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Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Jones VC OBE (May 14, 1940 – May 28, 1982), who disliked his first name and was therefore known to his men and the public as H. Jones, was a posthumous British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Jones was born in Putney to a wealthy family, and attended Eton College. He joined the British Army on leaving school and by 1982 had reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, During the Falklands War he was in command of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment when the deed described below took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 28th May 1982 Lieutenant Colonel Jones was commanding 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment on operations on the Falkland Islands. The Battalion was ordered to attack enemy positions in and around the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green.
During the attack against an enemy who was well dug in with mutually supporting positions sited in depth, the Battalion was held up just South of Darwin by a particularly well-prepared and resilient enemy position of at least eleven trenches on an important ridge. A number of casualties were received. In order to read the battle fully and to ensure that the momentum of his attack was not lost, Colonel Jones took forward his reconnaissance party to the foot of a re-entrant which a section of his Battalion had just secured. Despite persistent, heavy and accurate fire the reconnaissance party gained the top of the re-entrant, at approximately the same height as the enemy positions. From here Colonel Jones encouraged the direction of his Battalion mortar fire, in an effort to neutralise the enemy positions. However, these had been well prepared and continued to pour effective fire onto the Battalion advance, which, by now held up for over an hour and under increasingly heavy artillery fire, was in danger of faltering.
In his effort to gain a good viewpoint, Colonel Jones was now at the very front of his Battalion. It was clear to him that desperate measures were needed in order to overcome the enemy position and rekindle the attack, and that unless these measures were taken promptly the Battalion would sustain increasing casualties and the attack perhaps even fail. It was time for personal leadership and action. Colonel Jones immediately seized a sub-machine gun, and, calling on those around him and with total disregard for his own safety, charged the nearest enemy position. This action exposed him to fire from a number of trenches. As he charged up a short slope at the enemy position he was seen to fall and roll backward downhill. He immediately picked himself up, and again charged the enemy trench, firing his sub-machine gun and seemingly oblivious to the intense fire directed at him. He was hit by fire from another trench which he outflanked, and fell dying only a few feet from the enemy he had assaulted. A short time later a company of the Battalion attacked the enemy, who quickly surrendered. The devasting display of courage by Colonel Jones had completely undermined their will to fight further.
Thereafter the momentum of the attack was rapidly regained, Darwin and Goose Green were liberated, and the Battalion released the local inhabitants unharmed and forced the surrender of some 1,200 of the enemy.
The achievements of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment at Darwin and Goose Green set the tone for the subsequent land victory on the Falklands. They achieved such a moral superiority over the enemy in this first battle that, despite the advantages of numbers and selection of battle-ground, they never thereafter doubted either the superior fighting qualities of the British troops, or their own inevitable defeat.
This was an action of the utmost gallantry by a Commanding Officer whose dashing leadership and courage throughout the battle were an inspiration to all about him.
The award of the posthumous VC to Jones was controversial at the time because some military experts considered that despite his undoubted courage, he took a needless risk and his actions displayed an impetuous nature which is not an advantage in a soldier. Papers disclosed in 2005 showed that this argument was raging in private at the time the award of a medal was being considered, with the commander of 3 Commando Brigade, Brigadier Julian Thompson , had "very strongly recommended" the award of the VC, but the overall Task Force commander, Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse , gave it "only" a recommendation. When the award came before the VC committee, consideration was influenced by the fact that the award would be considered as '2 Para's VC' in recognition of the whole unit's contribution.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the National Army Museum (Chelsea, England).
Jones has a headstone in the Blue Beach War Cemetery which is topped by the Parachute Regiment's logo and also features an image of the Victoria Cross. The headstone includes the quotation "He is not the beginning but the continuing of the same unto the end." His name is also on the South Atlantic Task Force Memorial in St Paul's Cathedral, London, and the Parachute Regiment Memorial at their headquarters in Aldershot; he also has a memorial in the chapel of Eton College and a plaque on a footpath at Kingswear, Devon. In addition the 'Colonel H' Public house in Lowestoft, Suffolk is named in his honour.
- The Last Eleven? (Mark Adkin, 1991)
- Monuments To Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
- The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
- SCOTLAND'S FORgotten VALOUR (Graham Ross, 1995)
- H. Jones VC: The Life and Death of an Unusual Hero (John Wilsey, Hutchinson, London, 2002, ISBN 0091793556)
- Victoria Cross and other gallantry award citations published in the London Gazette, 11 October 1982
- VCs of the Falklands War (citation details)
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