerly Merionethshire) in Wales which has her title as Sister.

During the First World War, Le Havre was one of the ports at which the British Expeditionary Force disembarked in August 1914. Except for a short interval during the German advance in 1914, it remained No.1 Base throughout the war and by the end of May 1917, it contained three general and two stationary hospitals, and four convalescent depots.

HMHS Salta (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) was a steam ship originally built by the French company, Société des Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranée, at La Seyne-sur-Mer for Société Générale de Transport Maritime Steam. The Salta was chartered by the British Admiralty in February 1915 and converted into a hospital ship. The former liner was painted white with wide green stripes and the insignia of the Red Cross, according to the terms laid down in the Hague Convention of 1894. She was operated on the Admiralty’s behalf by Union Castle Mail Steamship Ltd.

The “Salta” accompanied by Lanfranc, Western Australia and an escort of destroyers, sailed from Southampton on the 9th of April 1917 for the naval base of Le Havre under the command of Captain Eastway. She arrived off Le Havre in bad weather on the 10th of April.

During the morning of the 10th April.  A French patrol craft had found mines drifting in the Le Havre approaches and all vessels entering the port were to be warned. The mines had been laid the previous day by the German mine-laying submarine UC 26.

At 11.20am, Salta approached the port entrance and stopped engines.  A patrol craft instructed the Salta convoy to follow it towards the English drifter “Diamond” which checked the identity of each ship before opening the barrage allowing entry into the port.  Satisfied, the Drifter gives its green light and Salta was authorised to continue.

Whilst following the buoyed channel into Le Havre, Salta’s Captain Eastaway gave orders to alter course to the north. The commander of the Diamond relayed a frantic message that Salta was now approaching the zone where mines had been seen that morning. One of the Salta’s surviving officers reported that Eastaway was concerned about entering Le Havre without a pilot because of the bad weather and had wanted to let the other ships pass.

Realising that they were in grave danger, Eastaway tried to re-trace his course back to the buoyed channel. In poor weather conditions, Salta drifted across the mined zone and hit a mine at 11.43am. An enormous explosion breached the hull near the engine room and hold number three. Water engulfed the disabled ship, which listed to starboard and sank in less than 10 minutes, ½ mile north of Whistle Buoy.

Despite help arriving rapidly, the state of the sea and the strong winds hampered the rescue operation and the human cost was appalling. Of 205 passengers and crew, 9 nurses, 42 wounded and 79 crew perished. In spite of extensive searches, only 13 bodies were initially recovered. There are now 24 burials from the sinking of the Salta in Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, and also a memorial to those who were not recovered.

The sinking of the Salta had another victim. The English patrol craft P-26 was involved in the rescue operations and hit another mine, the ship was split in two and sank.

HMHS Salta is believed to lie in 138 metes of water at 49°32’08N 00°02’18W.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the St Asaph Memorials

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