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1. Early Life

Richard Pillman Jones was born in July of 1820 in the Parish of Winkleigh, near the town of Chumleigh, in Devonshire [1]. Chumleigh is a small town located about seven and a half miles to the northwest of Exeter [2]. As a young man, Jones was a miner by trade.

2. Enlistment

Jones enlisted as a Private in the Royal Sappers and Miners at Devonport, in the County of Devonshire, on the 29th of April 1839 [3]. At the time of his enlistment he was 18 years and 9 months old. He served at stations in England during the first six years in the Army, and during that time he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal in 1841, to 2nd Corporal on the 1st of December 1842, and then to the rank of Corporal on the 15th of June 1845 [4].

Jones's service during this period was primarily involved with deep-sea diving. More specifically, his service centered around salvage operations of the Royal George, a first-rate man-of-war of 100 guns that capsized at Spithead on the 28th of June 1772. For nearly 60 years the wreck of the Royal George lay submerged in the roadstead before the Royal Sappers and Miners became involved with salvaging the ship. For all those years it had presented a serious danger to shipping. Several enterprising individuals had attempted or proposed to raise or remove it, but to no avail. At length Colonel C.W. Pasley, R.E., the director of the Royal Engineers Establishment at Chatham, undertook the task with a body of men from the Royal Sappers and Miners. In a few summers, using gunpowder, Pasley's men effected the entire demolition and removal of the wreck. Many guns were salvaged, with a total value of 5,000 Pounds Sterling [5].

Jones was at Chatham in August of 1839 when the salvage detachment was formed under the command of Captain M. Williams, R.E., who was later replaced by Lieutenant J.F.A. Symonds, R.E. The remaining men of the detachment included Sergeant Major Jenkin Jones, one bugler, a clerk, and thirteen rank and file, including Private R.P. Jones. The detachment sailed for Spithead aboard the navy lighter Queen and on the 20th of August 1839 the men transferred to the frigate hulk Success anchored near the wreck of the Royal George. Salvage operations commenced on the 21st of August and lasted until the 4th of November 1839 when they were suspended until the return of summer the following year. The detachment returned to their company at Woolwich in the steamer Medea on the 6th of November 1839.

During the salvage operations this first summer a Mr. Dewar, the only bell-diver with the detachment, was discharged. Two privates of the detachment volunteered to replace him. It is believed that Private Jones was one of these volunteers [6].

Early in May of 1 940, Sergeant Major Jenkin Jones, one bugler and 22 rank and file (including Private Jones returned to the wreck of the Royal George at Spithead, and under the command of Lieutenant Symonds resumed the operations which had been suspended in the winter of the previous year. Private Jones did no diving during this season, but did assist with other duties associated with the salvage operations. On the 27th of October, the winter then having completely set in, the operations were again suspended and the detachment returned to Chatham [7].

In early May of 1 841 Sergeant Major Jones and 24 rank and file proceeded to Spithead to start the third season of salvage operations on the Royal George. This year the detachment was placed in the executive charge of Lieutenant G.R. Hutchinson, R.E. Colonel Pasley gave honourable mention to Lance Corporal Richard P. Jones for his services as a diver. The detachment was credited with salvaging about 18,600 cubic feet, or 372 loads of timber from the sunken ship that summer, which was deposited at the Portsmouth dockyard. Jones and the other divers were under water for six or seven hours a day and sometimes more, at a depth of 60 or 70 feet. So skillful were the divers at their jobs of working under water that it was reported that "their bundles of staves, casks, or timber [were] as closely packed together, as a woodman would make up his fagots in the open air" [8]. In one haul Lance Corporal Jones sent up 58 such pieces lashed together. Jones was apparently a very intelligent and astute diver who rendered himself eminently useful during the salvage operations. He was the first diver to get to the bottom of the wreck. His work was made that much more difficult by the fact that the larboard (port) side of the wreck, which leaned over when the vessel sank, had fallen to pieces and was buried in the mud. This was the most troublesome part of the work, but Jones, by tact and perseverance, after removing the timbers on that side, got up 300 superficial feet of outside planking covered with copper, under which he found the original ground on which the larboard bilge rested. His exertions during these operations were immense, and the huge pile he recovered was increased by several tons of iron ballast that he also slung [9].

In the course of the third season, Lance Corporal Jones and another diver, Private Skelton, learned a curious fact that before had been unknown to divers. They met at the bottom and to their surprise discovered that when standing close together they could hear each other speak. When Jones first heard Skelton's voice, Skelton was singing:-

Bright, bright are the beams of the morning sky

And sweet are the dews the red blossoms sip.

Unfortunately, they found that their ability to hear each other had no practical use since their continued efforts to speak loudly exhausted them quickly and rendered them unable to hold a conversation This simple incident did show, however, the confidence and coolness of these divers in so novel and hazardous a duty as deep sea diving prior to the middle of the 19th century [10].

Alarming incidents, none of which fortunately proved fatal, did occur to Lance Corporal Jones and to some of the other divers. Jones had his mouth crushed and some of his front teeth broken by an iron dog [11] that he had attached to a bull rope [12]. The rope was holding a heavy load and slipping from its hold it struck him violently under the helmet. At the time he was endeavoring to move a piece of timber from the load he was slinging when a pig of iron ballast [13], weighing about 300 pounds, became dislodged and fell on his helmet. If not for the protection of the diving helmet he would probably have been killed on the spot for the piece of iron made an indentation in the metal of the helmet as large as a man's palm, and nearly an inch deep [14].

During the summer of 1842 a corporal and 23 rank and file (including Lance Corporal R.P. Jones) were again employed at Spithead for now Major General Pasley, in the removal of the wreck of the Royal George. The operations were carried on from the 7th of May to the end of October, again under the executive orders of Lieutenant G.R. Hutchinson, R.E. During this operation Lance Corporal Jones was designated a First Class Diver by virtue of his skill and experience. Described as a "sagacious and indefatigable diver," Jones was the most conspicuous in the detachment for his success at the Royal George wreck. In one day, besides slinging innumerable fragments, he sent up nearly three tons of pig-iron ballast, and with great ingenuity ferreted out the kelson [15] and laid it open for recovery Jones was considered at this point to be one of the best divers in Europe. His daring exploits at the bottom of the sea under a great depth of water with strong tides, and traversing an ocean bottom covered with thick mud and a thousand other obstacles, were constantly recorded in the newspapers of the day and filled the public with wonder [16].

A dangerous and curious incident occurred during the summer of 1842 at Spithead between Lance Corporal Jones and Private Girvan - two rival divers, who in a moment of irritation engaged in a conflict at the bottom of the sea. Both divers had gotten hold of the same floor timber from the wreck which neither would release to the other. Jones at length fearful of a collision with Girvan, who was a powerful man, made his bull-rope fast and attempted to escape. Before he could do so, Girvan seized him by the legs and tried to draw him down. A scuffle ensued and Jones succeeded in extricating his legs from Girvan's grasp. He took a firmer hold of the bull-rope and kicked at Girvan several times with all the strength he could muster in his suspended position. One of the kicks broke an eye lens of Girvan's helmet. Water poured into his diving suit and he would likely have drowned had he not immediately been hauled to the surface. After two or three days at Haslar hospital Girvan recovered, and the two submarine combatants carried on their duties with the greatest cordiality from then on [17].

The fourth season of salvage operations on the Royal George, ended on the second of November 1842. Jones and the rest of the detachment rejoined their company at Chatham.

The salvage operations of the Royal George were resumed for the fifth time early in May of 1943. The detachment for this year consisted of 15 Royal Sappers and Miners, 9 East India Company sappers, and about 90 seamen and riggers under the direction of Major General Pasley, with Lieutenant G.R. Hutchinson, R.E. again as the executive officer. At the start of operations in 1843 only about 50 feet of keel remained on the bottom, along with 23 tons of pig-iron ballast. A bank of shingles [18] blocked easy access to the remainder of the wreck. Corporal Jones and the other divers went down regularly, generally three times a day. The bank of shingle proved to be very difficult, so after a few weeks of unsuccessful effort, three charges of more than 600 pounds of powder were used to remove the obstruction. These charges were fixed by Corporals Jones and Harris and Private Girvan.

On the 17th of July Corporal Jones slung a large piece of iron from the wreck and after having it hoisted on board he noticed marks which indicated that the iron had been in contact with brass. Jones guessed that there might be a brass gun at the spot where he recovered the iron, and after descending again recovered a brass 24-pounder, nine and a half feet long and dated 1748.

On the 31st of July Private Girvan also discovered a gun under the mud, but it was not until the 3rd of' August that he succeeded in slinging it, assisted by Corporal Jones. During this fifth season of operations, Jones and Girvan, despite their previous underwater disagreement, worked well together on the salvage job and were constantly paired together for the work. Shortly after recovering this gun, Corporal Jones recovered the last remnant of the keel, measuring some 21 feet in length.

The divers now increased their efforts to recover more guns. By the end of the operation, Corporal Harris recovered three iron and six brass guns [19], Corporal Jones three brass, and Private Girvan's one iron. While the search for the guns was going on, Major General Pasley detached the lighter Drake to the wreck of the Edgar with 13 petty officers and seamen of Her Majesty's Ship Excellent to learn the art of diving. Corporal Jones was attached to the party as their instructor. Violent gales prevented the accomplishment of much work during the period and only five iron guns of the Edgar were salvaged along with a piece of the keel and floor timber. These were all recovered by Corporal Jones who had also been engaged in finding an anchor that had been lost by the Drake. Private Girvan relieved Corporal Jones on the Edgar on the 16th of October and Jones returned to the Royal George.

The divers descended for the last time on the 4th of November 1843, as the water had become so cold that their hands - the only parts of their bodies exposed underwater became completely numb as they worked. Upon cessation of the operation for 1843 the men of the detachment rejoined their respective companies at Woolwich [20].

Early in May of 1844 Major General Pasley resumed, for the sixth and last time, his salvage operations at Spithead. Lieutenant H.W. Barlow, R.E. was the executive officer under whose charge were placed Sergeant George Lindsay and 13 rank and file of the Royal Sappers and Miners, with a small party of East India Company sappers, and a number of seamen and riggers. The detachment turned its attention to the Edgar which had blown up at Spithead in 1711. Besides innumerable fragments of timber, the wreck contained many guns. Corporal Jones was the first to find one of these. During the season Corporal Jones got up 19 guns besides an immense pile of other articles of endless variety. Considering the very rough weather experienced by the salvage detachment during this season, the efforts of Corporal Jones and the results he achieved were strikingly prominent. Of this work Major General Pasley wrote:-

Whatever success has attended our operations, is chiefly to be attributed to the exertions of Corporal Jones, of whom as a diver I cannot speak too highly.

As a result of the work of Corporal Jones and the other divers, nearly all the guns of the Edgar were recovered that season and deposited in the dockyard before the 31st of October when the season ended. The men of the detachment rejoined their units at Woolwich on the 2nd of November 1844 [21].

3. Service in Hong Kong

With the reputation of being the best diver in Europe, Corporal Jones sailed for China in February of 1845. On the 28th of June 1845 he arrived for duty in Hong Kong. While there, he was awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of one penny per day (l.d.) on the 29th of April 1846 [22]. As a young soldier, Jones apparently had an uncontrollable temper that caused him on one occasion to exhibit highly insubordinate conduct to a superior officer. On the 6th of April 1847, while in the quarters of the Royal Sappers and Miners, Corporal Jones used improper language to a Lieutenant Black while the Lieutenant was in the execution of his duties. Jones was immediately placed under arrest by Lieutenant Black pending trial by court martial. He apparently compounded his problem by being found in possession of a loaded carbine during the period of his arrest, He was tried by court martial at Victoria, Hong Kong on the 13th of April 1847 by order of Major General D'Aguilar, C.B., the commander of troops in China, and was found guilty of' both charges. Apparently it was judged that he had picked up the loaded weapon without any malicious intent because although he was found guilty of unlawfully possessing a weapon while under arrest, it was decided that there was no criminality associated with the act. He was, however, reduced to the rank and pay of a "Private Sentinel"[23]. Although this rank is an unusual one, it may be assumed that he was assigned to a period of permanent guard duty and that he was not allowed to work along side the other men in his unit performing engineering tasks. In addition to a reduction in rank and pay, Jones also forfeited his Good Conduct pay for a minimum period of one year commencing on the 14th of April 1847 [24].

According to Connolly [25], Private Jones was present in the expedition to Canton in April of 1847 and took part in the capture of Boogie and other forts [26]. No mention of his participation in any such operations are mentioned in his service papers [27].

Private Jones mended his ways and had his Good Conduct Pay of l.d. restored to him on the 14th of April 1848. He was promoted again to the rank of Corporal on the 1st of August 1848, was awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 2.d. on the 14th of April 1850, and was finally restored to the rank of Corporal on the 1st of September 1850 [28]. His promotions, according to Connolly, were due to "his energy of character and perseverance" which "brought him again into favour." [29].

4. Return to England

Corporal Jones returned to England from China on the 3rd of May 1851 after serving 5 years and 309 days abroad. During this year a number of non-commissioned officers and men served under the Royal Commissioners performing services in support of the Great Exhibition held that year, Each man so employed received a bronze medal, a certificate signed by Prince Albert, and a present, according to the value of the work performed. Corporal Jones was the recipient of the bronze medal, certificate, and the 5th Class present valued at 10 shillings consisting of a case of draughting instruments [30].

Corporal Jones was awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 3.d. on the 7th of' May 1854 and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 1st of June of the same year [31]. He was assigned to the Royal Engineers establishment at Chatham for a short time where he served as an instructor prior to being posted to the Baltic Fleet for active service in the Russian War [32].

5. Service in the Baltic

Sergeant Jones was posted to the theatre of war in the Baltic with the 2nd Company Royal Sappers and Miners. He took part in the capture of Aland Islands and the demolition of the Forts of Bomarsund. The work of the Sappers and Miners in these operations involved the collecting of' tools and stores, cutting roads, effecting preliminary reconnaissance, building a hospital, providing temporary accommodation for troops, and making fascines and filling gabions to prepare a gun battery. Much of this work was done while under fire from Russian guns. After accomplishing all this work, the Russians in Bomarsund, the principal fort of the Aland Islands, surrendered without much material opposition, and the Russians were marched out as prisoners of war. The sappers were next employed in carrying out mining operations and Forts Prasto, Tzee, Nottich, and Bomarsund were blown up by mines laid and fired by Jones and the other men of his company. In these operations Sergeant Jones was employed in his primary military trade as a Miner and was specifically commended by Brigadier H.D. Jones, R.E. "for his general diligence and intelligence, as well in the general operations as in the special one of diving." [33]

The diving operations referred to by Brigadier Jones consisted of assisting naval divers to recover guns from H.M.S. Penelope that had gone aground on an uncharted rock off Bomarsund. Her crew had thrown her armament overboard in an attempt to save the ship. Several naval divers attached to the Baltic fleet were employed to bring them up, but as some submarine difficulties prevented the speedy accomplishment of the undertaking, the expertise of Sergeant Jones was necessary. Jones was able to recover five 8-inch guns and one 10-inch gun from the ocean bottom.

6. Service in the Crimea

Quitting the Baltic Sea in the Cumberland, Sergeant Jones and the rest of the 2nd Company returned to Woolwich on the 16th of October 1854, only to be despatched back to Turkey before two months had passed. According to Jones's discharge papers, he spent a period of time in the Crimea, from the 28th of January 1 956 to the 27th of May 1856 [34].

7. Service at Corfu

On the 3rd of June 1856, after the end of hostilities in the Crimea, Sergeant Jones was posted to Corfu after serving 118 days in the theatre of war [35]. At this point Sergeant Jones was no longer a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Sappers and Miners, but rather he was now part of the Royal Engineers. This change came about in the following way. The gallant services of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners were rewarded at the close of the Crimean War by the grant of the title Royal Engineers. In the London Gazette of the I 7th of October 1856 the change was thus announced:-

The Queen has been graciously pleased to direct that the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners shall henceforward be denominated the Corps of Royal Engineers.

This reorganization put the non-commissioned officers and other ranks in the same Corps as the officers. As a consequence of this royal grant the rank and file were no longer known as Privates, but Sappers. The royal grant had no effect on the ranks above Sapper. Each man was also issued a Regimental Number. Sergeant Jones was given the number 1861.

For his service in the Russian War Sergeant Jones was awarded the Baltic Medal which he received on the 1st of November 1858 while aboard H.M.S. Duke of Wellington serving temporarily on that ship as a Bombardier [36]. Although his discharge papers indicated that he served in the Crimea, there is no indication that he was awarded the Crimean War Medal. On the 1st of April 1861 Jones was promoted to the rank of Colour Sergeant [37].

8. Home to England

Colour Sergeant Jones returned home to England on the 5th of August 1861 after serving a total of 5 years and 63 days at Corfu [38]. He was assigned to the 9th Company, Royal Engineers. He had by this time served over 21 years with the Colours and decided he would take his discharge from the Army. On the 13th of November 1861 a Regimental Board convened at Westminster to consider the discharge of Colour Sergeant Jones, who by this time was credited with 22 years and 192 days with the Colours.

The discharge board was made up of three officers: Captain W.C. Philipotts, R.E., President, and Lieutenants E.T. Brooke, R.E. and W.J. Carroll, R.E., Members. The Board noted that Colour Sergeant Jones's conduct had been "exemplary" and that he was in possession of three good conduct badges when promoted to the rank of Sergeant. The Board also noted that Jones would have been entitled to Good Conduct Pay at 5.d. on the 13th of April 1861 [39]. The details of his trial by court martial in Hong Kong were also included with the proceedings of discharge.

The Board verified that Jones's records were correct and forwarded them to Lieutenant Colonel Loftman Nicholson, R.E., who confirmed the correctness of the Board's report. Colour Sergeant Jones's discharge was approved on the 16th of November 1861 by the Assistant Adjutant General, Royal Engineers.

9. Discharge

Jones served an additional 13 days following the convening of the Discharge Board so that when he was finally discharged at London on the 26th of November 1861 he had served a total of 22 years and 205 days. At the time of his discharge Richard P. Jones was 40 years and 4 months of age. He was described as being 5 feet 7-1/2 inches tall, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair. His trade was given as "Miner."

Jones's intended place of residence after leaving the Army was listed as the Military Store Department, Pimlico, London. Apparently he chose to continue working for the Army as a civilian. In December of 1870 he was still employed as a Military Store Clerk, however, he was then working in Malta [40].


1. W.O. Form 83. Proceedings of the Regimental Discharge Board, 13 November 1861 (WO97/1361).
2. Letts Roadbook of Britain, London, 1977, p. 6.
3. W.O. Form 83.
4. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
5. CONNOLLY, Volume I, p. 325.
6. Ibid., pp. 326-327.
7. Ibid., p. 334.
8. Ibid., p. 348.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid., p. 349.
11. An iron bar to support the end of a log or timber.
12. The rope connecting the diver to the vessel on the surface.
13. An oblong mass of unforged metal.
14. CONNOLLY, Volume I, pp. 349-350.
15. Also spelled keelson; the ship’s inner keel which binds the floor timbers to the outer keel.
16. CONNOLLY, Volume I, pp. 364-365.
17. Ibid., p. 366.
18. Used in this context, a bank of shingle is a bank of gravel or stones.
19. CONNOLLY, Volume II, p. 23. Corporal Harris fell into a nest of guns, and it was agreed upon that each first-class diver should have his own area at the bottom in which to work, without interference from other divers.
20. Ibid., pp. 19-22.
21. Ibid., pp. 33-34.
22. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
23. W.O. Form 83.
24. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
25. CONNOLLY, Volume II, pp. 34-35.
26. Connolly may be in error here, as these operations actually took place during the First China War, 1840-1842. Jones was not in China at that time.
27. It should be noted that Jones’s service papers are incomplete. There is no Military History Sheet available on which this campaign service would be noted.
28. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
29. CONNOLLY, Volume II, p. 35.
30. Ibid., p. 313. A full description of the service performed by the Royal Sappers and Miners at the Great Exhibition can also be found in Connolly, Volume II, pp. 140-159.
31. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
32. Ibid.
33. CONNOLLY, Volume II, p. 219. Details of the operations at the Aland Islands and Bomarsund can also be found in this reference, pp. 215-219, and in the History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, Volume I, pp. 419-420.
34. It should be noted here that Jones’s date of service in the Crimea, as shown on his discharge papers, are at odds with Connolly’s description of his service. Furthermore, the dates of authorization of the Baltic Medal (March 1854 to August 1855) are at odds with his discharge papers.
35. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
36. Ship’s Medal Roll, HMS Duke of Wellington (ADM171/20).
37. Statement of Services (WO97/1361).
38. Ibid.
39. After attaining the rank of Sergeant, non-commissioned officers were not entitled to further Good Conduct Badges or pay.
40. W.O. Form 83. Final Description (WO97/1361).


1. W.O. Form 83. Proceedings of the Regimental Discharge Board, 13 November 1861 (WO97/1361).
2. Letts Roadbook of Britain, London, 1977.
3. W097/1361. Statement of Services.
4. CONNOLLY, T.W.J. The History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners. Volumes I and 11. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855.
5. PORTER, W. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume 1. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1951.
6. Medal Roll, HMS Duke of Wellington (ADM171/20).
7. W.O.Form 83. Final Description (WO97/1361).
8. Medal Roll, Royal Engineers and Royal Sappers and Miners Entitled to the Baltic Medal. Orders and Medals Research Society Journal, London, 19__.