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THE GREATEST LIVING NEWPORTONIAN? - RON JONES

 

 

 

A BBC report recently stated "A 100-year-old poppy seller has said he has no plans to retire and will carry on raising money until he is no longer fit.Ron Jones, of Bassaleg, had planned to stop collecting for The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal last year after thinking he was "too old". But Mr Jones is back selling poppies in Newport after not wanting to sit in the house watching TV.

 

Mr Jones, who was 100 in April said he would continue "as long as I am able". "Well they just won't leave me alone, they think I am fit," said Mr Jones who has been selling poppies for more than 30 years. He relies on lifts to get to the stall at Tesco on the Harlech Retail Park as he no longer has a car. "I may as well sit here than sit in the house, I'm only watching television anyway," he said."

 

The remarkable life of Ron Jones, a brave survivor of the Prisoner of War camp next to German death camp Auschwitz, has been captured in a book entitled The Auschwitz Goalkeeper: A Prisoner of War’s True Story, where he explains how football kept him sane during those terrible years.

He was captured in 1943 fighting in the Middle East, and after nine months in Italy, was transferred to a forced labour camp E715, part of the Auschwitz complex.

He was put to work at the IB Farben chemical factory working 6am to 6pm six days a week, but on Sunday he and his fellow inmates got to play football. Jones claims in his testimony that weeks had passed until they realized their location. It was Auschwitz. A small contingent of British POWs was stationed in the Stalag VIIIB, right next to the infamous death camp. This was where he learned about the gas chambers and the horrible treatment that the Jews were subjected to.

One of the first things he saw in the camp was a German soldier who shot two people in front of him. Jones was terrified, and he asked the soldier, why? The guard answered with an ordinary tone: “They are only Jews.” Stories of the gas chambers and crematoria started to haunt the young Welshman.

He was at Auschwitz POW from October 1943 to January 1945 when the Germans rounded up those left at the camp and marched them out on a journey that was to take 17 weeks and cover hundreds of miles walking across Poland, Germany and into Austria in the middle of winter.

Many died on the way and when the Americans came across the men in a barn in Regensburg, there were only 150 survivors out of 230; Ron was one of them.

Eventually liberated by the Allies, Ron was sent home to Wales but left too traumatised to talk about what he had been through.

“I was 13 stone when I left for war and seven stone when I returned five years later,” he said. “I remember when I finally got home and my wife Gwladys put me in the bath. I looked into her eyes and saw tears rolling down her cheek. I said ‘don’t cry my love. I’ve come home. I’ve left men out there who will never come home’.”

After many years of working at Newport Docks Ron retired in 1980 and a year later began collecting for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
 

Mr Jones has been a Newport County fan almost all his life. Speaking to The Argus earlier this year, he said: "The first time I went down there, my father took me on his bike in 1924, I was seven years old"