I'll begin with a brief background of our hero to set the stage. The picture above shows the town where he was born. So here goes.
Well over a hundred years ago, William Morris Jones was born in Digby, Nova Scotia on August 12, 1895 to Frank and Margaret Jones. That's him on the right quite some years later. He was destined to be a remarkable man.
In those early years, Jones acquired an education and began his working career, but the winds of war were blowing. On Tuesday, August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany, and Canada, still a British colony, automatically joined the fray. Ten days later, young Bill, mothballed his dreams, lied about his age, and enlisted in the 17th Nova Scotia Battalion. After a mere two months' training at St. Gabriel de Valcartier, Quebec, he was sent with the First Canadian Expeditionary Force to Britain. There, after more training, he was assigned to the prestigious 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada (Black Watch) who would soon come to be known as "The Ladies from Hell". His colors were beginning to show.
People of the time were certain this would be a civilized war, some guns would be fired, there would be a few injuries and, heaven forbid, there might even be a death or two. It would be a great adventure for a young man and would be over in a few short months.
Bill Jones was assigned to the terrible trench warfare where thousands would die on both sides in every confrontation. He survived.
His heroism at St. Julien-Poelcappelle, Belgium, earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal, an award second only to the Victoria Cross. He observed an approaching gas attack--which is a brief passing event, but the gas settles in low spots like the trenches where men had ducked for cover. He spent hours single-handedly hauling unconscious men to safety in the fresh air and in the process saved countless lives.
During another battle on June 13, 1916, near the Village of Zillebeke, Belgium, his long-time friend, Otis Meister was killed and he suffered shrapnel woulds to his leg. Jones was sent back to Britain.
Finally, in February, 1917, after an eight-month recovery, he returned to the continent, a newly-minted Sergeant-Major and Acting Regimental Sergeant Major. He was 22 and a seasoned soldier.
We know he was at the battle of Vimy Ridge and soon after was appointed Warrant Officer Class Two. He was now a non-commissioned officer and had survived a major offensive where thousands more died.
Hill 70, another infamous battle, began on August 14, 1917. Because of the countless deaths, officers were in short supply and Sergeant-Major Jones became a tower of strength on that endless day. He took a piece of shrapnel in his left eye. Did he seek medical help? Of course not. He stayed on the job until finally ordered to go for help by Major Macfarlane. The Canadians won this massive struggle and Jones was awarded a second Distinguished Conduct medal--something that was almost unheard of. Oh yes, he returned to the front 28 days later, now a lieutenant. The missing eye was no impediment.
The war waged with Lieutenant Jones doing his part until that momentous day of November ll, 1918 when it was finally over.
In the dead of winter, 1919, Bill Jones finally came home. He left a teenager and returned as an adult with several lifetimes of experience. Now he had to remake himself, find out what ordinary life was all about.
Yes, we're getting closer to the letters to Sweetheart, but they will start appearing in the next installment. Watch for it! It's coming! I just wanted to set the stage for what's to come.