William Daniel Jones joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers on 15 February 1940, and upon completion of his training he was posted to the 10th Battalion. In August 1942 this unit was chosen to become the 6th (Royal Welch) Parachute Battalion and ‘Daniel’ was one of those who volunteered to remain with the battalion and help form the new unit.
He attended parachute course 23, at RAF Ringway, between 17 – 23 August 1942. This was the conversion course for the unit, in which there were nine officers and nearly two hundred Other Ranks.
When he was home on leave from the parachute course he hid his beret and his ‘wings’ from his mother, because she was not well and he didn’t want to alarm her. She died in September 1942.
He sailed to North Africa in May 1943, along with other elements of the 2nd Parachute Brigade, of which the 6th Parachute Battalion was a part, to join up with the 1st Parachute Brigade and the rest of the 1st Airborne Division.
The battalion was not used in the North African campaign, which finished as they arrived there, but trained hard for the forthcoming operations in Sicily. Again, they were not used, but soon after the completion of the Sicilian campaign they took part in Operation ‘Slapstick’. This was the landing in the port of Taranto from a fleet of Cruisers on the night of the 9 – 10 September 1943.
The ship they were on, HMS Abdiel, hit a mine as it entered the grand harbour and sank very quickly. Over fifty men from the battalion were killed, as were many others aboard from other units, and some of the ship’s crew.
As a consequence the battalion was not immediately available for the actions in Italy, but were very quickly re-equipped, and took their place ‘in-the-line’ on the 17 – 18 September 1943.
In November/December 1943 the rest of the 1st Airborne Division returned to the UK and the 2nd Parachute Brigade was left behind in Italy to become an Independent formation. As such in the first half of 1944 they were used ‘in-the-line’, including the Cassino sector.
6th Para Bn’s first task at Cassino was to reconnoitre the far side of the Garigliano river before sending over fighting patrols. Their predecessors had clearly never been across and were unable to tell them the extent of the minefields. Following this they relieved the New Zealanders in the mountains. Supply was by nightly mule train but some positions could only be resupplied by man-packing. One night Lieutenant Pearson and Acting Sergeant Jones of C Company were sent out with a party to find a path through a minefield between the battalion and the Germans. He took sappers and mine detectors, but an exploding mine wounded four of his party, damaging all the detectors. As Pearson started to lead the party home, crawling on all fours he knelt on a mine which blew off both his legs below the knees. He lost consciousness, came to shortly, and directed the party to collect the other wounded but not himself. Jones and the remainder refused to leave him and he was lifted out protesting. He was carried for hours on the back of a mule. Despite the terrible pain he encouraged the other wounded. He was awarded the MC and Jones the MM. The brigade spent nearly two months in the Cassino area, being withdrawn at the end of May 1944.
At some stage between the action in which he was awarded the Military Medal and the battalion being withdrawn ‘out-of-the-line’ A/Sergeant Jones was taken prisoner. During the patrol when this happened they had been cut-off from their own ‘lines’ by the Germans and they fired the Bren gun until all the ammunition was exhausted and then dismantled it and threw the parts at the Germans in defiance!
A/Sergeant Jones was sent to a POW Camp in Germany, Stalag 7A, and was given POW No. 131061.
After returning from the POW Camp he was discharged from the Regular Army on 14 May 1946.
William Daniel Jones died on 14 February 1997.
By Bob HiltonRead More