Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Herbert Jones

Herbert Jones :

Herbert Jones : (L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasp 'South Africa 1901'; British War Medal

(L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasp 'South Africa 1901'; British War Medal

Herbert was born in around August 1876 in Farnworth, near Bury, Lancashire. His father was called William and his mother was Mary Jane. He was one of 12 children; we know the names of 6 including Herbert. He was the oldest, followed by William, Elizabeth Anne, Florence, Robert and Helen. By 1911 6 of his siblings had died. The family were members of the Church of England.

In 1881 William worked as an auctioneer, he 'employed 2 clerks'. The family lived at 24 Market Street in Farnworth. Ten years later they had moved to the Eccles area of Manchester, where they lived at 50 Boardman Street. William now worked as an advertising manager. Herbert had begun to work as a clerk.

Herbert began his military career later that year. On the 15th December 1891 he joined the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Volunteer Force based in Wigan, Lancashire. Herbert kept his civilian home and job, and trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends. He was given the service number 4479.

Herbert took his training seriously. He reached a high enough standard to be classed as 'efficient' in every year of his service except 1897, when he was not in the country. Herbert had joined the Rhodesia Mounted Police for 1 year's service on the 4th November 1896.

The Second Matabele War, or the First Chimurenga, had broken out in the territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland in March 1896. These had recently been brought under the control of the British South Africa Company and named Rhodesia. The war with the Matabele tribe (now called the Ndebele) had been brought to an end by the time Herbert enlisted, but the conflict with the Mashona continued until October 1897. Herbert was a member of A Troop during the war. We know virtually nothing about his service.

On the 9th August 1897 Herbert was serving in or around Salisbury, Rhodesia when he was shot in the right forearm. This injury would leave two scars, but doesn't seem to have affected his military career.

The Rhodesia Mounted Police had been renamed the British South Africa Police during December 1896. After his year of service Herbert was discharged in Salisbury on the 3rd November 1897. His character had been 'Very Good'. Since 1982 Salisbury has been called Harare. It is the capital of Zimbabwe.

After his service in Africa Herbert returned to the UK. We don't know what he did until early 1900. At this time he worked as a commercial traveller. His parents lived at 8 Vernon Grove in Eccles with most of his siblings, but we don't know whether he lived with them.

Towards the end of the 19th Century tensions between British and Boer settlers in South Africa were rising. The Boer War broke out on the 11th October 1899.

The British Army suffered some serious defeats during the early months of the war and began to send reinforcements to the country. The Volunteer Force was not organised or trained to fight abroad, but units were asked to form Volunteer Service Companies that could be sent to South Africa and attached to Regular Army battalions.

Herbert was one of the first men to volunteer to join the Manchester Regiment Company. He enlisted in the Regular Army for 1 year on the 9th February 1900 and was given the service number 7002. At the time he was 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall and weighed 156 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and black hair.

The 1st Volunteer Service Company (VSC) was assembled in early May. They arrived in South Africa on the 11th June and were attached to the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Herbert had been promoted to Corporal before they left the UK.

Herbert served with the 1st Battalion in Natal and the Transvaal, taking part in many small operations against the Boer fighters. The battalion often had to cover vast distances to reach the areas they were responsible for. This could mean long, uncomfortable train journeys, such as one between Elandslaagte and Zandspruit on the 20th July. Herbert's comrade in the 1st VSC, William Emmott, remembered that 'Nineteen and a half hours in a coal wagon is rather too long to be comfortable'. William's medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.

The 1st VSC left the country on the 26th April 1901. Three other Volunteer Service Companies of the Manchester Regiment would serve there during the war. Herbert was discharged on the 29th May 1901.

The commander of the 1st VSC was Captain Percy Bamford. In June 1901 he wrote a letter of recommendation for Herbert:

Corporal H. Jones went out to S. Africa as one of the selected Non Commissioned Officers of the Vol Service Company Manchester Regiment which I commanded. He served the full period of 13 months and was a most valuable NCO being thoroughly well up in his duties, and invariably doing them - whether they happened to be hard + irksome (as was often the case) or otherwise - in a soldierly and cheerful manner.

He had a position of trust and responsibility at the last post we occupied, as Acting Quartermaster Sergeant, having control of all rations, stores etc + being responsible for serving these out to the Company.

Corporal Jones is active, energetic, painstaking and competent, and I have very much pleasure in recommending him strongly for any work which requires these qualities.

Herbert resigned from the 1st Volunteer Battalion on the 2nd February 1903. He had 'served with credit' and qualified as a marksman during his service. We don't know anything about his life between then and the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

During the early months of the war the Army expanded massively. On the 10th July 1915 Herbert was commissioned as an officer in the 5th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. We don't know whether he had been commissioned as a civilian or whether he had enlisted as an 'other rank' before this. The 5th Battalion was a Territorial Force unit. It had replaced the 1st Volunteer Battalion in Wigan in 1908. Herbert was promoted to Lieutenant on the same day he was commissioned and to Temporary Captain on the 1st December.

At first Herbert served in the UK with the 3/5th Battalion. This was formed as a reserve unit that would train soldiers to join the 1/5th and 2/5th Battalions. These were fighting units; the 1/5th was in Gallipoli when Herbert was commissioned, and the 2/5th was training in the UK. In early 1916 the 3/5th Battalion moved from Wigan to Witley in Surrey. It was renamed the 5th (Reserve) Battalion that April.

Herbert served in the UK until the 25th October 1916, when he was sent to France. We believe he was attached to a unit of the London Regiment. Over 50 battalions of the London Regiment saw service during the First World War, but we don't know one which Herbert was a member of.

In November 1916 Herbert's battalion was serving around Hill 60 near Ypres in Belgium. On the 14th he was diagnosed with shell shock. This condition was poorly understood, but it was believed to be a reaction to the stress of combat. It was named because many men who developed it had been close to exploding shells. We don't know how Herbert had developed it.

We don't know what happened to Herbert after this. He had been returned to the UK by May 1917 when he was examined by Dr Sydney Scott at 130 Harley Street in London. Herbert was suffering from 'vertigo and deafness'. His right ear had suffered 'permanent disturbance of its function...without total loss of its sensibility'.

By December Herbert was serving at a Prisoner of War Working Camp at Leasowe Castle on the Wirral peninsular in Cheshire. He had been diagnosed with neurasthenia, which was a term used at the time to describe disorders of the nervous system. At a medical assessment his doctors reported that:

This officer has improved, but still suffers from vertigo but headaches are not so bad as they were. He is deaf in his right ear through lesion of right otic labyrinth. He is only fit for work of a sedentary nature. Cannot close his eyes standing without danger of falling. He can perform his present duties quite well.

Herbert returned to Leasowe Castle. On the 17th March 1918 he was promoted to Temporary Captain again and given command of the camp. We believe he held this position until he relinquished his commission in the Army 'on account of ill-health contracted on active service'. He was awarded a Silver War Badge with serial number B13020 to recognise his service. He left the Army on the 6th July.

Leasowe Castle Camp was a 'subsidiary camp' to one at Handforth near Wilmslow in Cheshire. Its commander had been impressed by Herbert's work. He wrote to him in October and paid tribute to 'the manner in which you managed my...Camp at Leasowe Castle. Your tact and good management resulted in the establishment and the continuance throughout your regime of the most thorough discipline...I hope that he [the new commandant] will be also able to maintain the same good discipline without recourse to punishment in the manner in which you managed'.

We don't know much about the rest of Herbert's life. In the early 1920s he lived at 35 Highfield Road in Rock Ferry, Cheshire. By 1925 he had moved to 2 Park Street in Higher Ardwick, Manchester. In this year Herbert's retired pay was fixed at 42 per year for the rest of his life.

We don't know how long this was. Nor do we know whether Herbert ever married or had children. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in October 1958.

As well as the medals in the photograph Herbert was awarded the 'Natal' and 'Transvaal' clasps for his Queen's South Africa Medal. He also received the British South Africa Company's Medal with either the 'Rhodesia 1896' reverse and 'Mashonaland 1897' clasp or the 'Mashonaland 1897' reverse. He was also awarded the Allied Victory Medal.

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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council