Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthDecember 23, 1883
Place of BirthBridgeburg, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinMrs. Isabella Jones (wife), Suite #11, Strathcona Blk., Brandon, Manitoba
Trade / CallingLocomotive fireman
ReligionBaptist
Service Details
Regimental Number424973
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion1st Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Mounted Rifles
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentBrandon, Manitoba
Address at EnlistmentBrandon, Manitoba
Date of Enlistment15/06/1915
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of Death05/06/1916
Age at Death32
Buried AtNo known grave; commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

Jones, Robert Henry

Over 60,000 Canadian soldiers died in the First World War and almost one third of them have no known grave. One of the missing is Private Robert Henry Jones who died in June 1916 at the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

Robert was the second oldest son of Jacob Harry Jones and Mary Francis Lockhart. Jacob and Mary were both born in Ontario, called Canada West at the time, and they were married on 31 October 1881 in Haldimand County. They had nine children, four sons (Jacob, Robert, Daniel and Harry) and five daughters (Lavinia, Mary, Emma, Agnes and Abigail). Jacob, the oldest, was born in Haldimand County in 1882. By the time Robert was born in December 1883 his parents had moved to Bertie Township, Welland County, which is on the Niagara peninsula very close to the U.S. border. The Jones family lived in that area from about 1883 to 1898 and Jacob worked for the railroad. Seven children were born there. By the time of the 1901 census they had moved west to Algoma County and Jacob was farming. Their youngest daughter was born in October 1901 in the District of Thunder Bay and for the 1911 census they were listed in Gillies Township, near Thunder Bay, where Jacob was working at a sawmill.

Sometime after 1901 Robert left home and moved further west to Kenora, Ontario where he worked as a contractor and lumberman. He was married in Kenora on 16 May 1908 to Isabella Caroline McConnell, a local girl from the neighbouring town of Keewatin. They had a daughter Violet Grace Evelyn in 1909 and a son Philip Winfield in 1912, both born in Kenora. The war started in August 1914 and by the following June, when Robert enlisted, he and Isabella were living in Brandon, Manitoba and he was working for a railway company.

Robert enlisted in Brandon on 15 June 1915, joining the 45th Battalion. The unit, known as the City of Brandon Regiment, was recruited in the Brandon area as well as Winnipeg and several towns in Manitoba. The volunteers were sent to train at Camp Sewell (later called Camp Hughes), just east of Brandon. After spending the summer and fall there they were moved to Winnipeg for the winter. On 8 March 1916 the men boarded trains to head to the east coast and they embarked from Halifax on 16 March on the SS Lapland. In England the unit was broken up and used as reinforcements for other battalions. On 24 May Robert was transferred to the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and two days later he was sent to France. The 1st CMRs had started the war as a mounted unit but they were converted to infantry in January 1916. When Robert joined them in May they were one of four battalions in the newly-formed 8th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division. On 2 June 1916 the 3rd Division was called on to fight its first battle when the Germans went on the offensive at Mount Sorrel in the Ypres Salient. For Robert, who had arrived in France just a few days earlier, it would be his first and last time in combat.

The battle began on the morning of 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. The 7th and 8th Brigades were hit hard – their trenches and equipment were destroyed and some companies were almost wiped out. After the barrage German infantry advanced in waves and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. The 3rd Division was overwhelmed and suffered heavy casualties, with 80% of the 1st CMRs killed, wounded or missing. They were withdrawn on 3 June but other units were called in to launch counter-attacks and by 14 June most of the lost areas had been recaptured. The Battle of Mount Sorrel ended with little change to the front lines but at a cost of over 8,000 Canadian casualties.

In the confusion and chaos after the German attack a casualty list for the 1st CMRs was not drawn up until 6 June. Robert, along with dozens of others in his unit, was declared missing in action sometime between 2 June and 5 June. His Circumstances of Death record states: ‘Previously reported Missing, now for official purposes presumed to have Died.’  

Robert’s burial place is unknown. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium, which bears the names of over 54,000 men who died in Belgium and have no known grave. Almost 7,000 of them are Canadians.

Isabella continued to live in Brandon after her husband’s death. Their son Winfield served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War and he married to Laura Dusang of Kenora. In 1917, when Laura was just a few months old, her brother Hilliard Dusang had died at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Winfield and his mother Isabella both passed away in 1980 and they’re buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. Robert is remembered on his wife’s grave marker.

By Becky Johnson

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