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Biography: Loftus William Jones VC

LOFTUS JONES VC - A BIOGRAPHY

Loftus William Jones was born on 13th November 1879 into a family steeped with naval tradition. He was the second son of Admiral Loftus Jones who resided in Petersfield, Hampshire. He attended the Eastman's Royal Naval Academy at Fareham and in 1894, went to the training ship HMS Britannia.

His first appointment as Midshipman was in HMS Flora, a cruiser, in 1897. Between then and his last appointment to HMS Shark in 1914, he had twenty eight appointments. He appeared uncomfortable in cruisers and battleships and his appointments in these vessels never lasting long. He joined HMS Spiteful as Sub-Lieutenant in 1901, and later, after promotion to Lieutenant in April 1902, took his first command in HMS Sparrowhawk, a torpedo boat destroyer (TBD) in 1903. After a spell in the gunboat HMS Sandpiper on the China station, he held a succession of TBD commands - HMS Success (1905-08), HMS Chelmer (1908-10) and HMS Ghurka (1910-13) during which he was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander on 1 April 1910. He married Margaret Dampney in 1910. He took command of a new destroyer HMS Linnet in 1913 and his only daughter was named Linnette, after the ship.

On 30th June 1914, he was promoted to Commander and appointed to HMS Shark. In August 1914, his ship was one of four Royal Naval vessels involved in the sinking of the German minelayer Koningen Louise. Later, his ship led a small flotilla of four ships against a superior force of German light cruisers and destroyers in the opening action on the east coast of England, which culminated in the Scarborough Raid in December 1914. His actions were commended by Admiral Beatty.

At the end of May 1916, the two enemy fleets met at Jutland - the one big engagement that had been eagerly anticipated since the outbreak of war. Jones was leading the 4th Destroyer Flotilla in HMS Shark, as part of a larger force, when they met with a detachment of German destroyers on their way to attack a squadron of British battlecruisers. During the engagement, HMS Shark was badly damaged - her fo'c'sle was wrecked with the forward 4" gun blown away, including all but one of the gun crew. Another shell wrecked the bridge. One of the other destroyers signalled to offer assistance but Jones declined. As he left he bridge area, he received a bad wound to his leg and as the ship's medical officer had already been killed, it had to be patched up by the Chief Stoker.

While on the way to an emergency control position with the Coxswain, PO William Griffin, Jones was told of more shell damage to the main engines and steam pipes in the boiler room. All the while, the ship was under heavy enemy gunfire. Jones ordered the remaining crew to the deck to start getting out the boats. Because they were sandwiched in the middle of the two fleets, the boats were destroyed by gunfire as soon as they were out. As the situation looked more hopeless, Jones took the decision to start destroying confidential documents and ordered the life-rafts to be prepared. As the after gun had also been lost, Jones went to the midships gun and with three surviving seamen, Charles Hope, Charles Smith and Joseph Howell, they maintained firing at the enemy which led to the sinking of the German destroyer V48. However, the enemy destroyers came close into range with the Shark and subjected the ailing vessel to a storm of heavy gunfire. Jone's leg was shot off above the knee. While two of the seaman tried to stem the bleeding, he noticed that the ensign had been shot away and ordered a new one to be hoisted. After this, he gave the order to abandon the ship. At 7pm the ship was sunk by a German torpedo.

Jones was last seen clinging to a life-raft, encouraging those who had survived to sing. However, like many others, he succumbed to the loss of blood and exhaustion and disappeared. Of the seven survivors picked up by a Danish steamer later that night, six were landed at Hull while the other had died en route.

On 23 October 1916, his widow received a letter from the Admiralty to tell her that his body had been washed up off the coast of Sweden and had been buried Fiskebakskil churchyard on 24th June. The funeral had been attended by many local people and a monument had been erected through subscription from the local fishermen. The ceremony had been marked with due sympathy and reverence.

The story of Jones' dedication to duty and his bravery came out a while after the battle and award of the VC was, therefore, not gazetted until 6 March 1917. PO Griffin and AB Hope, Smith and Howell were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for their conduct, as well as other survivors of the ship, PO Charles Filleul and Stoker 1st Class Thomas Swan.

For information on another Jutland Victoria Cross, see our information sheet on John Cornwell.

A reading list for further information about Jutland is available.

For more information on the Navy's People in the twentieth century, visit our Sea Your History website

© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2005
The information contained in this information sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.

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