Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Private William Jones, 9th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, was shot at dawn at Mont Kemmel in Belgium. In 2006, he was one of 306 executed soldiers who were pardoned and are memorialized at the Shot At Dawn memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
The 9th Battalion had been formed at Wrexham in October of 1914, and arrived in France in July of 1915. Private Jones served as a stretcher-bearer for two years, about which Welsh author Robert King wrote: “The job of a stretcher bearer entailed going out into no-man’s-land collecting wounded and dead soldiers and their body parts and returning them to the dressing station. It was a horrendous duty for such a young man and it could have unhinged him, causing him to desert.”
Private Jones disappeared on the 15th of June in 1917 after taking a wounded man to the dressing station. His company commander is reported as stating that he had been a good soldier, and mention was made of him possibly having been wounded. Early in September of 1917 he handed himself in to his local police station and from there was sent to the provost-marshal at Bristol. He appears in the War Office casualty list of the 13th of October, 1917, under the heading “Previously reported Missing, now rejoined”. He stated: “When I came to my senses I gave myself up”. It is believed that his mother encouraged him to do so, neither of them considering the consequences. Robert King believes that had he not done so, he may well have remained undetected for the duration of the war.
Private Jones was tried and executed at dawn for desertion. He lies buried in the Locre Hospice Cemetery, ten kilometres from Ypres. Since the pardon in 2006, his name has been inscribed on his home town’s war memorial.
William was from Glynneath in Wales; he falsified his age on enlistment and is believed to have been too young to serve.