Jones, David (1895–1974) By Gossedge, Rob
David Jones, the poet, painter and engraver, was born in Brockley, Kent, in 1895. He was the youngest son of James Jones, a printer’s overseer from North Wales, and Alice Bradshaw, a former governess and talented amateur artist of Anglo-Italian descent. Although his family was English-speaking and Low Church in religious practice, from an early age Jones was drawn to the culture of his father’s Welsh ancestors, and to the rituals of the Catholic Church (he was to convert in 1921). Both influences would prove crucial to Jones’s maturity as both artist and writer.
In January 1915, after several years training as an artist at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, Jones enlisted in the ‘London Welsh’ battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and served as a private until the end of the First World War. He was wounded in the leg during the assault on Mametz Wood, as part of the 1916 Somme Offensive. These experiences would serve as the narrative basis of his first major literary work, In Parenthesis (1937). Though that title was meant to convey his understanding of the war as a kind of parenthesized experience for him and his fellow amateur soldiers, he remained, artistically, unable to step outside of its brackets, and each of his major subsequent works would be shaped by his time in the trenches.