b. 19/08/1857 Penrhos, Monmouthshire, Wales. d. 06/09/1898 Peterchurch, Herefordshire.
Robert Jones (1857-1898) was born in Penrhos, near Raglan, Wales on 19th August 1857. He enlisted into 2/24th Regiment of Foot (later South Wales Borderers) on 10 January 1876 aged 19. Shortly after his enlistment, the Regiment had set sail for South Africa and the Zulu War. By the tender age of just 21, Robert Jones found himself about to face the large Zulu force heading towards Rorke’s Drift on the 22nd January 1879.
During the first assault from the Zulus, Jones found himself in a ward of the hospital facing the hill. Together with Private William Jones, they defended the hospital to the last, until the Zulus were starting to break through. Robert worked hard to remove the patients from the hospital, and they successfully managed to get six out of the seven men moved. When they went back for the final patient, Sergeant Maxfield, who was delirious with fever, Robert found him being stabbed to death by the Zulus.
Both Robert and William Jones were gazetted for the Victoria Cross on 2nd May 1879, and he was presented with his medal on 11th September that year by General Sir Garnet Wolseley at Utrecht, KwaZulu Natal. Shortly after this, Jones was posted to India with the 2nd Battalion.
He transferred to the Army Reserve in 1882. He subsequently returned to farm labouring at Peterchurch in Herefordshire. There he married at local girl – Elizabeth Hopkins in 1885 and they had five children. Sadly, Robert’s life came to a tragic end. In the summer of 1898, having attended a reunion of VC recipients from the South Wales Borderers earlier in the year at Brecon, began to suffer from headaches.
On the 6th September 1898, Jones’ body was found in the woods, with a shotgun wound to the head. At the coroner’s inquest, a verdict of suicide through having an unsound mind was returned. Sadly, the stigma of suicide at the time in the eyes of the church, meant that Jones’ coffin had to be passed over the church wall rather than through the church gates, and his headstone when placed was facing away from the church. His grave is the only one in St Peter’s Churchyard, Peterchurch that the headstone is facing away. His medals were for a time in private ownership, before being purchased by the Ashcroft Trust, and are now displayed alongside the medals of John Chard in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: PETERCHURCH CHURCHYARD, HEREFORDSHIRE.
James Mace – image of the VCs of the South Wales Borderers 1898
Thomas Stewart – Robert Jones VC Block, IBS Brecon.