World War II paratrooper Ralph Jones dies while Last Post plays on Remembrance Sunday

A World War Two paratrooper who survived being shot four times in the conflict died on Remembrance Sunday while the Last Post played at 11am. Photo / 123RF
A World War Two paratrooper who survived being shot four times in the conflict died on Remembrance Sunday while the Last Post played at 11am. Photo / 123RF

A World War Two paratrooper who survived being shot four times in the conflict died on Remembrance Sunday while the Last Post played at 11am.

Ralph Jones, 93, was severely wounded in the Normandy landings while a member of the 13th Battalion 6th Airborne Division during the Allied invasion in June 1944.

He survived the war and was due to be reunited with two old comrades this weekend after his family planned a surprise party for his 94th birthday.

But he passed away while holding hands with nurses at Salford Royal Hospital last Sunday.

Mr Jones, originally from Staffordshire, was shot in his arm, stomach and foot after jumping into Caen, France, and was rushed off the battlefield in an air ambulance.

The bullet in his stomach was lodged there permanently.

Mr Jones had vividly described his experience in the Normandy landings before his death.

He said: "The moon is out and there are 90 of us gliders in the air.

"It's beautiful actually, very beautiful. But the porthole blows before we're even close to the ground. The whole glider is screaming with the wind. Absolutely murderous.

"The glider overturns once, rights itself and we go right through the brick wall of a house and then slide along for about 100 yards. Three of the guys are gone.

"We're under heavy fire and it's quite a struggle to get out. Then I get shot - one, two, three times.


"Next thing I know the rest of them have disappeared. They must've left me. I spot my mate on the ground too, in bad shape, worse than me.

"I try to revive him. Nothing. I see the Jeep from the glider close by - I put him in the back. I try to revive him again but he's gone. Then one of my mates from the regiment joins me and tells me to get in.

"Eventually we make it to the beach but the cliffs are too steep. We have to go on foot - and I'm in no state for walking that distance. There are more soldiers there but they seem reluctant to drag me out. As if it's going to be a hassle.

"Finally they say well come on then and drag me down to the boathouse. Grenades are going off everywhere. We're taken up in this air ambulance.

"There's wounded Germans in there too. I can't believe it. 'We've been ruddy fighting you', I say.

"And as it's going up I think about the bullet in my arm, the bullet in my stomach, my foot shot up, and all I can think is 'the wife is going to kill me'."

He recovered and went on to jump again in 1945 in Operation Varsity, in which 16,000 paratroopers crossed the Rhine into northern Germany.

Mr Jones jumped into Wesel, north-west Germany, and helped capture and hold the villages of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln, clear part of a forest near the Rhine and take over bridges over the smaller River Issel.

Alongside the US 17th Airborne Division, they held the objectives until the Allied Army arrived and then joined the advance across the Rhine and deeper into Germany.

With 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand aircraft involved, it was the largest airborne operation in military history to take place over one day in one location.

Mr Jones lived at Broughton House, a care home for ex-servicemen in Salford, after moving there last year from his home in Altrincham, Greater Manchester.

He was due to see Ken Oldham and Ray Schulk, who fought alongside him during the Allied invasion, at the party at the care home.

They were among 100 guests invited to the event, with his daughter-in-law also due to fly over from the US and a military band set to perform.

Ty Platten, chief executive of Broughton House, said: 'Paratrooper Ralph Jones was a veteran of the Normandy Landings and the Rhine Crossing. Ralph was a man shot four times during both engagements.

"That alone did not define Ralph as a man. What did was his modesty and humility as a man.

"Ralph was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things from 1940 to 1945, when his people and his country's sovereignty were threatened, he not only defended the rights of his fellow countrymen but he went into Europe and defended the rights of his fellow Europeans.

"He was a man who walked this earth with courage and humility, and the world is a poorer place for his passing."

- Daily Mail

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