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4th July 2003Pte. Robert Jones
By Phil Read
I paid a visit to the grave of Pte. Robert Jones in Peterchurch at the weekend. I was aware before my visit that his gravestone was facing in the opposite direction to the others, due to the suicide verdict. However, it was only when I actually saw it for myself that the full sadness of the sight struck me.
I believe that there have been attempts in the past to have the verdict overturned and the stone reversed. Does anyone know what the current situation is?
4th July 2003Martin Everett
Dear Phil,
Robert Jones's gallantry was recognised - he was buried in consecrated ground in an era when the circumstances of his death may have prevented this. Most of the headstones near that for Robert Jones are later additions - if you look at those which were also erected in 1890s they face the same way as that for Jones. So this would appear to be a story which has emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. If you still feel there is a strong case to make - then the best person to write to is the local MP - Mr Paul Keetch.
4th July 2003Phil Read

Thanks for the info. By the way, I also paid a visit to the museum on the same day (last Saturday 29th June about 2pm), and it didn't disappoint. I talked for ages to the chap working there. I didn't get his name, but he was extremely helpful and never tired of answering all of my questions. Please pass on my thanks!
7th July 2003Andy Lee

I have been working on this one for some time now. Agreed, he was buried in consecrated ground when circumstances of his death may have prevented this during that time. However, was it suicide or was it an accident that is the key sticking point.

In order to wipe the suicide verdict and turn the headstone around - you would have to overturn the original coroners report, which I understand was lost in a fire at some point.

I'm sure if the circumstances were looked at again we could get a misadventure verdict as apposed to Suicide - Unfortunately too late to have the fact his coffin was passed over the wall so that it did not pass the church put right.

7th July 2003Phil Read
Thanks for the reply. I had heard that the verdict was reached within 24 hours of his death. Also that it was proved later that the firearm involved could fire accidentally if dropped on the ground. This would be the basis of an amended verdict. Apologies if I've got my facts wrong.
7th July 2003Martin Everett
Dear Andy,

You have missed my point. There is no evidence (in the regimental archives and elsewhere) suggest that the headstone was turned around because of the circumstances of Robert Jones's death. As I said this myth is certainly a modern story. The headstones of the same vintage as Jones face the same direction as his. There is no doubt that Jones suffered from PTS as many others present at RD must have suffered to some degree. This condition was only really understood during the horrors of WW1. Everybody seems to have move information than I have - we have searched the Hereford Record Offcie for evidence - but no documentary evidence appears to have survived.
7th July 2003Phil Read
The headstone does seem to be a bit of a red herring from what you say, and perhaps we should ignore it. However, do you know if any doubt has ever been cast on the suicide verdict & have there been any attempts to have the verdict overturned?
7th July 2003Peter Ewart

I fairly regularly read the accounts of coroner's inquests from the 19th century. At the time in question it was common (routine even) for a coroner to be sent for, to arrive, summon a jury, get them to view the body (usually in the local pub), gather witnesses, conduct the inquest and issue a verdict - all well within 24 hours. The other week I studied one which related to a very violent death late at night in a rural area but which was all "done & dusted" by the following afternoon - admittedly a bit earlier, in the 1860s. Suicide too, even though I think it may not have been!

So I doubt if the actual duration or timing of the inquest suggests undue haste for those days. And it was perfectly routine then to decide on a suicide verdict very quickly "while the mind was deranged" etc, etc.

9th July 2003Chris John
Hi Phil
My next-door neighbour is a grand-daughter of Robert Jones VC and she has passed many things of his to me like peoems etc. She has told me about the family thoughts on the suicide and what any in the village thought after his death. As you probably know, he was working for a retired major as a farmhand. That gun, when tested many years later, i think just before WW1, they found that the right-hand barrel had a fault that made the gun go off with any amount of pressure put on it. Although when they found him, the wound loked like a self-inflicted wound, they now reckon that he had fallen from the step in the garden, which was probably put on by one of his frequent headaches, and dropped the gun. With the pressure of the fall, the gun went off and instantly killed him. Although his grave does actually face the way which the other late 19th century gravestone's face in that graveyard, they wouldn't actually let him pass through the gates of the church, and had to be brought across the wall opposite the grave according to the family story.
Hope this is of some help - Chris John (15)
10th July 2003Andy Lee

Thank you for this information - After working on this for so long it is so good to hear what you have to say and it confirms all that I've thought all along.

The Suicide verdict was always a dodgy conclusion and it would be so good to have it erased from all records and his headstone turned to it's proper position. It's just a shame the coffin was not allowed to pass through the church gates.

Thanks Chris
13th July 2003Phil Read
Martin, Andy, Peter & Chris

Thanks very much to you all for taking the trouble to add comments.