Fighting for a War Hero; the Grave of a Welsh Soldier Who Fought at Rorke's Drift Faces in the Opposite Direction to All the Others in the Graveyard - Because He Took His Own Life. James McCarthy Reports on the SAS Hero Determined That Thewrong Done to Private Robert Jones Is Finally Put Right

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Fighting for a War Hero; the Grave of a Welsh Soldier Who Fought at Rorke's Drift Faces in the Opposite Direction to All the Others in the Graveyard - Because He Took His Own Life. James McCarthy Reports on the SAS Hero Determined That Thewrong Done to Private Robert Jones Is Finally Put Right


Byline: James McCarthy

BRAVEPrivate Robert Jones was one of just 139 men who battled 4,000 Zulus in the battle of Rorke's Drift. But 131 years after the incredible British defence, the soldier's final resting place still faces in the opposite direction to other graves - because 19 years after the engagement he killed himself.

At first rules meant he could not even be buried in the consecrated ground of Herefordshire's St Peter's Church.

But the authorities relented and agreed a botched compromise where Jones' gravestone was erected facing away from the church.

Now SAS veteran Pete Winner - who fought in the Falklands, the Middle East and helped end that 1980s Iranian Embassy siege - is campaigning to remedy the shameful situation.

Pte Jones died after he took a shotgun into a woods near to the church on a summer day and shot himself.

Former Staff Sergeant Winner argues Pte Jones was a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 61-year-old said: "I owe it to this brave soldier to try to right a wrong that has existed for well over a century. If soldiers back then suffered mental problems it was largely ignored or dismissed as battle fatigue.

"Fortunately we are more enlightened now. But I believe there is no doubt that Robert Jones was suffering from classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I live near to the churchyard in Peterchurch and when I went in search of Private Jones's grave I was appalled at this insult to aman who was a hero for his country.

"I am determined to try to do something about it - to get the authorities to re-site the gravestone so it faces the church, just like every other one in the churchyard."

Jones, born in Raglan, Monmouthshire, joined the army in 1876 when he was just 19.

A private in the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot, Jones was among a small force stationed at former mission station and trading post Rorke's Drift.

Jones and another serviceman, Private William Jones, were protecting seven patients when the Zulus descended.

The fight was immortalised in the film Zulu, starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker.

In an article in The Strand magazine Jones relayed what happened.

"The Zulus attacked us in very strong and overwhelming numbers," he said. "I found a crowd in front of the hospital and coming into the doorway.

I said to my companion William Jones, 'They are on top of us', and sprang to one side of the doorway.

"There we crossed our bayonets, and as fast as they came up to the doorway we bayoneted them, until the doorway was nearly filled with dead and wounded Zulus.

"I had three assegai (spear) wounds, two in the right side and one in the left but after a long time of fighting at the door we made them retire, and then we made our escape out of the building. …

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Fighting for a War Hero; the Grave of a Welsh Soldier Who Fought at Rorke's Drift Faces in the Opposite Direction to All the Others in the Graveyard - Because He Took His Own Life. James McCarthy Reports on the SAS Hero Determined That Thewrong Done to Private Robert Jones Is Finally Put Right
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