Calgarian had immense passion for soldier’s life and for his wife, Lucile
As soon as Lucile saw the news that Canada was joining the effort and troops were being urged to join the war-effort, she turned to her husband and saw an expression his face that made her “realize that nothing would stop him from enlisting.”
Photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives S-222-203That didn’t stop her from trying, however.
In the memoir she penned about her husband after the war—
Two Years with the Princess Patricia’s 1914-1916: The Letters of Maj. Stanley L. Jones, K.C., edited and annotated by his wife, Lucile Ross Jones—
Lucile Jones said the argument between her and her husband went something like this:
“If you don’t let me go you will spoil my future career,” Stanley said.
“But if you go and get killed you will have no future career,” she shot back.
At the conclusion of many arguments it was Stanley who prevailed in the battle of wills between husband and wife. At the time, the wife had to give consent to her husband to go overseas to serve. However, a few months into the war, as it became painfully clear this entrenched battle would cost many lives, this rule fell to the wayside and many young men, and some young women, stepped forward to enlist despite the wishes of family members. In fact, some snuck off to join the war effort without informing family or friends at all.
It is understandable why Stanley was so compelled to join the war effort. He was a hero in the young City of Calgary for fighting in the Second Boer War — also known as the South African War — which spanned from 1899-1902. His fascination with war extended to a point that he travelled to be an observer of the Balkan Wars (1912-1913).
The one condition Lucile had to allow Stanley to take part in the First World War was if she could travel overseas with him and become a Red Cross nurse. Just as it made sense as to why Stanley was so passionate about going to fight, it’s just as understandable as to why Lucile insisted she accompany her husband. They had only been married a year. She was not ready to say goodbye.
With his wife by his side, Stanley telegrammed Calgary MP R. B. Bennett on Aug. 10, expressing interest in joining the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), a regiment he discovered was being formed in Ottawa. A day later a telegram was sent to the Jones’ urging them to embark for Ottawa at once.
Stanley was not the only person from outside Ontario to join this regiment named in honour of the daughter of Canada’s Governor General at the time Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught. People from across Canada came together to serve in this regiment named after Princess Patricia of Connaught.
Stanley’s enlistment is significant because he was the first Calgarian to sign up to take part in the so-called “Great War”. He could not call Calgary his birthplace though. He was born in Wolfville, N.S., on July 18, 1879 and arrived in Calgary in 1901 as a young lawyer joining the Lent and Jones Company.
While still relatively a young man at 35, he was one of the grizzled veterans of Princess Pats due to his previous military experience. Holding the rank of captain, he was expected to assume a leadership role in this infantry regiment.
After arriving in Ottawa, Stanley and Lucile spent a couple weeks at the Chateau Laurier, headquarters of the Princess Pats as work was being done to recruit more men and acquire equipment for the soldiers. Finally, this unit of fewer than 1,100 men with over 30 officers was formed. Like Stanley, the vast majority of the men were war veterans, either of the South African War or of the British army.
This first contingent from Canada was poised to sail for England on Aug. 28 aboard the S.S Megantic from Montreal, Que. Lucille was fortunate to be one of the six women permitted to travel overseas with the regiment.
Photo courtesy of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regimental Museum Archives. However, news reached the PPCLI that there was enemy action on the Atlantic Ocean. Thus the soldiers had to disembark at Lévis, Que. Stanley was separated from his wife as the women were ordered to continue sailing toward Liverpool, England. Lucile arrived in England on Sept. 6 while Stanley and his comrades received training at Lévis.
It was emotionally torturous for Lucile to be separated for six weeks from her husband, but her spirits were brightened when she saw Stanley after the PPCLI arrived on England’s Salisbury Plain on Oct. 18, 1914. When the PPCLI members were not receiving further training from the British, the young couple rekindled their passion for one another through experiencing what England had to offer.
While Lucile enjoyed the time with her husband, underneath she and the other women were hurting as they knew the fateful day was drawing near when their soldiers would be called to leave for the fight in France. That day was Dec. 20, 1914. Stanley urged his wife to be brave. She promised she would and work hard in her studies.
The PPCLI arrived in France a day later and finally on Jan. 6, 1915, the regiment took its place at the frontlines in Belgium near a place known as “Dickiebush”. Within the next day the PPCLI were confronted with the brutality of the First World War as the Germans attacked them with guns of all sizes and grenades. Stanley later remarked in a letter that he only “escaped annihilation by a few feet.”
Stanley not only gave his wife a sense of what life on the Western Front was like through his letters, he also filed reports for the Calgary Albertan multiple times throughout the war.
Stanley was never able to reveal where his regiment was located, as mail was not being censored. He did not want to give the enemy any strategic advantage. He was fully committed to the cause of “playing the game” the best he could.
What he could express in his letters was his intense passion for his wife. He had many affectionate pet names for Lucile including “my darling Lou,” “my little pal” and “my dearest girl,” just to name a few. Rare were the days when he did not write Lucile. Stanley also gave his wife insight into the quieter moments of life as a solider. He shared news about how his soups were legendary in the PPCLI camp, how he captained the regiment’s championship tug-o-war team and expressed to his wife the pure joy he felt when the unit temporarily adopted a small black kitten.
In her letters to him, Lucile told Stanley she dreaded his absence. She also expressed happier sentiments by telling her husband she was working hard training to be a nurse, how she enjoyed visiting attractions in London, and gushing how the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation was a profound experience for her.
Minor injuries and convalescence leaves brought the couple back together at different times.
Depending on how you look at it, Jones was either particularly lucky or unlucky to be wounded and not in action during the PPCLI’s iconic Battle of Frezenberg near the Bellewaerde Ridge in Belgium on May 8, 1915. The PPCLI established its reputation as a good unit by defending the ridge, however, this battle wiped out hundreds of the PPCLI regiment. This battle has been coined “The Death of the Originals.” By missing this major conflict he might have avoided certain death, but for a consummate soldier like Stanley it must have hurt inside not to participate in this legendary battle.
Photo by Paulina LiwskiIn October 1915, Lucile, at the urging of Stanley, decided to continue her nurse’s training in Paris, France. This provided the couple a chance to experience French culture together.
By April 1916 changes came for both Stanley and Lucile. Stanley was promoted to the position of major and Lucile was a nurse working at the hospital in Champigny-sur-Marne, France.
The couple saw each other from March 26 to April 4, 1916. The parting was easier for Lucile this time as she had a job to do.
Stanley rejoined his unit and went to the frontlines on May, 31, 1916, to do battle near Sanctuary Wood, Belgium. On the morning June 2, the PPCLI was under an intense bombardment of trench mortars and high explosive artillery shells. During the bombardment Jones was wounded in the left lung.
A day later Jones was captured as a prisoner of war and taken back to Germany. He died in a German hospital on June, 8, 1916, of an internal hemorrhage and a severe loss of blood.
Tragically, it wouldn’t be until July 11 that Lucile would find out what happened to her husband. She wrote in her memoir that the words that stated her husband was dead “burnt into my head like red hot coals.” She suffered a brain fever and it would be a few days before she could read the rest of the letters enclosed in the package sent to her. One of those letters was from Stanley, mailed on June, 4, 1916, telling her that “we may be separated for some time but our love will always hold us together.”
After the war, Lucile honoured her husband’s life by writing a memoir of his time in the war. The City of Calgary celebrated Stanley Jones by renaming the Bridgeland School the Stanley Jones School.
Stanley Jones was very much a representation of many of the Canadian soldiers who went overseas to fight in this bloody conflict. They did so because they loved Canada and they believed that fighting this war could help bring about a better world, even though it may cost their life. Stanley Jones, and all the other soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, deserve our immense gratitude 100 years later.
Note: This article was inspired by the material found in “Two Years with the Princess Patricia’s 1914-1916, the letters of Maj. Stanley L. Jones, K.C., edited and annotated by his wife – Lucile Ross Jones, a Red Cross nurse serving in France during WWI.” The material is courtesy of the PPCLI Museum and Archives, Calgary, AB.”