Robert Jones was born on 5 January 1887 at Murton Colliery. He was the eldest son of Edward, a coal miner and timber drawer, and his wife Mary, and had two younger brothers, James and Arthur. By the age of fourteen, Jones was working as a pupil teacher at a local school.
In 1906 he enrolled at Bede College, where he achieved second class results in his first year. After completing his training in July 1908 Jones became a certified elementary school teacher at the Station Town Council School in Hutton Henry, and settled in Thornley where he lived with his wife, Jane Ann, whom he married in 1910. The couple later moved to Barnard Castle, and had two children, Edward and Mary. Jane re-married after the war, but remained in Barnard Castle.
Following the outbreak of war, Jones enlisted in West Hartlepool with the 18th ‘Pals’ Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. The battalion embarked on active service on 5 December 1915 when they set sail for Egypt. They arrived in Port Said on 21 December, and for the months they were in Egypt their duties involved reconstructing Gurkha trenches and building light railways. They remained there until the spring of 1916 when they embarked for Marseilles, arriving on 11 March. The battalion then journeyed northwards to the Somme region, in preparation for the planned summer offensive.
On the 27 July 1916, the Pals received an order to relieve the 14th York and Lancaster Regiment of their duties in the Neuve-Chappelle sector. This was done by noon, and the battalion spent the remainder of the day repairing damage to the trenches there. A bombardment of mortars began early in the evening and finished at 19:30. After two hours of respite, an even heavier bombardment began. During this time Jones was the Acting Sergeant-Major of C Company, whose trench “suffered heavily” under the bombardment. In his history of 18 DLI, W.D. Lowe recalls that fifty German soldiers attempted to breach C Company’s trench that night and eleven of them succeeded. The attack finally ceased at 01:30 by which time Jones and seventy-eight others had been killed. The Bede magazine reported in its December issue that he was killed by the raiders after being wounded twice, and remembered him as “a splendid man. He was endeavouring to reach his post during a heavy bombardment, and his devotion to duty was undoubtedly the cause of his being killed”.
Robert Jones is buried in the St Vaast Post Military Cemetery in Richebourg-L’Avoue, and his name is to be found on the the Bede College 1914-1918 Cross, Plaque, and Roll of Honour, as well as the Durham County Council war memorials.