Arthur Rowland Jones was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1879, the son of Rowland and Margaret Jones. Rowland Jones was a master mariner, and the family home for many years was at 31 Beaconsfield Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool. He married Elizabeth Lunn in Liverpool on 12 September 1907 and the family home in 1915 was at Thornhill, Pennyffordd, Ffynnongroew, near Prestatyn in Flintshire, north Wales. They had a son, also named Rowland, who was born in 1910.
After formal education, Arthur Jones decided to make his career at sea and having qualified as a deck officer, worked his way up from the lowest grade. On 12 April 1915 at the Water Street offices of the Cunard Steam Ship Company in Liverpool, he engaged as First Officer in the Deck Department on board the Lusitania at a monthly wage of £16-0s-0d. When he engaged he gave his address as 31 Beaconsfield Street - his parents' home, where he stayed when sailing out of Liverpool.
He reported for duty on the morning of 17 April, just before the Lusitania left Princes Landing Stage for the last time. It was not the first time that he had served on the liner. Having reached New York, he on board for the return journey, which left on 1 May.
On the afternoon of 7 May 1915 the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, off the coast of southern Ireland, only hours away from her home port. First Officer Jones played a significant part in the rescue of many passengers.
He was in the dining saloon when the torpedo struck and he rushed to the after part of the starboard side of the ship where, in the case of an emergency he was to command the launching the lifeboats numbers 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19. On this occasion this was the only side on which it was possible to launch any boats at all.
He personally supervised the lowering of lifeboat number 15, which reached the sea successfully under his command with more than 80 people on board. As it was being rowed away from where the ship had foundered, he saw lifeboat number 1 floating empty nearby, so he transferred half of the passengers from his lifeboat to it, then took both lifeboats back to the area of the sinking to pick up swimming and floating survivors.
Stewardess May Bird, who was in lifeboat number 13, told of her experiences of the sinking in The Birkenhead News and Advertiser on 15 May 1915:
"Miss Bird paid a high tribute to the splendid behaviour of Chief Officer (sic) Jones who, she said, was instrumental in saving hundreds of lives. He helped to launch the boats and saw to the safety of the children."
In 'The Cheshire Daily Echo' on 10 May 1915 First Class Bedroom Steward Percy Penny told of being rescued from the sea by Arthur Jones, having first been sucked down under the surface and then shot back again:
"When I reached it (the surface) I swam about among wreckage and dead bodies and fellow survivors until - an hour and a half afterwards - I had the good fortune to fall in with a lifeboat which already had about eighty souls.
This boat was under the charge of Mr. Jones, the first officer who conducted it to a fishing smack, and then returned with about ten men and succeeded in picking up about 35 more survivors. Eventually we were picked up by a patrol boat and taken to Queenstown."
On his return to Liverpool First Officer Jones was required to give a deposition of his experiences of the sinking, as were all crew survivors. His is one of the very few of these depositions that survive today. Signed on 11 May 1915, it states:
"On Friday 7th May, Deponent was in the First Class Saloon at lunch when at about 2.10 p.m. an explosion occurred. The ship on the instant commenced to list to starboard. Deponent arose and in company with the (about) 150 passengers at lunch. went on to the boat deck “A”. On leaving the saloon, Deponent ordered all starboard ports to be closed if not already closed and reached the boat deck from 3 - 4 minutes after rising from his seat. The ship then had a list of at least 30 degrees which made it impossible to walk without holding on to the rails.
Deponent then went to his appointed boat, ‘No 15’ starboard side immediately behind the after funnel. The boats had been swung out on Thursday at 6 a.m.. By this time most of the passengers had assembled on the boat deck. The list increased until it reached about 40 degrees. The ship recovered slightly and reduced the list to about 20 degrees, at the same time sinking rapidly by the head.
Deponent loaded No. 15 boat with about 80 souls with great difficulty owing to the great distance between the ship’s side and gunwhale and lowered in safety into the water. The falls were cast off and the boat commenced to drift astern close to the ship‘s side. The forward part of the ship was submerged and the forward bridge awash and people were slipping down the deck into the water.
The people in No 15 boat asked Deponent if he was coming down. He looked round and seeing it was impossible to do anything more, he went down the falls and was pulled into the boat.
Three minutes after, the ship disappeared very suddenly. In the final moments, she was almost vertical. The Marconi aerial wire caught across the stern of the boat, but luckily parted. The boat was caught in the violently agitated water and it was impossible to get her out. The people were urged to keep quiet in their places and the boat escaped.
Deponent observed an empty boat about 600 yards away. On reaching her, men were found who had swum off to her. Thirty passengers and sufficient seamen and stewards to form a crew were transferred. Both boats returned to the scene of the wreck picking up survivors until both boats had a full complement. Deponent then put his passengers onto a smack five miles distant and returned once more."
The "smack" was the Royal Naval trawler/patrol boat HMS Bluebell, under the command of Captain John Thompson, which later landed 47 survivors and 10 dead at Queenstown. Arthur Jones’s deposition continued: -
"A waterlogged collapsible boat was picked up and the 35 occupants transferred.
Shortly after these were put on to a trawler which towed Deponents’ boat to the scene of the wreck where she picked up about 10 more drowning people who were transferred to the tender “Flying Fox”. Plenty of other help being on hand and Deponent’s crew exhausted, all returned to Queenstown on the “Flying Fox”, arriving at 11 pm."
The “Flying Fox” was in fact the Queenstown harbour tender the Flying Fish, which was instrumental in saving the lives of many people. Arthur Jones had obviously confused the name, which was hardly surprising, given the circumstances surrounding the sinking.
Soon after his return to Liverpool, First Officer Jones was paid the balance of wages due to him in respect of his service on the
Lusitania from 17 April to May 1915, 24 hours after the liner had foundered. This amounted to £13-0s-0d.
After the sinking he returned to sea and eventually achieved the rank of Master. However on 2 February 1918 he was in command of the 2,128 ton Lambert Brothers ship
Avanti, carrying iron ore from Bilbao to West Hartlepool. Whilst passing through the English Channel and off the Isle of Wight, his vessel was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
UB-59 and he and 22 of his crew were killed. What the U-20 had failed to achieve in May 1915 the
UB-59 managed to accomplish, nearly three years later.
His body was recovered from the Channel and was sent back to his wife in Prestatyn. On Friday 25 February 1918 Captain Jones was buried in the churchyard of Christ Church, The Parish Church of Prestatyn, in grave D. 194. The funeral service was conducted by the Reverend Meredith J Hughes, assisted by the Reverend W. Armon Ellis.
The inscription on the headstone, subsequently erected by his widow, states:
"SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
MY BELOVED HUSBAND
ARTHUR ROWLAND JONES
FIRST OFFICER OF THE “LUSITANIA”
WHEN SUNK, AFTERWARDS
CAPTAIN OF THE “AVANTI”,
TORPEDOED IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL
FEB. 2ND 1918, WHEN HE LOST HIS LIFE,
AGED 38 YEARS.
'I HOPE TO SEE MY PILOT FACE TO FACE
WHEN I HAVE CROSSED THE BAR'."
The latter inscription is from the famous poem by Sir John Masefield.
Captain Jones is also commemorated on one of the bronze panels of the parish war memorial situated just inside the main gates of the church.
The feeling of the local populace towards the enemy in 1918 is obvious in the simple entry taken from the burial register from Christ Church, Prestatyn for Arthur Jones’ committal (No. 774), which states:
"Master of a vessel torpedoed off the Isle of Wight by the Huns."
In an article published in 'The Prestatyn Weekly' on Saturday 16 February 1918 it was said of him:
"Since the outbreak of hostilities he has been unceasingly at his post, facing the many perils which continuously beset our sailors on the sea, and although his loss is greatly to be deplored, we are proud to think that he has passed away whilst doing his duty in the interest of liberty and justice.
He was only 38 years of age, held his extra master’s certificate of competency since the early age of 25, and had every prospect of a brilliant future before him.
He leaves a wife and little son to mourn his loss."
After her husband‘s death, his widow Elizabeth moved to The Nook, Chapel Road, Prestatyn, Flintshire. She died in April 1940, aged 64 years and their son Rowland died in January 1952, aged 42 years. They both lie in the same grave as Captain Jones.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Birkenhead News, Jerard Bone, Cheshire Daily Echo, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Lusitania, Merchant Fleet at War, Merchant Ships Sunk by U Boats, Prestatyn Weekly, PRO ADM 137/1058, Wallasey News, PRO BT 334.