Annie Roberts

(1889-1962) – Widowed a day after her sister

Annie was a servant at Bonallack, Constantine before she married John Henry Roberts in 1914. He joined the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers and, by a sad coincidence, was killed the day after his brother-in-law. Unlike her younger sister Lily, Annie never remarried and brought up her young daughter alone.

Credit: Constantine Museum

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Annie and Lily were the daughters of Edward and Grace Ellen Evans.  Edward Evans and his wife lived at Job’s Water and his occupation was given as farm labourer.  Later on Edward owned a quarry there and lived at Ethnevas. At the time of the 1911 census Annie was a servant at Bonallack and Lily a servant at Maine Pearne, both farms in Constantine parish. 

The sisters both married stonemasons working in the Constantine granite quarries; Lily first in 1913 and her older sister Annie the following year.  John Henry Roberts, Annie’s husband, was born in Maine, America where his stepfather, Edward Phillips, worked as a stonemason. Each marriage produced a daughter.   

John Henry joined the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers but was killed on the 3rd of June 1918, the day after his brother-in-law, John James Symonds, who was a sapper for the Royal Engineers.  This double bereavement was reported in the local newspapers before details had been confirmed.  The sub-heading read (incorrectly), ‘Two Constantine Sisters Lose Their Husbands on the Same Day’.

The paper details how people were informed of the death of loved ones in the First World War:

‘Mrs Roberts, of Comfort, was the first to be informed of the sad fate of her husband, Private John Henry Roberts, in France.  The news was conveyed to her on Friday in a letter from a comrade... The official intimation arrived on Tuesday, and by the same post Mrs Roberts' sister Mrs J.J. Symonds, of Windy-terrace was officially notified that her husband, Sapper John James Sumonds, was killed on the very same day that his brother-in-law made the supreme Sacrifice'. 

Sapper J.J.Symonds, of the Railway Construction Company of the Royal Engineers, was actually killed on 2nd June 1918, and is buried at Longpre-les-Amiens Communal Cemetery.  Private J.H. Roberts, of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed the following day when his trench was heavily shelled by the Germans.  He is buried at Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery in Belgium.

Unlike her younger sister Lily, Annie never remarried and brought up her young daughter, Ermytrude Lilian, alone.  The wreath she put on the war memorial on 2 January 1920 read ‘To memory ever dear, to dear Jack, from his sorrowing wife and little Ermy’.  

Key words: casualty

Credit: Constantine Museum.  Photos show the Roberts family and John James Symonds.