Remembering Robert Haywood Jones of the 2nd Battalion, on his Grandson David Bowie’s birthday

7th January 20225:03 pmLeave a Comment

Born in Armley, West Yorkshire, Robert Haywood Jones settled in Doncaster with his wife and two children. He was killed in action during the final phases of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and never got to meet his famous grandson – David Bowie.

Private Robert Haywood Jones (HU 116491) CWGC family information: son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Jones, of Town End House, Bramley, Leeds. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

In November 1916, Private Robert Haywood Jones of the 2nd Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was lost on the battlefields of the Somme. He is remembered among the more than 70,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial, the memorial to the missing of the Somme. Like many casualties of the First World War, Robert left behind a wife and two young children. His death aged just 34 meant he never met his famous grandson, David Robert Jones, better known to the public as David Bowie.

Robert Haywood Jones was born in Armley, West Yorkshire. His father Joseph was a boot manufacturer and Robert lived with his parents and siblings at Town End House, Bramley. Robert followed his father into the boot manufacturing business, working for some time in Leeds and later moving to Doncaster.

In 1909, Robert married Zillah Blackburn, the daughter of Frederick Blackburn. Frederick was a local millwright, based at Crown Mills, Station Road, Doncaster. On the 1911 Census, we see a snapshot of the Jones family life. Robert, Zillah and their one year old daughter Roma lived at 41 St Sepulchre Gate, above the Jubilee Boot Company at which Robert was a partner. A year later, the couple had another child, named Haywood Stenton Jones.

During the First World War, Robert served as a private with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry under the service number 33050. With the 2nd Battalion he was involved in fierce fighting at Beaumont Hamel during the closing actions of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916. The battalion’s war diary for the 18th of November paints a bleak picture. The conditions were described as ‘bad’, stating that ‘it started snowing just before the attack and therefore observation was very difficult’ but that the early morning artillery barrage had been very effective. Robert was reported wounded and missing on this day, along with many KOYLI comrades. The exact circumstances of Robert’s death are unclear. His military records state he was ‘presumed’ to have been killed on the 18th of November or since. His shows that Robert’s effects of £225 7s went to Frederick Blackburn, warehouseman, his father-in-law.

War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion. From the Kings Own Light Infantry Museum Collection

Robert’s pension details appear in the Western Front Association’s Pension Records set. Unlike many of the records within this set, the pension payments were not made to Robert’s widow Zillah, instead listing three ‘guardians of children’ who were the recipients. These payments were not made to Zillah, as by the time Robert’s estate was processed, the family had suffered another loss. Zillah died in February 1917, aged just 30 years old, of diphtheria and was buried with her sisters in Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster.

The register of effects for Robert show that initial payments were made by the army to ‘Guardian of daughter Roma – Ann Jones and guardian of child Haywood – Frederick Blackburn’. On the WFA Pension records, we can see that again ‘widow’ has been crossed out and replaced with ‘Guardian of Roma Mr Joseph Jones, Townsend House, Bramley, Leeds and Guardian of Haywood Mr Frederick Blackburn, Crown Mill, Station Road, Doncaster.’

From these records it appears that Robert and Zillah’s children were separated; Roma was in the care of Ann and Joseph Jones, Robert’s parents, in Bramley and their son Haywood was in the care of Frederick Blackburn, Zillah’s father, in Doncaster.

Another guardian was added at a later date; Charles Fawcett Jones of Primrose Hill, High Cotton, York.’ Charles was Robert’s older brother.

The Blackburn side of the family are buried at Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster. Zillah is remembered on the headstone as ‘the beloved wife of Robert Haywood Jones.’

Blackburn Headstone. By permission of Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery.
Blackburn Headstone. By permission of Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery.

Robert’s son Haywood remained in Doncaster during his childhood, before moving away and settling in London. He married and his son David Robert Jones was born there in 1947. David would reach worldwide fame as David Bowie, before his death on January 10, 2016.

Written by admin - Modified by Robyn Coney

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