Date of birth: 25 April 1870
Date of death 31 October 1916
Died of wounds aged 46
Buried in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery VII B 10
John Maclean Rolls was born in London, the son of John Alan Rolls, 1st Baron Llangattock JP,DL, and his wife Georgiana Marcia, daughter of Sir Charles Fitzroy Maclean 9th Bt.
His father was M.P. for Monmouthshire 1880-1892, High Sheriff, Captain in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars and Hon. Colonel 4th Welsh Brigade, Mayor of Monmouth.
Like his father, he was educated at Eton and Christ Church. He graduated BA in 1893, BCL (Bachelor of Civil Law) in 1895, and MA in 1896. He was called to the Bar in 1895, and admitted to the Inner Temple in 1896.
He served for several years with the 1st Monmouth Volunteer Artillery, retiring with the rank of Captain and Hon Major.
John was High Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1900 and Mayor of Monmouth in 1906-7. He was also a JP, a Deputy Lieutenant and County Councillor for Monmouthshire. Vice-Chairman of the Monmouth Board of Guardians; President of Llandaff Choral Society and Honorary Secretary of Monmouth Musical Society. He was a brilliant musician and one of the finest amateur organists in Great Britain. He inherited the title in 1912 on his father’s death.
In January 1915 he re-joined the 4th Welsh Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, gained the rank of Major, and served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. He was wounded while on observation duty during the Battle of the Somme, died at the Military Hospital, Boulogne, and was buried there.
His Brigade Commander wrote: “We are all dreadfully sorry to hear his wound has proved fatal. We all feel his loss, and in the short time he was with us realised what a hard and conscientious worker he was. If it is any comfort for you to know, we all realized the great sacrifice he made in coming out at all, and also that all officers sincerely regret his loss and thoroughly appreciate what he did for his country.”
A former Commanding Officer wrote: “He could have accepted less dangerous work, but he and his battery had done so well in the training that, having been selected as the 1st Battery in the Division for efficiency, he felt it his duty to go our with the battery. The country, county and brigade have lost in Major Lord Llangattock a well-tried and sincere friend.”
A brother officer wrote: “We all feel his loss very deeply. When wounded, his first thoughts were for us all, being most concerned lest he should be giving us trouble. He always shared our trials, which were many during the short time we have been out, and he always had a forethought for our welfare during these trying days and nights which a battery has to undergo whilst on active service. The battery has lost a good Commander, and a true friend that it would be impossible to replace. I announced to the men on parade that the Major’s last words were: ‘Cease firing!’ They were all deeply moved. Those words are the last order a Battery Commander gives at the end of an artillery action.”
One of his men wrote: “A gallant officer and gentleman, but first of all a friend he was to me. The whole battery mourns him. Everyone here loved him, he was simply the father of all, his one thought being for the welfare and comfort of all of us. He died as he had lived, doing his duty, and never lived a more conscientious man. To me he was just splendid, and I cannot describe the emptiness of everything.
John did not marry, his younger brother Henry Allan Rolls, the heir presumptive, died earlier in 1916, and his youngest brother, Charles Rolls, of Rolls Royce fame, had been killed in an air crash near Bournemouth in 1910; thus the title became extinct.
His estate was valued at more than £1.1 million. His sister Eleanor Shelley-Rolls was the main beneficiary, inheriting the estate and the family house, The Hendre, and he bequeathed £100,000 to the Archdeaconry of Monmouth.
Registered Charity Number: 1143423