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Father Vic Jones

Recalled by Viv Head

Read at the celebration of Father Jones's life on 4th June 2011

Skip Jones was my scoutmaster when I was a ten-year-old boy attending the 9th Cardiff scouts at St Luke’s church in Canton.

More recently, I have been making a study of the policing history at Cardiff Docks and I talked to Vic Jones when we met about three years ago, when he recalled his own boyhood experiences. This is a short extract from my studies:

In the midst of all the wartime activity of 1940, routine duties still formed an important part of police work at Cardiff Docks. Fourteen-year-old Vic Jones ran away from his Ely home, intent on going to sea. He climbed over the dock wall and found a ship prepared to take him on. But his mother guessed his intentions and telephoned the dock police. They searched every ship until they came to the 10,000 ton ss Mount Kylene, the night before it was due to sail. They found young Vic on board and promptly took him back home to his mother. A few months later, Vic found his way to the docks once more. This time he signed on a British ship, the SS Culebra berthed at the Queen Alexandra Dock. But before the vessel sailed he was once again out manoeuvred by the combination of his mother and the docks police. He was taken back home a second time!

The Culebra was a veteran of several Atlantic convoys but luck ran out for her in January 1942 when she fell victim to one of the most successful of all German U-boats, the U123 on patrol destroying merchant ships along the eastern seaboard of the United States. The crippled Culebra was put out of action and the crew took to the lifeboats. The U-boat’s commander approached the survivors and gave them food and water and a course for Bermuda. The U123 eventually surrendered in 1945 and her commander, Reinhard Hardegen, went on to become a successful businessman and member of Parliament for his home town of Bremen for 32 years.

And Vic Jones, the boy with the urge to run away to sea? He joined the Royal Navy in 1944 and by the following year he was a leading signalman aboard the heavy cruiser, HMS Sussex. He took part in the Japanese surrender of Singapore and the liberation of the emancipated prisoners in the infamous Changi Jail.

He was ordained into the church in 1955, and returned to Cardiff firstly as a curate at St Luke’s Church in Canton where he ran the scout troop with great humour and then vicar at St Timothy’s in Ely. In 1962, he re-joined the Royal Navy and transferred to the Royal Marines in 1964. After completing the commando course at Lympstone and being awarded the Green Beret, he served for two years with 42 Commando in Malaya and Borneo where, in his words, ‘he was shot at, shouted at and shat upon!’ Amongst many other postings, both overseas and in Britain, he was chaplain to the Inshore Minesweeping Squadron based in Singapore, consisting of fifteen small wooden boats each with a compliment of thirty-three men. For eighteen months he moved from boat to boat spending about a week on each one.

It seems that the urge to run away to sea never really left Vic Jones. Nor did his urge to communicate with people. About four years ago I learnt that Vic was living outside Worthing in Sussex. We corresponded a couple of times and I visited him twice. I had not seen him for more than fifty years. He was a tad older of course but otherwise much as I remembered him and still with a twinkle in his eye. And, in his eighties, he was still preaching at his local church regularly, taking violin lessons, and keeping in touch with fellow enthusiasts with an amateur radio receiver and morse-code transmitter set up in his living room.

I was delighted to have caught up with Vic Jones after all those years, particularly as I had also spent a career in uniform. I found a man that I could relate to, a man’s man if you like. It was plain to see that he still had an affinity with the navy, ships and the sea and I asked him why then he had chosen the church for his life’s work. He looked me in the eye and said simply- “Because I found God.”

Well then, God bless you Vic Jones.