Army life of John Jones 1917-19 in Macedonia and Turkey.
Salonika, Bulgaria and Constantinople
Various photographs of John Jones and fellow soldiers taken in Greece and Turkey. Also a picture of a poem sent to his parents in Wales with a trench flower attached.
After the family moved to Gellydywyll, Llandinam in 1915 John Jones continued to work at Plas Dinam for another year; but in Nov 1916, as more and more young men from the village were enlisting in the army, John decided that he too would join up. He was 18 years old when he left home to join the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in Welshpool. He was sent home for Christmas and told to report to Wrexham at the end of the year. On arrival in Wrexham he failed to get accommodation at the Barracks and was put up in Abbot St. - B & B 1/-. The following day he reported to the Barracks, joined up on 9th Jan 1917 and was sent on to Oswestry for training at Park Hall Camp with the 4th Res. R.W.F... He remained there until April when there was a call for farm workers. He volunteered and was told to report to Mr Jones, Pertheiryn, Pontdolgoch, Caersws. He worked there for seven weeks, having broth for breakfast, fat bacon for dinner, and bread and milk for tea!! He reported back to his unit - 4th Res. R.W.F. and was given the number 12760, which was later changed to 203360. His further training included shooting practice on Talacre Sands, Prestatyn. Then a number of men were required to train as signallers, so he and his pal J.E.Pugh volunteered. (Pugh had joined the same day as John and had also been on working furlough). Training took six months and the following Morse Code was never forgotten:- A.- ; B -…; C -.-.; D -..; E .; F..-; G --.; H….; I..; J---; K -.-; L -..; M --; N-.; O---; P--; Q--.-; R .-.; S…; T-; U..-;V…-; W.--; X-..-; Y-.--; Z --..: This Code had been invented by a Mr Morse, and was used officially for sending messages until about 1996. At the time it was a very advanced technique, and John must have been very proud of his prowess. Another draft leave was granted before the day arrived to march behind the band to Oswestry Station bound for an unknown destination. Would it be the battlefields of Belgium where so many of his fellow countrymen had died? They arrived at Southampton and boarded a paddle steamer for France. They arrived at La Harve and stayed there for two or three days. Then they were put in to luggage trucks to cross France to Marseilles. They sighed a sigh of relief when they realised they were not going to the Western Front. But where were they going? Pugh developed measles and had to stay in hospital in France, but John was marched onto an Ex German boat called the Hunsspil, and it sailed eastward along the Mediterranean. One night it collided with another ship, and had to be towed into Malta harbour for repairs which took a week to complete. It then sailed into Milo harbour for a short spell before travelling westward via several islands to their final destination - Salonika in Greece. The journey had taken about a month, and although John was very sea sick in the English Channel he was not sick again. However the journey across France was very miserable; packed into the luggage vans the men had great difficulty lying down to sleep. The Forgotten Army in Salonika. When the party reached Salonika they were marched up country to a canvas camp called Summer Hill. The 11th R.W.F. Commanding Officer was Lt. Col. Yateman; and Gen. Duncan was in Charge of the 22nd Division. Whilst there they experienced a severe blizzard and the snow, ice, frost and wind broke tent ropes on many of the tents. The Severn Valley seemed a long way away! A few days later, John and his pals were marched several miles to the Front Line to fight the Bulgarians. It was trench warfare; our trenches on hills much smaller than the enemy’s. The allied fronts were called Vardar, Struma and Doiran respectively; and John was positioned on the Dorain front - Doiran Lake lay before him to the right, and the enemy lines on the Grande Courone were directly in front. For a time John was in the front line manning the trenches. At night, he repaired the barbed wire entanglements which had been damaged by enemy shells. In addition to the shells and bullets there were rats, lice and mosquitoes to contend with! Later he was attached to the Company’s signal section. The men would go out in pairs to man a mud hut in the front line. The Company did a fortnight in the line and a fortnight behind the lines. In Mid Summer 1918 John became ill, and when the time to change over came he requested permission to accompany those leaving in advance of the main unit. It was a long walk, and the illness became worse during training behind the lines. He felt neglected as malaria and dysentery gradually took over, and he became unconscious before reaching the Australian Base Hospital in Northern Greece! After hospital treatment - mainly quinine – he recovered, but dysentery left him with a damaged bowel. For that, and the after effects of malaria he later received a small army pension. He rejoined his unit (11th Bat. R.W.F.) at Stavross on the South coast of Greece. Later, the unit was shipped to Dedigatch, which was then on the South coast of Bulgaria. The landing was by raft and swimming ashore; rations were scarce - water soaked biscuits were the only food. The plan was to march against the Turks, but before this could happen they surrendered – 30th Sept 1918. The unit was then marched many miles back to the Doiran Front in Greece, to do odd jobs and patrol the line. The Bulgarians had also surrendered. During this time John said that he trusted the Bulgarians who were his enemies, more that the Greeks who were supposed to be allies! John had been on this Front for about 12 months, when all units were moved by rail from Kilendare station to Constantinople, to become the Army of the Black Sea. Fourteen officers and 317 other ranks were marched from Stanbul, over the Galita Bridge, to Tashkishla Barracks. This was a large old military building made up of barracks surrounding a large parade square. It was said that this place had housed prisoners during the war. The rooms were large and high, with 10ft square pillars supporting the ceiling. The pillars had long cracks in them which by day were filled with bugs; these bugs were also in the beds and blankets! The soldiers prized the bugs out of the pillars with their bayonets, and sprinkled them and the beds with Keeting powder every night before going to bed. John spent his 21st Birthday in this hell hole! About quarter of a mile away, on the shores of the Bosphorus was the Sultan’s Palace. John did guard duty here and also on Galeta Quay, A.D.A. Sigs., and the Garrison Cells. Later on he was put in charge of the training of six signalers, and they operated on various buildings in the city, signaling to one another. Life was beginning to improve, (although it took years to get over the effects of malaria,) and when John came first in a regimental run he was sent for training to Bukdery on the Bospherous. The area sports were held over the Bospherous in Asia Minor, but although the prize was a home posting John did not manage to win his race! Later the unit was moved to be under canvas in Asia Minor, on the shores of the Sea of Marmara. The men were able to bathe here, and on one occasion John very nearly drowned; only managing to save himself by finding a jetty post which helped him reach the surface! In 1919, after a year in Turkey, and a total of two years abroad, John returned home. (His pal, Pugh, had contracted measles on the way out to Salonika, and never reached Turkey, he had ended up in Greece with the 11th R.W.F.) He travelled by boat to S.France; crossed France by train to Calais and by ship to Dover. Eventually he arrived at Prees Heath railway station on his way to Oswestry for demob. He changed trains, and then popped for a cup of tea. The train pulled off without him, and away went all his kit and trophies which he had brought for his relatives and friends, never to be seen again. He was heart broken. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 13th Dec 1919, attached to the 7th South Wales Borderers, (before that he had been attached to the 2nd East Surreys.) He was finally released from service on 9th Jan 1920, having served for exactly three years, and eventually returned home to Llandinam. By then all the celebrations and parties linked with the Armistice of 11th November 1918 were over. It was not until March 11th 1925 that the people of Llandinam showed their appreciation of his war service by presenting him with testimonial which read:- “To L/Cpl J. Jones of the Parish of Llandinam by his fellow parishioners as a slight tribute of their great admiration and deepest gratitude for the courage and devotion displayed by him in serving his King and Country in the Great War 1914 – 1919”. Unemployment was rampant. He was given a weekly pension of 8/- for 12 months, and 5/- for 6 months. Desperately, he had to start looking for a job, but most of them had been taken by the soldiers who had returned earlier! Eventually, he was lucky to get a job as green house gardener at Bronwylfa Hall, Wrexham, working for Sir Edmund Bushby. After working there was about a week he was told he had been appointed as a constable with the Flintshire Constabulary. He gave in his notice to the head gardener, and returned home before reporting for duty at Mold police station on Apl 1st 1920! He served in the Flintshire force until his retirement in 1953.