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  • Christina Drummond

Commander Loftus Jones VC

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Commander Loftus Jones VC died on the first day of the Battle of Jutland. The son of an admiral, he was educated at Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy, rose quickly through the ranks so at 21 was in command of his own ship, and in June of 1914 was promoted to commander. On the day of his death he was in command of HMS Shark, providing protection for the Third Battlecruiser Squadron heading south in the North Sea in advance of the British battle fleet; they were ordered to intercept the enemy, ten German destroyers and three battlecruisers. HMS Shark was hit, and largely disabled by heavy fire. Commander Jones refused help from another ship, and as the Squadron disappeared from sight, the enemy closed in on the Shark: its after-gun put out of action, its crew killed or wounded, and the forward gun blown away. Petty Officer William Griffin later recalled: “On all sides there was chaos. Dead and dying lay everywhere around. The decks were a shambles. Great fragments of the ship’s structure were strewn everywhere.” The crew of the last gun was reduced to one man aided by the Commander, who was soon struck by a shell which took off his right leg; as a makeshift tourniquet was applied, he continued to direct the firing of the gun. The Shark was sinking as two German destroyers closed in, so Commander Jones ordered his men to save themselves as they eased him onto a raft, one of 20 survivors. He is remembered as saying “Let’s have a song, lads,” the first lieutenant started singing “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and the survivors sang until they were exhausted. They watched the Shark sink with her colours flying and a short while later Commander Jones died, surviving long enough to see British ships going past in pursuit of the enemy. Only six survivors were then left, to be rescued shortly after midnight by a Danish steamer. Commander Jones’ body was washed ashore off the coast of Sweden still in the lifebelt that he had worn after being forced to leave his ship. The six survivors received the DSM, and Commander Jones was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.” A comment on his courage came from Admiral Beatty, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet during the Great War: “No finer act had been produced in the annals of Her Majesty’s Navy.” Commander Jones, from Southsea in Hampshire, was 36 years old and married with a daughter.

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