Robert Bob Jones
FIRST JOB: Apprentice Carpenter and Joiner aged 16years
MEDICAL: Bob suffered from Rickets as a child and wore leg irons until he
Following the loss of so many young lives during the First World War, taken from our villages and Towns around the country, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the Government ensured that men and women from the north supplemented the Regiments in the South who had paid a massive price, and Bob was one such recruit.
On the 16th of December 1940 at the age of 19, Bob was posted to the 70th Dorset Regiment based in Bournemouth.
GLIDER PILOT TRAINING
After training and settling into the life of the Dorset’s, Bob remembers:
Bob asked if they paid any extra money, and was told an extra 7/6d a week. Bob said " an extra 7/6, well you can stick my name down, and while your at it stick my mates name down as well, as he'll be coming through the door any minute as he's as thick as me". And that according to Bob is how he became a Paratrooper. For years afterwards his mate would always blame Bob for not being able to spell Trigonometry, cause if he could they would have been pilots.
He was simply failed for this one glitch in his otherwise thorough testing procedures in the art of flying a Horsa Glider.
Following his failure to get into the Glider Regiment, Bob was posted to the Royal Engineers at Kitchener Barracks in Chatham in March of 1942. There he trained to become an engineer.
It was while he was at Chatham that he was told he had been selected for Parachute training and went off to Ringway for his parachute course which he passed successfully.
He was then posted to Bulford Barracks from where he jumped in to North Africa. On their return they found themselves off again, attacking Terranto Harbour in Italy, on the 5th of September 1943. The strange thing with this particular attack was they did it by boat.
On their return from the successful operation in Italy on the 14th of December 1943 to Liverpool, Major Murray formed the 1st Division of The Parachute Regiment.
The 1st Parachute Squadron were made up of 3 troops, with 40 men in each troop. "HQ troop was made up of all the odds and sods, and lads recovering from injuries they had received in some of the battles" remembers Bob
D DAY PREPARATION
Whilst at Donnington in Lincolnshire, between the 6th of June 1944 and the 17th of September 1944, their unit had 16 operations cancelled, where they had been briefed, and in some cases loaded on the aircraft ready to go, with the Op cancelled without any reason given.
It was at 02.07 hrs on Sunday the 17th of September 1944 that 160 men of the 1st Parachute Squadron parachuted onto the DZ at Hilshum near Arnhem. The ground fire was spasmodic and very ineffective remembers Bob.
"We got to the Bridge at about 6pm that day with elements of the 2nd Battalion. I remember only to well, taking over a house on the orders of a Captain Eric McKay next to the bridge. He ordered us to make the place ready as our fire position, and he instructed us to knock out all the glass from the windows. We finished doing that, and then he realised there were too many of us for this one small house so we left. The damage we caused still makes me smile today.
We found a Girls School on the embankment which we fortified and put a ring of steel around as the alternative to the house."
"It was at the school that we realised we had come unstuck, the Krauts started shelling us with phosphorus shells. The crafty bugger’s, shelled the building either side of us, causing us to not only have incoming shells, but also serious fires on either side of us. It was at this stage that I was temporarily blinded by phosphorous, I was taken down into the basement near the road ramp of the bridge. It was later that I was moved into trenches that had been dug outside. It was here that we were captured and taken as POW’s to a vegetable warehouse. The Krauts lined us all up and checked our pockets. They then interviewed us separately, asking for our name, rank and number. They knew we had embarked from Donnington and had been involved in the attacks at both North Africa and Italy previously.
CATTLE TRUCKS – ARNHEM
"A lot of people don’t know this, but we were placed into cattle trucks at Arnhem and kept there for days. It was rough, and we were poorly treated with hardly any food. We were eventually moved to STALAG 12 A in Limberg in Germany. We were then moved to Mulberg and STALAG 4B and then after a short period moved again to STALAG 4D, until our liberation by the Russians in 1945."
RETURN TO ENGLAND
On his return to England Bob as a B1 Trade Chippy within the Royal Engineers was released from service.
Bob found the civvy street side of life a bit more daunting when he came out of the Army, carrying out some 35 jobs in his time, as a hotelier and Publican to name just two. He enjoyed his last 10 years working for W.H.SMITH’s as a night packer in Birmingham, ensuring the daily papers were delivered on time!!
Compiled and written by Gil Boyd B.E.M