Flight Sergeant William Thomas Jones
Sergeant William Thomas Jones was posted to No.17 Squadron on 11 January 1937 having completed his training with No.2 Flying Training School at RAF Digby.
At the time, 17 Squadron were stationed at RAF Kenley flying the Gloster Gauntlet II. Throughout 1937 the peacetime routine prevailed with the squadron, but in June 1938 as international tensions rose the squadron sent flights to Filton and Hornchurch for mobilisation exercises.
After the outbreak of war, the squadron briefly took up residence at Croydon but stayed only a week before moving to moving to RAF Debden on 9 September. However, the night before their departure the squadron suffered three aircraft accidents during night flying practice, one aircraft crashed in the grounds of Purley War Memorial Hospital. Fortunately there were no serious injuries in any of the incidents.
October 1939, for Sergeant Jones, was a month of short half hour practice flights around Debden. The situation changed slightly in November when the squadron sent aircraft to its forward base at RAF Wattisham, this resulted in a regular commute between the two stations for Sergeant Jones. A similar situation occurred in December, but Martlesham Heath was now used as the forward base. The New Year saw 17 Squadron alternate between Deben and Martlesham Heath, but the slow pace continued. Sergeant Jones took part in some North Sea patrols but mainly flew on training sorties including forced-landing practices. Snow at the end of January rendered Debden unserviceable for several days and fog affected the squadron’s next rotation at Martlesham Heath. On the last day of February the squadron headed to RAF Kemble to collect new Hurricanes.
The rotations continued into March and April, as did the training routine, but interception patrols now started to be launched, however these proved inconclusive. When Germany invaded Holland and Belgium, the squadron was called upon to patrol the Amsterdam area from Martlesham Heath. On 11 May the squadron got its first taste of combat when patrolling The Hague and Rotterdam. “A” and “B” Flights split while “B” Flight, including Flight Sergeant Jones, patrolled The Hague, “A” Flight patrolled Rotterdam. Over Rotterdam they were met by about sixteen Me.109s, in the combat that followed they lost four aircraft with two pilots killed.
On 17 May, the squadron was ordered to RAF Hawkinge. Following refuelling at Hawkinge, they took off for Merville from where “B” Flight and Flight Sergeant Jones patrolled Brussels. Again “B” Flight saw no action as they patrolled south-west of the city, “A” Flight however claimed four Ju.87s shot down on the other side of Brussels. The squadron returned to Hawkinge at dusk. The next day the squadron took off for Lille, first escorting transports to Merville. From Lille that afternoon they tangled with a Do.215 and two Me.110s near Seclin, claiming the Dornier. An air raid warning at Lille that afternoon led to a hurried and chaotic departure with the majority of the squadron returning to Hawkinge individually.
19 May saw the squadron patrolling the line Cambrai to Bavai, where they claimed three Me.109s and a Do.215 in combat.
A much reduced squadron sent aircraft to form part of the escort to a Blenheim raid on Macquin on 19 May, after the previous days it was comparatively quiet. A Blenheim escort duty was detailed for the following day, however they failed to meet the bombers. Instead they patrolled between Abbeville and Montreuil.
Our Squadron patrolling at 14,000 feet sighted a Hs.126 2 miles north of Amiens flying north east at 8,000 feet, F/Lt Toyne, Sgt. Steward, F/Lt. Adye, Sgt. Wynn and F/Sergeant Jones attacked it. Enemy aircraft was seen to turn over in a field 10 miles NNE of Amiens, one occupant left the machine and ran away.
That evening the squadron was ordered to return to Debden. 22 and 23 May at Debden were rest days for the pilots, but not the ground crews who refitted the VHF radios and installed armour plating for the pilots. 24 May saw 17 Squadron ordered to Kenley, which was achieved in a flight of forty minutes.
The first full day at Kenley was, not surprisingly, a busy one. After an early morning escort mission to Gravelines, the squadron took off from Hawkinge and joined 605 and 79 Squadrons to patrol Calais. Here they attacked large numbers of Ju.87s, claiming four; they also claimed a Do.17 and a Hs.126. They had landed back a Hawkinge by noon and returned to Kenley by 4.00 p.m.
26 May saw another early morning mission, this time to drop message bags just south of Lille. Having dropped the bags, the squadron performed a sweep and crossed the coast near Calais, here they were bounced by six Me.109s and met a Do.17 and Ju.88. They believed they had downed two of the fighters and damaged both of the bombers. However:
F/Sgt. Jones has unfortunately not returned from the fray.
It is not known how Flight Sergeant Jones was lost. He could have been brought down by one of the Me.109s or simply run out of fuel. No trace of him or his Hurricane was found.
William Thomas Jones was the son of Thomas and Agnes Jones of Rhosymedre, Denbighshire and husband to Doris Gwendolyn Jones of Leytonstone.
Flight Sergeant William Thomas Jones is commemorated on Panel 11 of the Runnymede Memorial.
He is also remembered on the Cefn Mawr Memorial, near Wrexham.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.