Private Thomas Alfred (Todger) Jones VC
Todger Jones won his VC in the 1914-18 war, He captured 102 prisoners by himself at Morval, September 1916. For this he won the Victoria Cross and was born and bred in Runcorn and still has relatives here.
PRIVATE "TODGER" JONES V.C. D.C.M
TELLS HIS OWN STORY OF HOW HE CAPTURED 102 GERMANS
"How the dickens did you do it, Jones?" asked King George, when he invested Private Jones with the well-earned Victoria Cross. Here is the answer - "Todger's" own modest account of his amazing feat. It is a story that will live. A record of dauntless pluck and unfailing cheerfulness in the face of death worthy of the glorious annals of the Victoria Cross.
"If I've got to be killed, I'll die fighting, not digging." It was with these words on his lips that Private "Todger" Jones leaped from the British trenches.
"Surely" said he, when approached afterwards, "there has been ‘nuff said, more than enough of a thing that was done on the spur of the moment by a man who kept his head and knew how to use his gun. But if you want to know what I did, let the official account speak for me".
"If that won't fill the bill," observed Jones, "I will tell you the story."
It was on September 25th that we took a village and were just beginning to dig ourselves in near the wood when bullets commenced to whiz past us, wounding one of our men in the head and making things decidedly uncomfortable. I felt the bullets ping-pinging by me and I said to the officer, "they're going to make it hot for us, Sir, if we don't get after ‘em. Can I get out and have a packet at them?" "My orders are to consolidate this position," replied the officer. "You must not go an inch farther, and you had better get on with your digging."
And did I did, but as I got up again I saw a chap hit through the head and another through the thigh. Looking ahead, I saw what appeared to be a white flag, and that fairly riled me. My "dander" was up and I shouted to the offer, "what do you think of that Sir?"
"You must get on with your digging, Jones" said he; but up I jumped and called out "If I've got to be killed, I'll die fighting, not digging."
I waited no longer, but dragged out my rifle, flung down my entrenching tool, jumped out of the trench and went across. The Huns were a couple of hundred yards away and they could see me coming. One bullet went "sss" through my steel helmet and four more through my jacket. There was a sniper in a tree but I soon counted him out. On I went and reached a "bay", or traverse, leading to the German trench. There were three men in it, but jumping in at the end of the trench, I had only one at a time to deal with. I got my back to the wall, and they whipped round on me. I always believe in firing from the hip and very quickly number one dropped dead.
Before the next man could recover his senses I had shot him as well, slipped another cartridge in the breech and got the old magazine going on the third at a yard range. The other man fired at me from the entrance to the dug-outs, but I managed to "get there" first every time, which is a great thing in jobs of that kind. In the second traverse there were five chaps standing behind one another. One of them made for me with his bayonet, but I bowled him over like the others by the old trick of shooting from the hip.
I got the five of them. I stalked through the trench, storming and shouting and hearing the firing and the commotion, the rest of the crowd bolted in the dug-outs. Soon they had all gone to earth and I was there alone. When they got into their dug-outs I had them. They were shouting and screeching, and every time I saw a movement I let fly.
Eventually they quieted down and seeing some of their bombs, a pile of them, on the floor of the trench, I picked up a couple and sent them flying down the first dug-out and they went off all right. I think they felt that the game was up when the bombs began to drop amongst them, for out rushed three fine specimens with their hands up and the usual cry "Mercy, Kamarad!" They had left equipment behind them to show there was no "monkeying" and though I felt like laughing at being there all on my own, I demanded in a stern voice if any one of them could speak English.
One of them called out "I can." "Well," said I, "what is it to be? Do you want to be killed or taken prisoners? You can have it either way you like, for I am not particular. In fact, I would rather kill you."
And all with one consent actually cried out that they wanted to become prisoners and with Private Jones as their jailer, too!
I looked round and saw a hollow, so I told the English speaking German to order his two mates to get in there. They had to climb up to do it, and I knew our chaps would see them from our trench as they got on top.
"How many more are there down the dug-out?" I asked, and the Boche answered "about fifteen". "What about it?" I said, and he replied "what do you mean?" "Do they want killing or what?" said I, and he gasped, "I don't know." "Well then," said I, "got and tell them what I have told you - that they can either be killed or taken prisoners and they can bloomin' well please themselves about it."
And by gum! He went and told them and came back to say they would all be taken prisoners.
"Well then," said I, "tell them they can come out when you call, but only one at a time, remember, and any one of ‘em that has as much as a penknife on him, or any equipment, will be shot dead straight away. Fetch ‘em up one at a time and tell them that my mates are coming across in thousands in a couple of minutes and if they find anything wrong with me, they'll cut you to bits."
I heard him yowling down the dug-outs what I had told him and meanwhile I got round the cover. Presently he came back and said "are you ready?" "Yes," I replied "call them up, and only one at a time and no rushing." He shouted the message and ordered them out without equipment. There were eight or nine dug-outs in all and they kept tumbling out and as they came I sent them out of the trench into the hollow I've told you of.
Lord! I'd expected fifteen and out they came in scores and went in my "compound." When they were all out, I threw some of their own bombs into the dug-outs to make sure that there was no sniper left behind to "do me in." And then I said to myself "Great Scot! What am I going to do with this little lot?" I knew I could eventually rely upon somebody coming from our trenches, but it was necessary to gain time.
It's not that I want to brag, but I didn't turn a hair; I just kept my head-piece going. I told them it would be a very cold night at the place where they were going to, and suggested they had better get their great-coats. I graciously permitted them to fetch them "two at a time, and no rushing." They ran and came in and out, and each time they passed me they saluted me, Private Jones! - and I sent them to their places. I didn't like the look of one "bloke" and kept half an eye on him. "I think I'll shoot that chap," I said to the interpreter.
"Don't," he exclaimed, "he very good man." But presently the "very good man" went for his great-coat and when he had got a short distance he made a dash for liberty. I swung round, clicked my rifle and got him fair and square. He rolled over and over just like a rabbit. Then I turned to the German by me. "Ask them if any more would like to try to escape," I said. He did so, and they all jumped up - they were seated on the ground - flinging up their arms and shouted "Kamarad!" It fairly tickled me to death that did and I couldn't stop laughing.
Here was I playing a lone hand, for it looked so comical to see them all with their hands up - over a hundred of ‘em - hoping against hope that Private Jones, Kamarad, wouldn't shoot.
I wondered what was going to happen next, for it was out of the question that one chap could keep them there for any length of time. But the bowling over of the chap who tried to escape was the best thing that could have happened to me and it fairly put the fear of God into the rest. The official report speaks of me bringing in a hundred and two, but though I didn't check their numbers, there must have been nearly and hundred and fifty of them when I got them into the open including four or five officers and any number of "non-coms" or whatever the Germans call them. But before they got into our lines, over forty of them were killed by our shells, which were sweeping the ground and clearing things up.
I then saw somebody start from our lines. It was my chum coming to look for me. He had been asking where I was and when they told him, he said: "If Todger's across there, I'm going to fetch him, dead or alive!" They all though I was a "goner," but, when they saw my chum start, three more chaps - a sergeant-major, a corporal and stretcher bearer, came across with him. Seeing I was alive, my chum gave me a smack on the face and couldn't stop larking.
They helped me to "round up the bag" and we marched them back to our lines. All the time our guns were knocking the position to bits and as I've said, some of the shells dropped amongst the prisoners and killed them. I got a shrapnel wound in the neck from our barrage.
Looking back and thinking over the incident, I feel that I must have had what the poets call "a charmed life," for, after jumping out of the trench and before I had accounted for the sniper in the tree, a bullet went through my helmet and was buzzing round my head-piece like a marble in a basis, finally galloping down my back and burning me during the journey. Four or five other bullets passed through my tunic, but I wasn't aware of it until afterwards. It never entered my mind that I should be killed and I didn't think my time had come.
Asked if he could explain how he was led into the exploit "Todger" said, with a grin, "when I saw the first three men in the bay I knew I was up against something, but I had been in more than one tight corner before and I had learned that the art of warfare - for the individual, as any rate, was to size up a situation quickly, to fire without hesitation.
My motto is never to lose this (significantly touching his head). The man who loses his "nob" is done for. I knew if I had to go I should, for everybody has his time, that's what I believe and I meant to sell myself at a good price. But when I got the first men in the traverse and drove the others back into the dug-outs, I felt that the game was in my hands. I had them at my mercy; they didn't know I was unsupported, cowed them into submission to my orders. I pictured the end that awaited them if a hair of my sacred head was singed and my trump card was played in making them come out one by one.
By kind permission of the editor of "The Poona Star" dated 24 August 1929.
The London Gazette notified the award of the Victoria Cross to Private "Todger" Jones as follows:-
NUMBER 11000, PRIVATE THOMAS ALFRED JONES
For most conspicuous bravery. He was with his company consolidating the defences in front of a village, and noticed an enemy sniper at 200 yards distance. He went out
and though one bullet went through his helmet and another through his coat, he returned the sniper's fire and killed him. He then saw two more of the enemy firing at him although displaying the white
flag. Both of these he also shot. On reaching the enemy trench he found several occupied dug-outs, and single-handed he disarmed 102 of the enemy, including three or four officers, and marched them
back to our lines through a heavy barrage. He had been warned of the misuse of the white flag by the enemy but insisted on going out after them.
The information on this page was supplied by
Paul Smitham and all of the above was extracted from the book "The Oak Tree " The Cheshire Regiment.
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