The Finchampstead Society

Colonel Alfred Stowell Jones

Biography

Colonel Alfred Stowell Jones was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria in 1858 for his part in capturing a nine-pound fieldpiece, in heroic circumstances, during one of the battles of The Indian Mutiny. Colonel Jones fought bravely in many other engagements, during The Mutiny and was so badly wounded on one occasion that he was almost left for dead.

In later life Colonel and Mrs Jones came to live in Ridge Cottage Finchampstead. In June 1913 the couple celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary and, being held in high esteem locally, the villagers clubbed together to buy them the gift of a silver-gilt lidded bowl supported by three dolphins.

A report of the Golden Wedding appeared in the July 1913 issue of The Finchampstead Parish Magazine and read as follows:

The Parish was very much ‘en fete’ on the occasion of the Golden Wedding of the much respected occupants of Ridge Cottage. The opportunity was seized by a number of friends in Finchampstead to present Col. and Mrs. Jones with some tokens of their affection and esteem. There must have been very few in The Village who did not retire to rest on the night of June 13th without feeling the better for the pleasant time spent on the lawn and in the grounds of our gallant host and remarkably active and charming hostess. We must refer our readers for a full account of the most successful proceeding to the local and London papers.

Colonel Jones lived for a further seven years, dying in 1920 at the age of 88. He is buried in St. James’ Churchyard.

The following report appeared in The Times on Monday 31st May 1920:

ALFRED STOWELL JONES, VC

AN INDIAN MUTINY VC

The death occurred on Saturday at Ridge Cottage, Finchampstead, of Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Stowell Jones, V.C., M.I.C.E., in his 89th year.

Colonel Stowell Jones was descended from a Welsh farming family settled at Dan-y-ralt, Llanafan-fawr, in the county of Brecon, from at least as early as the mid-sixteenth century. His grandfather, born at Dan-y-ralt, on December 9, 1758, enlisted in a cavalry regiment, and in 1799 held a commission as cornet in the Royal Irish Light Dragoons. This regiment mutinied and was disbanded, but Jones, having remained loyal, was transferred to the 12th Regiment of Light Dragoons. This Captain Jones had by his second wife four sons, all of whom held commissions in the Army. The eldest, Colonel Rice Jones, served with great distinction in the Peninsular War, and led the storming party over the breach at Ciudad Rodrigo. The second son, a lieutenant in the 22nd Light Dragoons, was killed in a duel in 1808 arising out of a dispute with an Irishman as to the above-mentioned mutiny of the 6th Irish Dragoons. The fourth son, Ebenezer Jones, became a captain in the Royal Artillery. The third son, the father of Colonel Alfred Jones, was gazetted a cornet in the 21st Light Dragoons in 1807, but becoming “converted,” re-signed his commission and as a Cambridge under-graduate became a follower of Simeon.

Alfred Jones, who was born in 1831, went to school at Liverpool, where among his school fellows was Robinson Duckworth, while Conybeare and Hudson were among his schoolmasters. When he was 19 a commission was purchased for him in the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers. As a cornet he was on duty at the funeral of the great Duke of Wellington. He spent a year at the cavalry depot at Maidstone (an experience of which he has left a full and valuable account), and here he became great friends with Captain Nolan, of the 15th Hussars, who was destined to carry the fatal order for the charge of the Light Division at Balaclava. Colonel Jones (in some full notes of his own career), says of Nolan, “He, as a red-headed Irishman, was accused of making the mistake which Lord Cardigan was really responsible for.” He states that Nolan was well read in all English and foreign military lore, and was incapable of a mistake of this kind.

On July 7, 1853, Jones sailed from Gravesend for India in the troopship Salamanca, the voyage lasting 100 days. He has left a full account of these early days in India, which should have considerable historical value. Early in 1857 native unrest was very apparent, and in May Jones hurried back from a leave expedition to Tibet to join his regiment at Amballa. The regiment had already started, but he overtook it half-way to Delhi, to the delight of Colonel Grant, who had very few officers with him. The column encamped at Alipore, some 12 miles from Delhi, on June 7, and at midnight crossed the canal which runs parallel to the Delhi road. At dawn heavy firing was heard. It soon became plain that a body of mutineers was making for Delhi, and an effort was made to cut the sepoys and their guns off. A detachment, which included Jones, captured a nine-pounder field piece in heroic circumstances. Jones received for this exploit the Victoria Cross, which bears the date June 8, 1857, and was presented to him by Queen Victoria on Southsea Common in August 1858. Sir Hope Grant's dispatches describe the event as a “well-conceived act gallantly executed.” Jones was engaged in at least nine distinct battles in the rear of the British camp with troops sent out of Delhi by the Lahore or Kabul Gates. On June 23, the 100th anniversary of Plassey. a battle raged round the position for 24 hours. The next day Neville Chamberlain brought in reinforcements, and soon afterwards Jones was appointed Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General to the Cavalry, and Lieutenant Frederick Roberts, R.A., to the same staff appointment for the Artillery. Roberts and Chamberlain were both wounded on July 14. Jones at this time worked hard at the sanitary arrangements for the camp, thus starting his career as the sanitary expert which he subsequently became at Aldershot.

The Delhi Field Force used up successively three commanders-in-chief before the command devolved on July 17 on General Archdale Wilson, whose untiring efforts secured the fall of Delhi on September 20, 1857. Jones went on to Agra by a forced march, as an attack was expected from Tantia Topee with the Gwalior mutineers. On October 20 Jones was left for dead in a desperate engagement in which he was literally covered with wounds. His extraordinary vitality, seconded by good nursing, slowly brought a recovery; but he lost an eye, and carried all the rest of his life deep scars on his head and body. He sailed for home in January, 1858, and the wounds hardly affected his vigour, for in 1860 he won the Staff College Hurdle Race on his horse Limerick. He exchanged (at a profit of £2,500) into the 13th Somerset Light Infantry, and was at Capri from 1861 to 1867. In 1868 he was appointed adjutant at the Staff College. In 1871 he was at Gibraltar with the 1st Battalion of his regiment, and sent to The Times an account of the Agincourt striking the Pearl Rock, and of the efforts of the Hercules to get her off.

In 1872 he took up sanitation work at Wrexham on his own account, and these labours were, in his view, the most useful work of his life. He became an authority on sewage disposal, and for some 15 years before his retirement at the age of 80 he was engaged in sanitation at Aldershot.

In 1984 the couple’s granddaughter, Mrs Ruth de Courcey-Ireland, then 80 years old, gave the bowl to The Finchampstead Society, as a trophy to be presented each year to a person or persons who had made a significant voluntary contribution to the local community.

Jones VC Trophy Colonel Jones

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