article by UKNIWM office volunteer Gabrielle Orton
Last weekend, I visited Ypres in Flanders, to see various museums, cemeteries, battlefields and memorials. One of the most striking features was the Menin Gate, at the Eastern exit of the town, built on the road along which hundreds of thousands of troops passed on their way to the front during 1914-1918. The triumphal arch designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and opened on 24 July 1927, is one of five memorials to the missing soldiers who died in WWI and whose bodies were never recovered. There are 54,896 names incised in the memorial’s ‘Hall of Memory’, including British, Canadian, Australian, Indian and South African troops who died before 16 August 1917. A further 34,984 missing servicemen killed after that date are recorded on the Tyne Cot memorial.
I wanted to make my visit to the Menin Gate and my remembrance of the missing WWI casualties more personal. So from the vast list of names, I chose to look for information on one soldier, Captain Frank Charlton Jonas of the 1st Battalion, Cambridgeshire Regiment. For this I used the CWGC website, UKNIWM search and the Channel 4 website’s name search.Captain F C Jonas is commemorated twice in Duxford, the village where he lived with his wife in the old rectory and where his parents, George and Jane Jonas, owned a farm. The Duxford village memorial celtic cross was unveiled in 1920 (before the Menin Gate was completed), and can be found on the village green. The names on this memorial are ordered by rank and as Captain Jonas was the highest ranking casualty from the village, he is listed at the top. There is also a plaque within Duxford Church, dedicated solely to Captain Jonas, which informs us that he was killed aged 36, on 31st July 1917, near St Julien. St Julien, just North East of Ypres, was recaptured on 31st July 1917, by the 13th Royal Sussex Regiment, during the third battle of Ypres as part of the Flanders offensive. During the offensive, heavy rains and shelling destroyed the drainage system in the Ypres Salient, creating a swamp-like terrain. This meant that over 125,000 casualties, including Captain Jonas, were never found.
Captain Jonas has also been commemorated on several memorials in Ely Cathedral, including on one of the 16 beautifully painted oak panels in the Chapel of St George. Here his name can be found under his home village. Within the chapel is a window dedicated to all ranks of the Cambridgeshire Regiment. The corresponding roll of honour, placed on a bracket just inside the chapel, contains 864 names, one of which should be Captain Jonas.
It was interesting to discover so much detailed information about Captain Jonas from the selection of war memorials commemorating him here in the UK. Perhaps it is underestimated how much war memorials contribute to keeping memories of the casualties of war alive.