Sunday, 19 June 2016

Jenny Jones at Waterloo

Jenny Jones at Waterloo


Jenny Jones of Tal y Llyn, Meirionnydd was at Waterloo with her first husband, Pte Lewis Griffiths of the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welch Fusiliers). In 1876 an account of her life, as told by Jenny herself, was published in the “Cambrian News”. Although some of the things she related are difficult to reconcile with known facts, the account gives a vivid and honest picture of the life of a soldier’s wife in the early nineteenth century. The following is an attempt at reconstructing Jenny’s early life.
Jenny (or Jane) Jones was born in Ireland, probably in 1797, her maiden name being Drumble. Her home town was most likely Granard in County Longford.
Jenny met her first husband, Lewis Griffiths, in Ireland, where he was stationed with the Royal Merionethshire Militia. She was aged 14, the daughter of a farmer, and he was 19 (born in 1793). The couple were married, apparently against the wishes of Jenny’s family, and she never communicated with them again. No record of Jenny and Lewis’ marriage has so far been found (see Note 1).
Pte Lewis Griffiths
Lewis Griffiths was from Tal y Llyn, the son of Humphrey and Jane Griffiths of Pentre Dol y March, a group of small houses on the northern shore of the lake. Lewis was his mother’s maiden name. 
The Militia Acts required each County to raise a certain quota of men to serve in its Militia Regiment for defence of that County. In time of war the Militia regiments could be embodied to serve outside their County boundary. An Amendment Act of 1799 increased the Militia Quota for Merionethshire to 226 men.
Following the Declaration of War by Britain on Revolutionary France in May1803 the Merionethshire Militia (A Royal Regiment from April 1804) was embodied for garrison duty. It served in Southern England until June 1811 when it was transported from Devon to Ireland. It was stationed in Granard, County Longford. In August strength of the Regiment was 135 men, organised into two Companies. Lewis Griffiths appears on the 1811 Muster Roll of the Royal Merionethshire Militia preserved in the National Archives at Kew.
Many Militia men volunteered to serve with the “regular” Line Regiments. Among them was Lewis Griffiths who joined the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welch Fusiliers) in 1814. Griffiths entry on the Waterloo Medal Roll states that he was “with the Corps” from 5th April 1814. His attestation describes him as a labourer, aged 19. He was also a married man. Lewis Griffiths served with No. 7 Company of the 23rd, under Captain Thomas Farmer.
Lewis Griffiths was typical of the soldiers in the 23rd of 1815 in that he had come from an agricultural background. Only 30% of the men were Welsh however. Most of the English counties were represented in the ranks and 10% were Irish (as was usual in all the British Line Regiments). Lewis Griffiths was one of 76
private soldiers who had joined the 23rd since the Peace in 1814. The majority of the private soldiers were aged 20 or less. However, compared to other regiments at Waterloo the 23rd was an experienced unit as many had seen service in Spain or Southern France.
The 23rd Regiment was pulled in to Wellington’s army in Europe, marching against the reinstated Emperor Napoleon. It belatedly joined an extra Brigade, the 4th British Brigade under Lt Col H H Mitchell. It formed part of the 4th Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Colville.
The 23rd Regiment at Waterloo 18th June 1815
The 23rd Regiment left Gosport on the 23rd March 1815 and landed at Ostend on the 30th March. Jenny accompanied her husband on the Waterloo campaign, presumably on the strength of the Regiment, acting as nurse/cook/laundrymaid. She may by then have had a child - some accounts give her a daughter.
(see Note 2). The Regiment was moved by canal boat to Ghent, via Bruges. It was reviewed by Wellington, with the rest of the Brigade, at Oudenarde, on 20th April. From there it marched to cantonments at Grammont on 24th April. It stayed there until 16th June. It then marched to Braine-le-Leud, arriving on the 17th and passed the night in torrential rain. 
Wellington placed the bulk of his strength, including Mitchell’s Brigade, to the right of his line. This was fortunate for the 23rd Regiment as it suffered less casualties than those in the centre and on the left. Even so it lost four officers and eleven men killed, and eight officers and seventy-eight men wounded.
Early on the morning of 18th June 1815 the 23rd took up its position, in the second line, to the left of the Nivelles Road. In front of it was a battalion of the Guards. It deployed into line and the men were told to lay down as they were quickly under fire from French artillery on the road. The cannon fire killed the Commanding Officer of Lewis Griffith’s Company, Captain Thomas Farmer, and may have given Lewis his wounds, which were in the shoulder and, according to the story, were from cannon shot.
The 23rd moved into the front line to replace the Guards battalion, withdrawn to give support at Hougoumont. It formed a square and remained in that formation all day, facing many attacks by French cavalry. The Commanding Officer of the 23rd, Colonel Sir Henry Ellis commanded that no man should break rank, even to help a wounded comrade. The Regiment did not falter, even though the artillery fire continued, and every attack upon it failed with heavy casualties. The square retired to its former position, then advanced again and the 23rd finished the day by advancing in line and finding nothing to oppose it.
During the afternoon, however, Colonel Ellis was struck in the chest by a musket ball. He remained in command until, faint from loss of blood, he was forced to ride to the rear. Weakened, he fell from his horse. He was found and taken to a farmhouse where his wound was dressed. He died the following day, aged 32. 
After Waterloo
After the battle Jenny searched for Lewis and eventually found him in a Brussels hospital – the Elizabeth. Presumably she was still with him when the 23rd marched to Paris and, on the 4th July, encamped in the Bois de Boulogne.
Lewis Griffiths was discharged from the Regiment on 6th April 1821. He received no pension and his Waterloo Medal was stolen. Lewis and Jenny returned to Tal y Llyn to live in a house named Cildydd. They had several children - possibly six. Lewis Griffiths worked in the slate quarries at Corris, to which he would walk over the hills from home. Lewis was killed in 1837 in Aberllefeni Quarry, aged 45 (his year of birth must have been 1792 or 1793). He was buried in an unmarked grave in Tal y Llyn churchyard.
Jenny began working in the laundry of one of the hotels on Tal y Llyn. For a time she may have been a school teacher at Maes y Pandy.
After a few years of widowhood, Jenny married John Jones of Y Powis, Tal y Llyn on June 1st 1853. Jones too was widowed. Both gave their address as Cildydd, and both signed the register with an X (strange if Jenny was a school teacher!). Jenny gave her maiden name as Drumble. It was not a happy union as Jones was a lazy man, and instead of easing it, the marriage increased Jenny’s poverty. After John Jones’ death Jenny went to live at Pant-y-dwr and later at Tyn yr Ywen, Tal y Llyn, where she died on April 11th 1884, aged 94. She was more likely 87 (see Note 3).
Jenny was buried in Tal y Llyn parish churchyard on April 15th 1884. Her final resting place is marked by a rather fine gravestone, far beyond what she could ever have aspired too. Its inscription forms the final mystery regarding Jenny Jones. It reads: 
“I will never leave you nor forsake thee
This cross was placed here by a friend.
Sacred to the memory of Jenny Jones
Born in Scotland 1784
She was with her husband of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers at the battle of Waterloo and was on the field three days.”
Brian R Owen
RWF Museum
2010
Note 1:
The Army distrusted the presence of women and always tried to discourage soldiers from marrying. From 1685 marriage was allowed only with the CO’s permission. The number of married soldiers was restricted to 6% of strength – usually six wives per company. This was the “official” number but the system was abused and there were many more unofficial wives and women in barracks. The situation of a wife on the strength was highly insecure particularly when the unit was sent abroad. 
Note 2:
Only 4 or 6 wives per Company were allowed on campaign, and were selected by ballot. Great distress was caused among the wives who were left and they often ended up in Parish poorhouses or on the street.
Note 3:
In both the 1841 and 1851 Census Jenny gave her birthplace as Ireland. In the 1851 Census she gave her age as 54 and this is most likely correct.

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