Commander Loftus William Jones: Fighting to the Very End!

Loftus William Jones was born in 1879 in Petersfield, Hampshire, a small town 17 miles to the north of the Naval Base at Portsmouth. His Father was Admiral Loftus Francis Jones, who retired from the Navy twenty years after his son was born in 1899. Given his Father’s position in the Royal Navy and the traditions of the day, a career in the Navy was the obvious choice for Loftus, and he attended the Royal Navy Academy in Fareham before going on to HMS Britannia in 1894, a shore-based training establishment.

Commander Loftus William Jones V.C.

On completion of his training he was posted to HMS Royal Sovereign, a pre-dreadnought battleship, as a midshipman. From this point, until he took command of HMS Shark in 1914, he became something of a nomad, moving from ship to ship, and holding more than 25 separate appointments. This gave Loftus a rounded education in the ways of the Senior Service. In 1901 he served aboard HMS Spiteful, a torpedo boat destroyer which at the time was only two years old. This suited Loftus more than the big ships, as he discovered that he preferred serving aboard the smaller vessels.

His first destroyer command was HMS Success, a four-year-old B-Class torpedo boat destroyer. He married in 1910 and would spend the rest of his time up until his promotion to commander serving in destroyers. In 1914, in what would become his final appointment, he was given command of HMS Shark. Shark was an Acasta class destroyer built in Wallsend by Swan Hunter. She was launched in 1912 and had a top speed of 29 knots, relatively fast for the time. Her armament consisted of 3 four-inch Mark IV guns, 1 QF 2 pounder pom-pom gun, and 2 single torpedo tubes.

HMS Shark

Shark was part of the 4th Flotilla, which at the outbreak of war became part of the Grand Fleet based out of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. In 1916 the Grand Fleet took part in a huge naval battle with the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet off Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula.

On the afternoon of the 31st of May 1916 Commander Jones in HMS Shark led a division of destroyers to attack a German battlecruiser squadron. The fighting was intense, and HMS Shark’s bridge was hit by a German shell, disabling the steering gear, and killing or wounding many of the bridge crew. The commanding officer of another destroyer selflessly placed his ship between Shark and the enemy, in an attempt to protect her, but Jones, realising that this would almost certainly see the other vessel destroyed, ordered her to remain clear.

Jones had been wounded himself but made his way to the aft steering position to help to connect and man the aft steering gear. In the meantime the Germans had shelled and destroyed both the forward and aft gun positions. Jones now made his way to the midships gun, and personally took command of it, ensuring that it continued firing. Shark was being pummeled from close range by the German light cruisers and destroyers, and a few minutes after arriving at the position Commander jones was hit by a shell which tore off his leg above the knee.

Battle of Jutland WW1

Despite the severity of his wounds, Jones to everybody’s amazement, remained in position giving orders to the gun crew while a chief stoker improvised a tourniquet in an attempt to stem the bleeding. In the greatest traditions of the Royal Navy, Jones noticed that the Navy Ensign was not properly hoisted and ordered that another be raised in its place. Moments later Shark was dealt the fatal blow by the enemy.

HMS Shark was struck by a torpedo, fired from one of the German destroyers. She sank quickly, leaving only a few survivors in the water. These survivors were later picked up by a neutral ship, sadly Commander Jones was not amongst them. He had gone down with his vessel, fighting to the very end despite suffering wounds that would have incapacitated most men immediately.

Kviberg Cemetery War Memorial CWGC

This courageous and selfless commander refused to give in, and even when he was certain the ship would soon sink, he ordered his crew to prepare by donning lifejackets, while he himself remained at his station and continued fighting to the very end. For his immense bravery, and selfless actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross by the King in 1917 and is remembered on the war memorial Kviberg Cemetery in Sweden.  

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