July 21, 2024

Putting a face to a name: Archives acquire First World War family portrait

North East Wales Archives in Ruthin have recently accepted an exciting new photograph into their collection. A member of the public has recently donated a portrait of the family of Private Henry (known as Harry) Jones, of Mwrog Street, Ruthin, who lost his life during The First World War. The archives already held a collection of postcards and letters sent by the Royal Welsh Fusilier from The Front and researchers can now put a face to a name with a picture of his wife and children.

The portrait is a formal studio photograph and features Mrs Elizabeth Jones (his wife) wearing a long dark dress and matching hat. She is surrounded by her four young children all under the age of four or five. The children; Mary, Gladys, Isaac and Mons, are also formally dressed with the baby wearing what appears to be a christening gown. The photograph can be dated by the ages of the children and it is thought to have been taken around December 1914 when Mons was christened at the local parish church.

In their letters Harry talks about the weather being very cold at night. He mentions receiving a parcel containing a scarf and tobacco and says how it will be very warm for his neck. The couple discussed the name for their new baby in the letters and Harry tells Elizabeth that Mons is a very nice name for the baby when Elizabeth names him after the Battle of Mons. He then hopes that they had a good Christmas, better than he has, and hopes it will be better next time, if he ever comes home.

In his last letter dated 23 February 1915 Harry asks after his father who is in poor health. He wants Elizabeth to feed him up well with soup and oxo. Part of this letter reads “Well my Dear please remember me to father and give him my best love and tell him to cheer up and tell him the war will be over very soon now and I will be able to see him again…”  It is in this letter that he asks Elizabeth to send him a photo of her and the children, even telling her that she can get them “very cheap on a postcard.” In all of Harry’s letters he calls Elizabeth his Dear Wife and wishes her and the children well and the best of health. The letters are signed “From Your Loving Harry” with many kisses.

Unfortunately, Harry was killed on St David’s Day 1915 aged 29, just a few months after the portrait was taken. He would never have met his youngest child, and may never have seen the family portrait now kept at the archives.

 

To view Harry’s letters and the family portrait, you can visit the archives in Ruthin. For more details, see the North East Wales Archives website at www.newa.wales.

Image caption: Image shows extracts from Harry’s letters, the newly acquired family portrait and the baptism register entry for Mons Jones at Llanfwrog Church.

 

North East Wales Archives is based in Ruthin Gaol and is open on Saturday 9th September for Open Doors. The service will soon be celebrating the history of photography with themed exhibitions and activities for all ages. More information on Open Doors events can be found on the CADW website at https://cadw.gov.wales/visit/whats-on/open-doors.