On passing out from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1960, H Jones, as he was known to all, was commission into the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, with whom he served until the end of the seventies. His service included regimental duty and operations with the Devon and Dorsets, periods on the staff in a variety of appointments and on secondment to the Parachute Regiment. However, in the early eighties he was offered command of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, an appointment that he took up in April 1981.
A year later, following the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, 2 Para embarked in the P&O North Sea ferry MV Norland, which had been taken up from trade, and sailed for the South Atlantic. 2 PARA landed on Red Beach, in San Carlos Water before dawn on 21st May 1982. The Battalion deployed on Sussex Mountains, before advancing south to the Darwin Isthmus for the attack on Goose Green settlement, which was occupied by about 3,000 Argentines. This position on the British flank threatened the advance to Port Stanley and had to be cleared of enemy. There was also a political imperative for a successful battle.
During the battle (the first test of British resolve in retaking the Islands) 2 Para's assault lost momentum and Lieutenant Colonel Jones went forward to get the attack going again. Leading from the front, he was hit by machine gun fire at this critical phase of the battle.
He was mortally wounded and was subsequently certified dead at the field hospital at Ajax Bay on 29 May 82. He was buried there along with 2 Para's sixteen other dead the following day.
The battle of Goose Green not only provided Mrs Thatcher with a military success but established British moral superiority over the enemy. Later that year, H Jone's Victoria Cross was collected by his widow Sara Jones, who is a former Trustee of the Keep Museum. Both of his sons served with the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment.
Lieutenant Colonel Jones' Citation
Extract from The London Gazette, Friday 11th October 1982
Honours and Awards Army Department
The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the VICTORIA CROSS to the undermentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished service during the operations in the South Atlantic:
Lieutenant Colonel Herbert JONES O.B.E. (465788), The Parachute Regiment.
During the attack against an enemy who was well dug in with mutually supporting positions sited in depth, the Battalion was held up just South of Darwin by a particularly well-prepared and resilient enemy position of at least eleven trenches on an important ridge. A number of casualties were received. In order to read the battle fully and to ensure that the momentum of his attack was not lost, Colonel Jones took forward his reconnaissance party to the foot of a re-entrant which a section of his Battalion had just secured. Despite persistent, heavy and accurate fire the reconnaissance party gained the top of the re-entrant, at approximately the same height as the enemy positions. From here, Colonel Jones encouraged the direction of his Battalion mortar fire, in an effort to neutralise the enemy positions. However, these had been well prepared and continued to pour effective fire onto the Battalion advance, which, by now held up for over an hour and under increasingly heavy artillery fire, was in danger of faltering.
In his effort to gain a good viewpoint, Colonel Jones was now at the very front of his Battalion. It was clear to him that desperate measures were needed in order to overcome the enemy position and rekindle the attack, and that unless these measures were taken promptly the Battalion would sustain increasing casualties and the attack perhaps even fail. It was time for personal leadership and action. Colonel Jones immediately seized a sub-machine gun, and, calling on those around him and with total disregard for his own safety, charged the nearest enemy position. This action exposed him to fire from a number of trenches. As he charged up a short slope at the enemy position he was seen to fall and roll backward downhill. He immediately picked himself up, and again charged the enemy trench, firing his sub-machine gun and seemingly oblivious to the intense fire directed at him. He was hit by fire from another trench which he outflanked, and fell dying only a few feet from the enemy he had assaulted. A short time later a company of the Battalion attacked the enemy who quickly surrendered. The devastating display of courage by Colonel Jones had completely undermined their will to fight further.
Thereafter the momentum of the attack was rapidly regained, Darwin and Goose Green were liberated, and the Battalion released the local inhabitants unharmed and forced the surrender of some 1,200 of the enemy.
The achievements of 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment at Darwin and Goose Green set the tone for the subsequent land victory on the Falklands. They achieved such a moral superiority over the enemy in this first battle that, despite the advantages of numbers and selection of battle-ground, they never thereafter doubted either the superior fighting qualities of the British troops, or their own inevitable defeat.
This was an action of the utmost gallantry by a Commanding Officer whose dashing leadership and courage throughout the battle were an inspiration to all about him.