Captain Frank C Jonas

Frank Charlton Jonas (all his brothers and sisters also had the ‘Charlton’ middle name), was born in 1881 to George and Jane Jonas and was I think the youngest of their children. They lived in Ickleton to begin with, but soon moved to Vicarage House on The Green in Duxford. Frank’s father and brothers were influential and played a prominent part in local affairs.

There are memories recorded in ‘Duxford Remembered’ of the farm hands taking a landau to meet Capt. Jonas (one of Frank’s brothers?) on his return from the Boer War and hand pulling it from near the village to the Old Vicarage. Frank’s father was a Justice of the Peace and hence very much involved in local affairs. Frank’s mother died when he was still at school, and his father in March of 1908.

Frank attended Westminster school and went to India, but returned, and in 1908 married Maria Swallow in The Strand in the later part of the year. The two of them then moving to the Old Vicarage in Duxford and carrying out the business of Corn and Seed Merchant. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in the summer of 1913.

Frank joined the Cambridge University OTC at the outbreak of war and was then gazetted to 2nd Lt. in October 1914 and posted to 2/1st battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, A Coy. He stayed with 2/1st Battalion, with increasing responsibilities as adjutant and t/Capt until he was promoted Capt. in October 1916. He was then, 19/11/16, posted to 1/1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, which was serving overseas in Flanders, to command ‘C’ coy. He arrived on 25th November 1916. He was killed in action leading his company on the 31 July 1917, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

At 0530 the Cambridgeshires moved out following the assaulting battalions, in the vicinity of St Julien. As the Cambs reached the ‘Black Line’, the name for the second objective line, the enemy fire intensified. Confusion, thick mist, mud and lack of artillery support were having an effect on the assault battalions and elsewhere in the advance had not gone to plan.

The Cambs took up positions just beyond the Black Line, and it soon became apparent that the 55th Division that should have been on the Cambs right flank were not there.  To try to defend this massive gap, part of ‘C’coy under Capt Jonas, were moved to a captured block house known as Border House, which became crucial to the defence of the whole right flank.  As the original assault battalions fell back under increased shell fire and counter attacks, the Cambs line became the front line, and as they were overwhelmed and fell back, the Border House position became even more crucial to their retreat.

An orderly was sent to tell the remnants of ‘C’coy at Border House to retreat, but returned to Battalion HQ with the message;

‘I received a message by orderly to retire, but as Capt Jonas, before he was killed, said we were not to retire without written orders from the CO, I am holding Border House.  There are only three of us and two of these chaps are wounded.  I am holding Border House until I get written orders to retire. (signed) Private Muffet, 7.30pm.’

Capt Jonas was mentioned in dispatches.

He is commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.  There is a separate memorial to him in St Peter’s Church Duxford.  He was 36.

Page kindly contributed by Mr Tim Chudleigh