Grandson tells the story of heroic Great War Pal
THE Great War diaries of a Liverpool “Pal” who was raised in Ormskirk and attended Ormskirk Grammar School have been published by his grandson.
Eric Rigby-Jones was just 16 when the war broke out.
The privately educated son of the owner of Ormskirk’s rope works later signed up to join the Army and became a Second Lieutenant with the Liverpool Rifles in 1915, a month before he turned 18.
He was transferred to the Liverpool Pals when he arrived in France at the beginning of 1917 and, that April, went into battle with them for the first time at Arras.
By then a captain, Eric was the only officer in his battalion to fight throughout the six weeks of the German Spring Offensive in 1918, before being invalided home.
He was presented with the Military Cross and Bar for his bravery by the King at Buckingham Palace a week after his 21st birthday.
“After my father died, I found my grandfather’s letters and diaries in the old cigar box where they had always been kept,” said John Rigby-Jones, author of Best Love To All - The Letters And Diaries Of Captain Eric RigbyJones Military Cross and Bar and his Experiences as a Young Officer with the Liverpool Pals on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918.
“Reading them helped me to connect with my grandfather, who died before I was born.
“He signed many of his letters ‘best love to all’ – hence the title of the book.
“It helped me understand what he was like in his youth.
“I’m told he never spoke of his experiences after the war and that in later life he could often appear remote.
“One particular account of being sent on what he thought was a suicide mission in March 1918 always makes me cry.
“I am just amazed that he managed to survive.
“To have been through all that by the time he reached his 21st birthday… I find it staggering.”
John realised his grandfather’s papers were worth sharing with a wider audience, and secured a book deal with Helion and Company Ltd – one of the world’s largest military history publishers.
He has visited the battlefields where Eric RigbyJones fought and read battalion diaries as part of his painstaking research.
He said: “Lord Derby’s younger brother, Brigadier Stanley, was the commanding officer of the Pals.
“He wrote in an appendix to his history of the Liverpool Pals that only four of those who served with the Pals were awarded the Military Cross and Bar.
“I feel proud that my grandfather was one of those people; he was an exceptional man.”
John plans to bequeath his grandfather’s medals to the Museum of Liverpool.
The Oxford graduate, who retired in 2015 and lives in Surrey, is now writing a second book that explores what happened to his grandfather after the war.
He says: “It’s another extraordinary story that again deserves to be told,
“He became a leading industrialist in Ireland and founded his company, Irish Ropes, in the disused British cavalry barracks in Newbridge, Co Kildare in 1933.”
Best Love To All is available at www. helion.co.uk and on Amazon.