South East Wales

Armistice Day funeral for Pontypool D-Day paratrooper

Donald Jones

The funeral of a D-Day paratrooper has taken place at the same time as the rest of the nation marked Armistice Day.

Donald Jones's funeral started at Gwent Crematorium at 11:00 GMT to commemorate his wartime service.

Mr Jones, of Pontypool, Torfaen, died shortly before his 94th birthday.

He parachuted into Normandy on 6 June 1944 and helped liberate the first French village to be freed from German occupation.

Mr Jones continued to return to France as recently as last summer, and earlier this year received the country's highest award, the Légion d'honneur.

One of his daughters, Jan Tucker-Jones, said he had not talked about his wartime experiences when she was a child.

But in later years he became more involved in D-Day commemorations in Normandy.

"He went this June and he would have gone next year if he could have done," said Mrs Tucker-Jones.

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Media captionMr Jones' son, Richard, said he never spoke about the experience until he went to Normandy for the D-Day commemorations

His son, Richard Jones, said his father had been happiest when visiting Normandy in recent years.

"That's why this ceremony today has had a slightly wartime, French theme to it," he said.

"He did have an affinity with the people of Normandy. They all treated him with such respect, all the veterans who go there are treated with respect."

Mr Jones's unit, 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion, were taken to the south of England and briefed on their D-Day mission - to secure land around the River Orne and Caen canal bridges.

They flew over Normandy in the early hours of 6 June with anti-aircraft shells exploding around them.

Last year, he told the South Wales Argus: "They were the most beautiful patterns dancing around the sky. It was like being at Blackpool for a display - but so much more dangerous."

Mr Jones, then aged 21, and his battalion helped liberate the village of Ranville.

His first contact with the enemy saw him firing his pistol at an approaching figure who failed to answer when he called out the password "overlord".

Mr Jones was injured in the leg by shrapnel and shipped back to England the next day. He returned to Normandy in August, but was back in the UK the next month.

After his military discharge, he was employed at Llanwern steelworks in Newport. He married Marjorie, who died eight years ago.

His children Janet, Alison and Richard arranged the funeral for 11 November. Another daughter Pamela died two years ago. Mr Jones also had nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

He continued to return to Ranville for D-day commemorations, and last January he and 11 other veterans received the Légion d'honneur in a ceremony at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff.

His daughter Alison Sutcliffe, of Pontypool, said: "He was a wonderful character, very knowledgeable and interested in everything."

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