Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Private Theophilus Jones, 18th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, became the first soldier to be killed on British soil during the Great War.
Private Jones was employed as Headmaster of the Church of England school in Thringstone, Leicestershire; he was an avid local cricketer and footballer, and sang in a male choir which had performed in Paris. He had been walking out with a young woman at the time of the outbreak of the Great War; and like many a woman who lost her sweetheart to the war, she never married.
Private Jones enlisted with the Durham Light Infantry in October of 1914. On the day of his death he had left his home to make his way to the Heugh Gun Battery when the first major attack on home soil began. Private Jones was killed by a shell fired from a German ship, and less than an hour later 119 civilians had been killed and hundreds more injured.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 2018, his was one of thirty-two images drawn in sand around the country as part of film director Danny Boyle’s project “Pages of the Sea”. The images of course would be gradually washed away by the incoming tides. Private Jones’ prayerbook is in the Museum of Hartlepool – it was given to him by some of his pupils, and is embedded with a piece of German naval shrapnel as well as a fragment of his uniform. Private Jones’ two brothers were both killed in
917: Herbert, killed by a sniper while saving people from a fire, and Alfred, killed in action during the Battle of Arras.
Theophilus, born in Darlington in County Durham, was 29 years old.