As a survivor of the Second World War, who fought in the Middle East and spent more than two years as a prisoner of war in Auschwitz, 100-year-old Ron Jones has done more than his fair share of service for his country.
But far from putting his feet up after celebrating his centenary, the pensioner will once again pick up his Poppy Appeal collection box this year – and insists he will never retire from the charity work. The war veteran is the country’s oldest poppy seller and is one of the last living British soldier’s to have witnessed the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. The Welsh centenarian was captured while fighting in Bhengazi during the Western Desert Campaign in January 1942. After nine months in Italy, Mr Jones was transferred to forced labour camp E715, part of Auschwitz. Without proper rations and covered in lice, he feared Auschwitz would be his final resting place and doubted he would ever get back to his wife Gladys and hometown of Newport, South Wales. The only thing that kept his spirits up was a football match he would play against the guards every Sunday – where his regular position earned him the nickname “the goalkeeper of Auschwitz”.
After two years of being held at the camp, he was forced to join the “death march” of prisoners across Europe in 1945. He was freed by American troops and finally returned home to Newport andhis wife in May 1945, having dropped from 13st to just 7st.
Mr Jones worked at the city’s docks until his retirement in 1980, then began collecting for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal the following year. Lynne Woodyatt, community fundraiser for The Royal British Legion, paid tribute to Mr Jones’s continuous help, saying he is a “legend”.
She said: “He’s one of our key volunteers and an ambassador for the appeal – he does supermarket collections for us, he’s quite a celebrity.” Mr Jones is also set to feature in a film called The Poppy Seller, released on November 11, and has donated the payment for his appearance to The Royal British Legion.