James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Telegrams and death

On Tuesday, 28 September 1915 a telegram was sent to W. P. Owen, solicitor, 3 Baker Street, Aberystwyth.

Regret to inform you that Lieut. W. H. K. Owen admitted to 2 Red Cross Hospital Rouen seriously ill with gunshot wound buttock. Further news will be wired as received. It is regretted that permission to visit cannot be granted.
That same day:
Regret to inform you that Lieut. W. H. K. Owen’s condition reported today as dangerous. Further reports will be wired as received. It is regretted that permission to visit cannot be granted.
The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, 8 October 1915 (view here) describes how his mother left by the mail train for France that evening. Despite the help of people such as Sister Agnes Gilbertson, Sir Richard Mathias and Major Mathias and their Paris agent (Mr. Jenkins), she did not reach the hospital until Thursday evening but she "had the consolation of seeing her boy before he died. He was able to recognise his mother and express his joy at seeing her as well as to ask of his fathers welfare. He died in her arms, his last words being the motto of his regiment - "Gwell Angau na Chywilydd" (Better death than dishonour)." His mother attended his military funeral before returning on the Monday, by which time his father had received the following telegram:
Deeply regret to inform you that Lieut. W. H. K. Owen 9th Welsh Regiment died of wounds 12.35 a.m. 1st October at No. 2 Red Cross Hospital Rouen. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.
Billy was 21. His effects, sent back to England by Cox’s Shipping Agency Ltd., consisted of two books (‘The Great Shadow’ and ‘The Translation of a Savage’), two handkerchiefs and pouch, a six inch ruler, correspondence, photographs and one unopened letter to William Pierce Owen.

The above report includes extracts from two letters from the Front. Sir Edward Pryse wrote of Billy's gallantry, describing how "The regiment was enfiladed by machine guns from both sides and shot at from the front as well as by high explosive shells, one of which wiped out a whole platoon. He did not believe one man in a million could have crossed the fire zone." Billy's cousin, Vernon Elias Owen, had written to his own father that "he and Lieut. Owen were in the thick of the fighting, and had an awful time of it. He was happily safe and well. The battalion had to retire or it would have been cleared up. There was a hitch somewhere. "Billy" (Lieut. Owen) was fighting on his right like a, regular hero, but he had been told that he was wounded."