Born in Clytha,
Monmouthshire, on 19 August 1857 Private Robert Jones was serving
with the Second Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot when he became
one of the 11 soldiers to win the Victoria Cross in the battle of
Rorke's Drift, Natal, over the 22nd/23rd January 1879. A force of
around 100 British soldiers defended a small mission station by
an attack of around 3,500 Zulus, before being relieved by a column
commanded by Lord Chelmsford.
Zulus surrounded the mission hospital where a handful of soldiers,
including Robert Jones and William
Jones, and dozens of patients, were barricaded. Jones used his
bayonet to defend a doorway into a hospital ward until it was almost
filled with dead and wounded Zulus.
four assegai (spear) wounds and being struck by a bullet, he helped
evacuate six patients through holes in the walls during a desperate
retreat through the blazing building. The two Jones's were then
joined by Privates Hook and Williams
(aka Fielding) who together, helped the surviving patients out before
making their escape, Robert Jones being the last to leave the building
before it collapsed.
by John Young
army service Robert Jones settled in Herefordshire and worked as
a farm labourer. Throughout the summer of 1898 he had been unwell,
and on the 6th September, aged 41, he borrowed his employer's shotgun
to go crow shooting. A shot was later heard and Jones was found
dead with gunshot wounds. A verdict of "suicide whilst temporarily
insane" was recorded after a coroner heard evidence that Jones suffered
nightmares following his hand-to-hand struggle at the South African
mission station at Rorke's Drift.
were generally excluded from burial on consecrated ground, Private
Jones's VC meant that his body was allowed to be interred in Peterchurch
Churchyard, but not before the coffin was forced to enter the churchyard
over a wall, and his headstone faces away from all other tombs to
starkly signify the nature of his death. In 1998 an article appeared
in TheSunday Telegraph suggesting that it was about
time Robert Jones's headstone be reversed, but this would necessitate
overturning the coroner's verdict.
Sadly, the Victoria
Cross of Private Robert Jones was sold at auction in 1996 to a private
buyer for the huge sum of £80,000.