Middletown is a village and township in the ancient parish of Alberbury in Montgomeryshire, adjacent to the border with Shropshire. The village is situated astride the main A458 road between Welshpool and Shrewsbury, and sits at the foot of the Breidden Hills. The Parish Church is dedicated to All Saints, and is the Church for the Parish of Great Wollaston. Within its Churchyard is the Parish War Memorial, which commemorates eight men of the Parish who fell during the Great War, plus one man who fell during World War Two. The memorial also commemorates the Parishioners who served and returned home safely after the Great War. The memorial was unveiled on 21 September 1919 in a ceremony attended by Reverend Fred Watkin Vaughan and Captain John Murray Naylor, of Leighton Hall.
The Great War, 1914-1918
John Hugh Dyas, Sapper, 257074, Royal Engineers. John was the son of William and Elizabeth Dyas, of Rock House, Bausley, Ford. He worked for the Cambrian Railways at Oswestry prior to enlisting into the Royal Engineers in the town, and after completing his training, was posted to the Mediterranean with the 96th Light Railway Operating Company, Royal Engineers. John embarked for France with a number of fellow Sappers, and then entrained for Marseilles, where they boarded the requisitioned steamship RMS Aragon. John and his fellow Sappers were among 2,200 troops being sent to Egypt, as well as 150 army officers and 160 nurses. The liner set sail as part of a small convoy, alongside the SS Nile and a destroyer escort, reaching Malta on 23 December, before the two liners continued with a fresh escort group. Upon reaching the North African coast on 30 December, Nile was escorted to Port Said, whilst Aragon began making her way to Alexandria. Some confusion between the escort ships then resulted in Aragon being forced to wait offshore, and whilst stationed off Alexandria, the helpless steamship was torpedoed by the German submarine UC-34, and began listing immediately. The nurses were ordered off first, but as the ship listed even more, a number of lifeboats were put out of action, before Aragon slipped under the water. Many of the survivors were in the water, and one of the escorts, HMS Attack began picking up survivors, taking some 400 aboard, but Attack was then torpedoed, and sank quickly. John was killed during the chaos that day. The 22-year-old has no known grave but the sea, so is commemorated on the Chatby Memorial, Alexandria, Egypt.
Job James, Gunner, 92690, Royal Garrison Artillery. Job was the son of Levi James and Eliza James, of The Poplars, Halfway House. He worked as a farm labourer prior to enlisting into the Royal Garrison Artillery on 29 May 1916, and was posted to the Anti-Aircraft Training Depot. On 11 May 1917, Job was drafted to France, joining the 63rd Heavy Artillery Brigade. He served on the Western Front for over a year, before being granted two weeks leave on 16 November 1918, and returned home to visit his family. Sadly, Job contracted influenza soon afterwards, and died at The Poplars of pneumonia following influenza on 25 November 1918. The 38-year-old was buried in St. Michael and All Angels Churchyard Extension, Alberbury.
Evan Jones, Private, 355200, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Evan was the son of Richard and Harriet Jones, of Rock Cottage, Bulthy, Middletown. He worked as a waggoner at Trelydan Farm, Guilsfield prior to the war. Evan enlisted into the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry on 27 August 1914. The Montgomeryshire Yeomanry had been mobilised at Welshpool on 5 August, as part of the South Wales Mounted Brigade, before moving via Hereford to Thetford, to join the 1st Mounted Division. On 4 March 1916 the 1st Mounted Division sailed for Egypt to join the EEF. On 4 March 1917 the battalion merged with the Welsh Horse Yeomanry to form the 25th (Montgomery & Welsh Horse Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, as part of the newly formed 231 Brigade, 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The Division assembled in Egypt as part of the EEF, before crossing the Suez Canal into the Sinai, and saw its first major action during the Second Battle of Gaza. Evan took ill whilst in Palestine, and was discharged as medically unfit on 18 December 1917, after having being diagnosed as having contracted tuberculosis, and returned home. He fought the disease for almost six years, before eventually dying of tuberculosis at St. Asaph on 7 October 1923, aged 49. Nothing further is known of where he is buried, as Evan is not commemorated as a war casualty by the CWGC. He is not commemorated on amongst the fallen on the Middletown war memorial. One of his brothers, Richard, died in 1916, whilst another brother, Thomas, had died in 1915.
Richard Abram Jones, Private, 34015, Welsh Regiment. Richard was the son of Richard and Harriet Jones, of Rock Cottage, Bulthy, Middletown. He worked as a cowman at Park Farm, Minsterley prior to the war. Richard enlisted into the Training Reserve at Welshpool, and was posted to Kinmel Park, where he joined the 12th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. The battalion was used as a training unit, to train up recruits ready to be drafted to New Army battalions of the Welsh Regiment at the front. Richard had not been at Kinmel Park long, when he fell ill, and died of pneumonia at Bangor Military Hospital on 31 March 1916. The remains of the 26-year-old were brought home, and he was buried in All Saints Churchyard, Great Wollaston. One of his brothers, Evan, died in 1923 of tuberculosis contracted during the war, whilst another brother, Thomas, had died in 1915.
Thomas Edwin Jones, Private, 2407, Montgomeryshire Yeomanry. Thomas was the son of Richard and Harriet Jones, of Rock Cottage, Bulthy, Middletown. He worked at Cave Farm, Bridgenorth prior to the war. He was already serving with the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry when war was declared, but instead of being posted to the 1/1st Battalion, was instead posted to the 2/1st Battalion, which was a reserve unit. Thomas died at Welshpool on 10 March 1915 whilst based in Welshpool with the battalion. The 22-year-old was buried in All Saints Churchyard, Great Wollaston. One of his brothers, Evan, died in 1923 of tuberculosis contracted during the war, whilst another brother, Richard, had died in 1916. Thomas is not commemorated amongst the fallen on the Middletown war memorial, but is listed amongst those who survived, as he died after the unveiling ceremony.
Job Arthur Rider, Stoker 1st Class, 292920, Royal Navy. Job was born at Wrexham on 21 August 1876, the son of William Rider and Mary Jane Rider (nee Grant). His father was from Westbury, the son of Job and Mary Rider, and young Job went to live with his grandparents after the death of his mother in 1885. Job worked as a Grocer’s Assistant, prior to enlisting into the Royal Navy on 16 August 1899, and was posted to HMS Pembroke II at Chatham for training. Over the coming years, Job served aboard several ships, including HMS Diadem; HMS Charybdis; HMS Repulse; HMS Illustrious; and HMS Blake. He was then posted aboard HMS Thames on 11 August 1908, and on 4 December 1909, Job married Ellen Elizabeth Stannard at St. Nicholas’, Harwich. On 19 August 1911, Job left the Royal Navy, joining the Royal Fleet Reserve at Chatham, and he joined his wife at 3, Main Road, Upper Dovercourt, Harwich, where the couple had three children. Job was mobilised following the outbreak of war, and was posted aboard the armoured-cruiser HMS Hogue. The ship had enjoyed a refit at Chatham Dockyard in 1912–13 before being assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron shortly after the outbreak of the war, and the Squadron was tasked with patrolling the Broad Fourteens of the North Sea in support of the Harwich force, protecting the eastern end of the English Channel from German warships. On the morning of 22 September 1914, Hogue and her sisters, Aboukir and Cressy, were on patrol, steaming in line abreast. Their destroyer escort was en-route, so the cruisers were unescorted for a short period, sealing their fate, as they were open to submarine attack. Unfortunately, the German submarine, U-9 was on patrol in the area, and spotted the three ships. One torpedo was fired, which struck Aboukir. Her Captain thought he had struck a mine, so ordered the other two ships to close in and take wounded men aboard. As Hogue approached, it was realised that she had been the victim of a submarine attack, but it was too late, and U-9 torpedoed Hogue, which sank soon afterwards. Cressy was torpedoed and sank soon afterwards. Over 1,400 men had been lost during the sinking of the three ships. Job was 39-years-old when he lost his life during the sinking of Hogue that day. He has no known grave but the sea, so is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent.
Richard Salter, Private, 23892, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. Richard was the son of William and Charlotte Salter, of Bulthy, Middletown. He worked as a lead miner prior to enlisting into the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry at Welshpool on 11 December 1915, and was originally placed on the Army Reserve. Richard was mobilised on 27 March 1916, and travelled to Shrewsbury to join the Depot. He was then medically downgraded, and transferred to the 3rd (Garrison) Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment) at Pembroke Dock. In August 1917 the battalion became the 3rd Battalion. Royal Defence Corps. Richard remained on home defence duties at Pembroke Dock, before being posted to Swansea in the Spring of 1917, but by now his health had begun to fail, as he was getting persistent pains in his lower back, and was taken to Swansea Garrison Hospital, where he was initially diagnosed as suffering from lumbago. Richard was discharged as medically unfit on 13 February 1918, and returned home, but died, probably as a result of lead poisoning, on 5 November 1918. The 31-year-old was buried in All Saints Churchyard, Great Wollaston.
William Edward Roberts, Private, 805, Essex Yeomanry. William was born at Shrewsbury in 1890, the son of William Roberts and Minnie Elizabeth Roberts (nee Howells). He was raised by his grandparents, George and Mary Howells, at Winnington Green, Great Wollaston. His mother had been widowed by 1901, and was working as a house maid in Essex. By 1911 William was living with his mother at Barn Hall, Downham, Billericay, Essex. William enlisted into the Essex Yeomanry at Brentford at some time prior to the war. The battalion mobilised at Colchester on 4 August 1914, moving to the Ipswich area to join the 1st Mounted Brigade, 1st Mounted Division. At the end of August, the battalion moved to the Woodbridge area, but in November 1914 orders were received to proceed to entrain at Southampton, and the battalion embarked for France on 1 December 1914, landing at Le Havre that night. The battalion then joined the 8th Cavalry Brigade. 3rd Cavalry Division near Hazebrouck, before moving into the Ypres Salient by 3 February 1915. The Essex Yeomanry moved into billets in the city, which was still reasonably complete. On 8 February 1915, William was sent with a party of 30 men to carry ammunition to the troops holding the front-line positions at Hooge. The party came under shell-fire on the way, killing William, who became the sole casualty in the battalion that day. The 24-year-old has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.
Thomas Thomas, Private, 51721, Cheshire Regiment. Thomas was the son of Thomas and Margaret Thomas, of Wood Lesowes Farm, Westbury. He married the widowed Gertrude Butcher Wilde (nee Eddowes) on 5 March and the couple resided at Great Wollaston. Thomas worked as a farm bailiff prior to enlisting into the 3rd Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry at Shrewsbury on 10 June 1917. Thomas embarked for France at Southampton on 19 October 1917, and joined the 4th Infantry Base Depot at Rouen. He was initially to join the 5th Battalion, KSLI, but was instead transferred to the 16th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment, joining the battalion at Vaughan’s Bank, in the Arras sector, on 25 October. The battalion moved into the front line to begin a routine tour in the trenches on the following day, and spent four quiet days in the line before being relieved on 30 October, moving to a rest camp at Aizecourt le Bas, then entraining for Péronne, before marching to a hutted camp at Wanquetin, to carry out a training scheme. On 12 October the battalion marched into Arras, and entrained there for Cassel, before the entire Division moved into the Ypres Salient, taking over a section of the line at the Houthulst Forest, and joining the great Passchendaele offensive. The Division took part in its first assault at Ypres on 22 October, attacking to the south of the forest, near Veldhoek, and the 16th Cheshire’s suffered terrible casualties after being held up by a German pillbox. The 16th Cheshire’s were relieved on the following day, and moved to Elverdinghe. The battalion did not move back into the front line until 25 November, when it took over a section of trenches at Poelcapelle, enjoying a relatively quiet tour until being relieved four days later. The battalion then moved to Turco Farm Camp to rest, before moving back into the front line at Poelcapelle on 6 December to begin another tour. Thomas was severely wounded in the line here on 8 December, suffering multiple gunshot wounds to his leg, thigh, arm and back, and was evacuated via the 107th Field Ambulance to the 54th Casualty Clearing Station. He was then sent to the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade Hospital at Étaples, where he died of his wounds on 19 December 1917. The 29-year-old was buried in Étaples Military Cemetery, France. Sadly, Gertrude passed away on 25 December 1919, aged 39, leaving behind her two daughters from her first marriage, and a son from her marriage to Thomas.
World War Two, 1939-1945
Robert Lee, Private, 4195660, The King’s Regiment (Liverpool). Robert was the son of Robert and Jane Lee, of New Mills, Montgomeryshire. He enlisted into the army and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, The King’s Regiment (Liverpool). The battalion had spent five years in Gibraltar prior to embarking for Egypt in December 1943, reinforce the 4th Infantry Division. The battalion landed in Italy with the 4th Division in March 1944, to join the campaign, and on 11 May crossed the Gari River during the final Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino. The Division saw heavy fighting during the crossing, and once Monte Cassino had fallen, with the Gustav Line Broken, took part in the capture of Rome and the subsequent advance to the Trasimene Line. Roberts battalion captured Gioiella after a fierce battle, and later secured and defended Tuori against a counter-attack. In December 1944 the 4th Infantry Division was deployed to Greece to reinforce British forces caught up in the country’s civil war, following the withdrawal of the German troops from the country. Robert died in Greece on 23 August 1945. The 28-year-old is buried in Phaleron War Cemetery, Greece.