Victoria Cross for Runcorn Private
The story of how 'Todger' Jones went into battle

One of the most remarkable feats of daring ever recorded during the First World War was that of Private Thomas Alfred Jones, of Runcorn, an infantryman with the 1st Cheshire Regiment.

'Todger', as he was known, was thirty-five and had survived most of his immediate comrades by the time that the Cheshires captured the village of Morval during the dreadful battle of the Somme in 1916. Todger, it seems, was one of the many disgruntled soldiers who, in equal measure, cursed their fate and the new influx of young officers drafted from other units and who knew nothing of the traditions of the Cheshires.

When cogitating all this, Todger was hailed by Runner Kenworthy, a young friend of his who had recently come up to the position. 'It's a great day today, Todger,' he said. 'It's my eighteenth birthday.' These were the last words uttered by Runner Kenworthy for in that instance he was struck by a German bullet and fell dead.

Todger was horrified and filled with hatred for the enemy he walked steadily out into No Man's Land. No-one saw him go and no-one gave him permission. A German sniper sitting in a tree shot at him, but only ripped his tunic. He had no second chance and fell to Todger's rifle.

His fate was shared by two other snipers by which time the Cheshire man was through the German's front line. What he intended to do, he had no idea, but spurred on by the death of his young friend he pressed on to the trench before him. Three more fell to his fire as the demoralised remnants of the German line dived into a dugout. Todger had expended his grenades earlier in the day and having no desire to climb down after them, he helped himself to an enemy stick bomb and hurtled it in after them.

Suddenly an extremely frightened German climbed out of the dugout and said in broken English that he and his comrades wished to surrender. Seeing no other course, Todger ordered them to come out one by one, stipulating that if any man carried a weapon he would be shot instantly. To his horror the stream of men seemed never ending, until at last over 120 officers and men stood in the hollow behind the trench, their hands above their heads.

Todger's relief was considerable when a sergeant and another friend appeared, determined to find him, or his body. Together they managed to shepherd the prisoners back to the British lines and Todger Jones' name became immortalised in annals of the Cheshire Regiment.

He was later awarded the VC and after the Armistice he was presented to King George V on His Majesty's visit to Runcorn.