Special Constable Arthur Jones combined police work with his job at a brewery, but he was most famous as a prolific goalscorer for Romford Football Club.
He was mortally wounded on his 37th birthday at the Battle of Passchendaele in August 1917 and died two days later.
Arthur Edwin Jones was born on 27th August 1880 in Romford. He had five sisters and a brother. His dad, Evan, worked for the local Ind Coope brewery and after leaving school, Arthur joined him there, also becoming a clerk.
As a Special Constable, Arthur was stationed with the Romford Division of Essex Constabulary.
Arthur made his first-team debut for Romford FC at 17, and a year later represented Essex County. Professional clubs Woolwich Arsenal and Portsmouth both showed an interest in Arthur, but he stayed in amateur football.
Known to fans as ‘Diddy’ Jones due to his stature, Arthur is credited with scoring 365 goals in his senior career, more than 200 of them for Romford FC, where he won a host of trophies. He also featured for London FA and made two appearances for Luton.
Arthur volunteered to join the 11th Battalion Essex Regiment as Corporal 400278 in 1916. He later served as Corporal 260114 with the 1st/6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. This probably resulted from the battalions being consolidated at some stage in 1917 as a consequence of heavy losses.
During August 1917, the 1st/6th Battalion saw action at Vimy, the Third Battle of the Scarpe, the Battle of Polygon Wood and the Battle of Passchendaele.
On 27th August, Arthur’s 37th Birthday, the battalion attacked German lines near St Julien in horrendous conditions due to heavy rainfall.
The war diary of 1st/6th Battalion recorded the events that followed:
“27th August 1917. Attacked at 1.55pm enemy position at Winnipeg Farm and Cemetery. Advance impossible due to state of ground and fire from MG’s (machine guns) and snipers in concrete emplacements. 25 other ranks killed, 120 other ranks wounded and 14 other ranks missing.
“Arthur Jones was mortally wounded during the attack and died two days later at No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station located close to what is now Dozinghem Military Cemetery. He was 37 years old. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, northwest of Poperinge near Kronbeke.”
The matron of the clearing station wrote to Arthur’s family:
“29 08 1917. 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 am this morning.
“He was too ill to realise 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.”
Obituaries were published in the Essex Newsman and the Essex Times. Both erroneously reported that Arthur had been killed in France rather than Belgium.
The Essex Times said Arthur’s death would be “deplored by all Essex footballers” as he was without doubt “the most prominent footballer in the County and was the idol of the Romford crowd”, famous for his piledriver shots.
The obituary concludes with this tribute:
“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 Line but characteristic of Jones he remarked, ‘No, if my Country is in for a scrap, I am going to be in it.’”
Arthur is commemorated on the Romford War Memorial.