THE SEARCH is on to find descendants of a 19-year-old Rainhill airman who was killed when the plane in which he was a gunner was shot down over France.
This Saturday he and the pilot who died with him will be remembered at a graveside ceremony taking place in France on behalf of Rainhill Civic Society. Members of the society want to find descendants of 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Alfred Jones who died on August 30, 1918, just weeks before the end of the First World War.
Committee member Ann Veronica Howitt said the circumstances of Lt Jones’ demise were discovered research into the stories behind the names on the Rainhill war memorial.
“Lt Thomas Alfred Jones was the only child of Alfred and Elizabeth Jones of Rainhill. His father Alfred was the Rainhill Station Master. Thomas joined the Royal Flying Corps, a forerunner of the RAF, and was stationed in Azelot, France,” she told the Star. On Aug 30, 1918 he was flying in a daylight bomber of 55 Squadron. His pilot was Lt R I A Hickes from Nottingham.
They completed a successful mission to bomb railways at Thionville but to base the plane was shot down returning to base. Both men died before the plane hit the ground just a few metres short of the church in the tiny hamlet of Latour-en-Woevre in occupied France. Both were just 19,” said Ann.
“We discovered the airmen were not buried in a military cemetery but in the tiny village graveyard at Latour-en-Woevre. Villagers had long wondered about the young men who had ‘died for France’. When the Mayor and Councillor Edith Vouge were asked if they could take a photo of the graves, a wonderful ‘entente cordiale’ developed.
“We asked if poppy crosses could be placed on the graves, but the people of the village went much further.”
On Saturday, there will be a cross laying ceremony at the cemetery involving the Souvenir Francaise, military veterans, local councillors and residents followed by a reception in the village Hall. Anyone related to either of the two airmen can contact rainhill-civic-society.org.uk.
Details about Lt Jones were unearthed by members researching the impact of the Great War on the village of Rainhill in readiness for a First World War exhibition to be held on September 26 and 27 in St Ann’s Church, Rainhill.