Arthur Jones: Romford goalscoring hero’s life ended in Flanders field fighting for his country

Arthur Jones. Picture: Terry Felton and Linda Rhodes

Arthur Jones. Picture: Terry Felton and Linda Rhodes - Credit: Archant

In the second part of our feature on early 20th century footballer Arthur Jones, historians Terry Felton and Linda Rhodes tell how he went to war and died at Passchendaele.

Arthur Jones. Picture: Terry Felton and Linda Rhodes

Arthur Jones. Picture: Terry Felton and Linda Rhodes - Credit: Archant

As captain and goalscorer of Romford footballing side Mawney Institute, Arthur Jones won a host of trophies before the First World War brought local football to a halt.

Arthur’s goal-scoring record is remarkably impressive.

He scored 365 known career goals, as follows: Romford FC 213; Romford St Andrews FC 64; Mawney Institute FC 30; Romford Thursday FC 27; Ilford FC 20; Essex County FA 8; and London FA 3.

However, it is possible he scored many more – a complete listing is not possible due to many match reports at that time only giving results without naming the scorers.

Arthur played in more than a hundred such games, so it’s likely he scored considerably more than the 365 goals actually attributed to him before he went to war.

Unfortunately Arthur’s service record has not survived, but we know he served with the rank of Corporal, first with the Essex Regiment (service number 400278).

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He was later transferred to the 1/6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (service number 260114) and fought with them in the Third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele.

The regimental diaries mention a Corporal Jones, who is possibly Arthur though his service number is not given, in a party which raided German trenches in the early hours of July 16, 1917.

On August 27, 1917, Arthur’s 37th birthday, he and his colleagues were sent “over the top” to attack enemy lines near St Julien.

Following torrential rain the previous day they waded through heavy mud towards well-fortified German positions.

The plan ended in total failure.

The war diary states “Advance impossible due to state of ground & fire from MGs [machine guns] & snipers in concrete emplacements”.

Arthur was mortally wounded during the attack and died two days later.

He was buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery (plot number IV E 19).

The Essex Times obituary reads: “It is with deep regret that we announce the death of Corporal Arthur E. Jones on August 29th 1917 of wounds received in action in France.

“The deceased, who was 37 years of age, was badly wounded on August the 27th and his untimely end will be deplored by all Essex footballers.

“Without doubt he was the most prominent footballer in the county and was the idol of the Romford crowd, by whom he was affectionately known as Diddy.

“As an amateur forward he was probably without an equal for his shooting, and many visiting goal keepers have reason to remember his pile drivers.

“On many occasions he represented his county and was considered a valuable acquisition.

“Other clubs that Jones played for were Romford St Andrews, Mawney Institute, Ilford and Luton, as well as having a trial with Portsmouth.

“Despite his prowess he was of an unassuming nature and he died as he would have wished, a hero’s death.

“When he joined up he had an opportunity of joining a unit removed from the firing line but characteristic of Jones he remarked. ‘No, if my country is in for a scrap I am going to be in it’.

“Prior to joining up, Diddy was a painstaking member of the Romford Division of the Essex Special Constabulary.

“Much sympathy is felt for his brother and sisters in their bereavement.”

The Matron of No. 4 C.C.S. Hospital writes:

“29.8.17. I am very grieved to tell you that Corporal A.E. Jones, 260114 R.W. Regiment was very badly wounded in the leg and hand and although everything possible was done for him he passed away quite peacefully at 2.10 a.m. this morning.

“He was too ill to realize he was dying and was unconscious at the last.

“I told him during the afternoon that I was writing to you, and he said to give you his love.

“He will be buried with Military Honours and be with many of his comrades.

“The graves are very well looked after and his name and number will be put on the cross with much sympathy.”