This is the story of two medals from the First World War. Both are connected to Holyhead.
They were handed to the Holyhead Maritime Museum recently by a person with no apparent family connection to them. As can be seen they lack their medal ribbons and both show signs of wear.
They are Allied Victory Medals and show a classical figure depicting victory. They were not awarded for any specific act of bravery or valour. Over 5.7 million were issued and they can now be readily bought for a few pounds. They were issued to all personnel who served in the army, navy or airforce in a theatre of war. Those who served from the early part of the war would be awarded a set of three medals. These being the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Those who served after December 1915 received the last two only. One distinctive feature of medals from WW1 is the recipient’s name, rank and service number is etched on the medal, a boon for any military researcher or medal collector.
The medal that still retains its ribbon ring was awarded to Owen Hugh Jones of Holyhead. He served as a Gunner in ‘A’ Battery, 385 Brigade, 57 Division, Royal Field Artillery. Unfortunately Gunner Jones was killed in action on the 9th April 1918, aged only 20.
The circumstances of his death are not entirely known. However on the day he was killed the German Army launched a powerful offensive to the north of the Somme. Early in the morning of 9th April, an intense bombardment of high-explosive and gas shells burst over British and Portugese positions on a 10-mile front south of Armentieres. By evening upwards of 8 German divisions had swept forward through thick fog and smoke. By nightfall, the line had advanced by as much as 4.5 miles. The Artillery of 57 Division were involved in resisting the onslaught and suffered from the intense return bombardment. It is probable that Gunner Jones died during this action. His body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial Panel, Belgium.
Owen was born at Llanbadrig, Anglesey on 5th July 1897, the son of Edward and Catherine Jane Jones of 12 Longford Terrace, Holyhead. His father originated from Llanfechell, Anglesey and was employed as a Railway Labourer. His mother came from Rhosberw, Anglesey. Owen joined the LNWR as a Junior Clerk on 21st July 1913 and was originally employed at Llainfair Traffic Department and then transferred to Padeswood Station, near Buckley on 20th November 1914. He left LNWR employment to join the Army on 20th October 1915.
The other medal was awarded to Private John Elderkin of the Army Veterinary Corps (AVC). Private Elderkin was born at Oundle, Northamptonshire on 11th December 1867. He married Maria Elsie Amondsen on 1st September 1892 at Southwark, London. By 1901 they had two children and were living at Camberwell, London. He was then employed as a Carman. Two further children were born by 1911. On 26th August 1914, less than 3 weeks after the commencement of WW1, he volunteered at London to join the Northamptonshire Regiment. He gave his age as 29 although he was actually 46. After 42 days service he was discharged as being over age.
On 27th April 1915 John Elderkin joined the Army Veterinary Corps and served with them until he was medically discharged on 22nd March 1918. His pension record makes mention of him being 70% disabled by Chronic Asthma. It is this service that qualified him for the award of the British War Medal and Victory Medal. As a medically discharged soldier he was also awarded a Silver War Badge. In early 1919 his wife, Maria, died at Camberwell, aged 45.
His eldest son, Frederick William John Elderkin, joined the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry in 1911. He was killed on 23rd April 1917 whilst serving with the 1st Battalion DCLI on the Western Front.
By 1921 John Elderkin had arrived at Holyhead and lived at 29 Llaingoch with his daughter Hilda and son Herbert. Living with John was Alice Elderkin, recorded as his wife. However no marriage record can be found to confirm this.
It is not known why he brought his family from London to Holyhead since it would appear that John found difficulty in obtaining regular employment as a labourer, probably not helped by his Asthma condition. John Elderkin died at 29 Llaingoch in March 1936, age 68 and was buried at Maeshyfryd Cemetery on 10th March. It would appear that this is an unmarked grave.
John’s son Herbert Emil Elderkin (1904-1963) married Edith Warren at Holyhead in 1929. They lived at 2 Maes Cybi and had two sons, John and Herbert and a daughter, Violet Mary. John died at Holyhead in 1988 and Herbert in 1987. Violet died in 2017.
It would appear that there is no family connection between the recepients of these medals, other than they both lived at Holyhead. They have ended up together purely by chance. It is the museum’s desire to return these medals to each respective family and would be keen to hear from present day family members – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photograph of Llaingoch was previously posted on ‘Holyhead, Past and Present’ Facebook Page by Phil Coombs. Exact source is not known.
Contributed by the editor.
© Holyhead Maritime Museum.