Bell-ringers to mark centenary of soldier’s death

Bell-ringer Robert Weston Jesson who died on January 20, 1916
Bell-ringer Robert Weston Jesson who died on January 20, 1916

Special peals to remember St Andrew’s bell-ringer awarded bravery medal day before he died

There will be bells rung at St. Andrew’s this Sunday and next Wednesday, in memory of one of the church’s bell-ringers, Robert Weston Jesson DCM, who died a hundred years ago on January 20, 1916.

Robert Jesson was born in 1895, and before WWI started work at BTH in the Wiring Department. He joined the Territorial ‘Rugby Battery’ at Rugby on June 19, 1913, when he reached the age of 18, and became a Gunner, in the 5th Warwick ‘Rugby’ Battery, of the Royal Field Artillery.

After war was declared, and further training, he went to France on March 30, 1915, and on April 5, 1915 was in action for the first time near Ploegsteert. In late June the battery moved south to just north of Beaumont-Hamel in the Somme.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal - D.C.M. - for conspicuous gallantry and good work, often under heavy fire. The Rugby Advertiser published a letter from his Commanding Officer, Major Cecil P Nickalls written the day he was killed, January 20, 1916.

‘… He was in charge of the telephone system of the Battery. This duty called for much very hard work; he was always ready at any hour of the day or night to go out cheerfully at great personal risk to attend to any defect or breakage of the telephone wires, and his fearless devotion to duty set a grand example to all ranks.’

Tragically, the day after being presented with his DCM, Robert Jesson was …

‘…killed by a stray bullet, at 7am today. He was shot through the temple on his way back from Roll Call to his billet – his death was instantaneous. …’.

He was buried in Hebuterne Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. It was noted that Robert …

‘… had been a member of the St. Andrew’s Association of Change Ringers, and before the evening service at the Parish Church … his fellow members rang half-muffled peals.’

The Ringers at St. Andrew’s intend to remember him in a similar manner. They plan to ring a ‘Full Three Hour Peal’ this Sunday (January 17) at about 5pm, and then a ‘Quarter Peal’ on the day of the 100th anniversary of his death, on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm.

A report on Robert’s life and service history will be published on the 100th anniversary of his death on January 20, 2016 in Rugby Remembers:

Robert was only one of over 400 young men from Rugby, killed in WWI and remembered on the Memorial Gates and who are being remembered on the 100th anniversaries of their deaths.