Jeremiah "Jerry" Alvin Jones (March 30, 1858 - November 23, 1950) was a Black Canadian soldier who served in World War I. He was apparently recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal but there is no record of his having received it. His treatment has been seen as an example of the lack of recognition accorded to Black Canadian soldiers. Campaigns to have him receive the medal posthumously eventually resulted in his being awarded the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service on February 22, 2010.
1 Military service
2 Campaigns for recognition
3 Posthumous recognition
Jones enlisted as a private with the 106th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles), CEF on June 19, 1916 in Truro, Nova Scotia. 716221 Private Jeremiah (Jerry) Jones served in France with The Royal Canadian Regiment. He joined the regiment in the field on 9 Feb 1917 and was evacuated (wounded) to England on 12 April 1917.
During the Battle of Vimy Ridge in World War I, Canadian troops were pinned down by German machine gun fire. Jones volunteered to attack a German gun emplacement. He managed to reach the machine gun nest, tossed a hand grenade and killed several soldiers. The remainder surrendered to him and Jones forced his captives to carry the machine gun back across the battlefield to the Canadian lines, where they were ordered to deposit it at his commanding officer's feet. For his heroics, Private Jones was reportedly recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) which he was never awarded.
Jones was wounded in action at Vimy Ridge and again at the Battle of Passchendaele. He was discharged in Halifax on May 8, 1918 after being found medically unfit to serve.
Jones never actually received the DCM, although it was widely reported at the time that he was recommended for it by his commanding officer. Several veterans have since supported the claim that Jones was to be awarded the DCM, but no records have surfaced to prove that he ever received it.
Campaigns for recognition
Over the years, The Truro Daily News has published several articles highlighting Jones' heroics on the battlefield and his recommendation for the DCM. A letter from a Truro soldier based in Witley Camp, Surrey, England on July 29, 1917, that was published in the Truro Daily News, quoted the writer as saying, Jones, "had captured a German machine gun, forced the crew to carry it back to our lines, and, depositing it at the feet of the CO. said;- 'Is this thing any good?'"
On September 21, 1917, Jones's sister Martha told The Truro Daily News said that Jones "won the DCM by capturing a German machine gun and crew". The newspaper once again alluded to the medal recommendation, in an article on Jerry's 79th birthday. This time they reported “His valor won for him a recommendation for the DCM"
For most of his adult life, Senator Calvin Ruck lobbied to get the Canadian government to award a medal posthumously to Jerry Jones. Senator Ruck argued that the racist climate of the time precluded Jones or other black soldiers from getting their due recognition, and he felt that it would be appropriate for the government to award the medal to Jones on behalf of all black veterans. Senator Ruck died in 2004, without achieving success.
On September 9, 2000, The Last Post Fund erected a new grave stone for Jones with full military honours. The Truro Millennium Committee, 125th Anniversary Committee and The Jones Family sponsored a tree carving of Jones as part of the Truro Tree Sculpture Project, in November 2000.
The Canadian Government finally recognized Jeremiah "Jerry" Jones, posthumously, on February 22, 2010, with the awarding of the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service.[Trident 1] Rear Admiral Paul Maddison, Commander, Maritime Forces Atlantic/Joint Task Force Atlantic, said "Today, on behalf of General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, I feel extremely privileged to finally acknowledge the gallantry of private Jeremiah Jones on the hills of Vimy Ridge in 1917 during the first world war."
Jeremiah married Ethel Edna Geraldine Cook from Amherst, Nova Scotia on March 30, 1898. They remained married until her death on February 12, 1940. The couple had 9 children. Jeremiah's grandson was the well-known Nova Scotia activist Rocky Jones (from his son Elmer Alvin Jones).