Date of birth: 1895
Parents: Captain Alfred Jones and Arona Elizabeth Jones
Address: Coventry Road, Warwick
Occupation: Articled Clerk to the Borough Surveyor of Warwick
Alfred Roy Jones was born in New Brompton in Kent in 1895.
In 1911, the family were living at 18 Gaveston Road, Leamington Spa. His father, Alfred Senior was a retired Captain, ex Royal Engineers. His mother was Arona Elizabeth. Alfred has an elder brother, Leonard and sister, Olive.
Alfred was an old Warwickian who was working for the Borough Surveyor of Warwick, Mr E Melville Richards when he volunteered to serve.
Below is from Warwick School Archives and Alfred Roy Jones’ First World War Diaries – courtesy of Archivist Warwick School:
Alfred Roy Jones, who preferred to be called Roy, came to Warwick School in 1909 and left at Easter 1913, aged nearly 18. His time at the school was almost totally undistinguished, and we don’t even have a photograph of him, but one of the most remarkable things about him was that he was extremely small – 4’ 11⅛” tall, and weighing 6 stone 6 lb, at the age of 18. He had, thank goodness, put on 4” by the time he was 20. How do we know? Because, through the Old Warwickian Association, the school now owns four diaries which he wrote.
At Christmas 1911 Roy bought a handsome Letts’ Schoolboy Diary, specially overprinted with the name Warwick School and its then crest, from the bursar, the legendary MM Clark, and started to make entries in January 1912. This is that very book. Although he left the school in 1913, for the next two years he continued to buy Warwick School diaries, and he made entries up to the autumn of 1915. The 1915 diary even has its original pencil in it – and it’s still sharp – but his entries stop when he joined the army.
My first reaction on being handed these wonderful books was to check what he had written on August 4th 1914, the day of the start of the First World War. I almost expected him to write something like “First World War started” – you can see what he actually wrote on the screen, and I’ll talk about that in a moment.
The second was to check on the school’s war memorial in this chapel, and there, I am very much afraid, we find the name AR Jones. These diaries, therefore, record a young man’s growing up 90 years ago, leaving school, entering the world of work, barely noticing, it seems, the terrible carnage which was getting under way on the Continent, preferring to describe what might be called several rites of passage. He recorded the weather rather obsessively – in August 1912 he reports “the first sunny days for weeks”- but as well wrote about his long walks, when and where he went for runs, his cycle rides and his punctures. He noted where he went to church (usually twice every Sunday, including coming back here as a young Old Boy), what books he got out of Leamington library and what sewage plants he visited – he was training to be a civil engineer, and went to evening classes. He wrote and received hundreds of letters, including at least two letters per week to each of his parents, who did not seem to live together. On the screen is a list of letters he wrote and received over a 6 month period in 1915.
In the 1912 diary is written the oldest surviving daily timetable of a sixth-former of this school, and in 1913 he describes the L6 exams he took: Latin, geometry, arithmetic, literature, algebra, divinity, French, history, grammar and, if that wasn’t enough, he finished by having to write a Greek essay.
In July 1912 he “went to Coventry & saw Mr Hucks make a flight in his aeroplane”, and just after he left school, he makes the observation “Saw an aeroplane pass over”, which suggests that this was also extremely unusual. The almost complete lack of vehicles caused him to write, in amazement, “saw a motor on the Longbridge Road.” He taught himself to swim (at the age of 18) and went to see Aston Villa versus Manchester United. The local side, rather satisfyingly, won 3-1. He smoked his first cigarette “returning from the theatre with Mother, who was greatly amused at the performance”. Most mothers would not be quite so amused if their sons tried that today! His weight went up to 7st 7lb. By the summer of 1914 he had driven a car a short way, he “ran over a dog on byke in Smith Street, fortunately no serious damage to either party” (it was presumably Roy, and not the dog, on the bike), and was there when a biplane circled the Jephson Gardens and landed in Welsh’s Meadow.
Roy himself lived for the first part of these diaries in Gaveston Road, near St Mark’s church on the Rugby Road, but had arranged to move house after a year or so. The date his mother had chosen to move down to a village near Aldershot was very inconveniently the day after the First World War had started, and the move was postponed for a fortnight because all the available trains were carrying troops around the country. By August 1914 he was gearing himself up for his house move, and was delighted to spot what he called “satellites” of the planet Jupiter, which we would now call moons. Almost his only reference to the war, which you can see on the screen, was when he noted a “mobilisation” on 4th August 1914, and the crowd outside the Courier office the following day, waiting for news. Mobilisation means that all available soldiers, even Reservists like my own grandfather, were required to report immediately to their barracks for service.
From September to November 1914 Roy was making detailed observations of a comet he saw near the Plough, or Great Bear. This was almost certainly Delavan’s Comet, which won’t be seen again for a while – a mere 24 million years or so. You can see Roy’s diagram of The Plough, and the comet below it, on the screen.
In July 1915, just after he had been admitted as a student to the Institute of Civil Engineers, he came here to school to see Mr Pyne, the headmaster, who signed his Commission Form for the army. In September he sold his precious bike to a work-mate, went to the Technical School and was sworn in for the 7th Reserve Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The following day he reported to the barracks in Coventry, and saw an aeroplane loop the loop there. And that, I am afraid, is just about all we know about Alfred Roy Jones.
Except when we look at Portcullis of November 1918, and we read:
“Second-Lieutenant A Roy Jones, son of the late Captain Jones, Royal Engineers, of Coventry Road, Warwick and of Mrs Jones, of Ash Vale, Surrey, has been officially reported killed in France. Lieutenant Jones was articled to Mr E Melville Richards, Borough Surveyor of Warwick, before the war, and when the war began he volunteered for service and received a commission after serving in the ranks.”
To find out more, I fed his name into the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web-site, which is an essential point of reference for all such enquiries:
Roy Jones died on 23rd March 1918, and is commemorated at the Pozieres
Memorial, near Albert on the Somme. This memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918. The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. Roy Jones was not quite 23 years of age when he died.
Rank & Number: Second Lieutenant, 186674
Regiment/Service: 2nd/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Brigade/Division: 182nd Brigade, 61st Division
Date of death: Saturday, March 23, 1918
Cause of death/Battle: Killed in Action - Battle of St Quentin
Commemorated/Buried: Pozieres Memorial, Somme
Awards: British War Medal, Victory Medal
Commemorated locally at: Warwick School
- Gervald Frykman – Warwick School Archivist
- Unlocking Warwick Research Group
- Warwick Advertiser excerpt courtesy of Warwickshire County Record Office