William Jones (1839 to 15th April 1913)



Have you ever seen the 1964 film Zulu? It was based on a real event and the actor Richard Davies portrayed the man who lies in here - William Jones.  It’s a bit of a miracle he survived to live on after his act of bravery.


He was in the British Army during the Zulu War and on Thursday 23rd January 1879 at Rorke's Drift in South Africa he should have died a savage death. He was one of 131 people at a hospital (39 were patients) when 4000 Zulus attacked them. They were intent on killing every patient, doctor and nurse. The attack lasted through the evening and night. William helped fight them off (probably with a tomahawk, knife or spear) while six patients were removed and saved from death. The seventh was delirious and wouldn’t get out of bed. When William returned to the ward to retrieve him he saw he’d been stabbed to death. How William survived this attack is incredulous – there were thirty Zulus for every person in the hospital.


Life after the army was rather threadbare for William. He was treated in hospital for chronic rheumatism which said came from standing guard through countless cold and wet nights. Before being discharged from hospital he received a Victoria Cross medal from Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. He left the Army due to his rheumatism but found it difficult to find regular employment. He did some acting and also toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He lived in Birmingham for a while before moving back up North. Financially desperate he pawned his Victoria Cross (it’s now in the South Wales Borderers Museum in Powys in Wales and worth about £120,000.) He died at his daughter’s home in Ardwick in Manchester aged 73.


I found this cemetery in a rough industrial area on the outskirts of Manchester city. It was getting dark and packs of kids on bikes were hanging around so I took the Sat-Nat off the windscreen before searching for the grave. It’s a large long cemetery with two entrances to manage its visitors. Thankfully I spotted the grave down at one end – the red wreath would beckon over any grave-hunter. From a distance it looked to be alone but as I strolled to it I saw it was among many other dead folk, none with vertical headstones. William was so poor when he died he was given a paupers burial and it was only after four years of campaigning the headstone was added.


I just about got out of the cemetery before a man dressed as a policeman locked the gates. He was an ex-soldier and he took my website address so he could look up other VC dudes.


Looking looking

Found him…

The cemetery next to industrial buildings and is usually deserted over the weekends…