Grand­son tells the story of heroic Great War Pal

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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.

Eric Rigby Jones leads the Vic­tory Day pa­rade in Orm­skirk, left and, above his grand­son has pub­lished let­ters telling of his wartime ex­pe­ri­ences

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