‘H’ Jones was the commander of 2 Para, the Parachute Regiment during the Falklands War. Jones led his men into battle at Goose Green on May 27th 1982 and was killed leading an attack on an Argentine machine gun post near Darwin. ‘H’ Jones, a lieutenant colonel, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery.
H, short for Herbert, was born on May 14th, 1940. He was born into a wealthy family and was educated at Eton. On leaving Eton, Jones joined the Army. He gained a commission in the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment – an infantry regiment. Jones gained a reputation as being an ‘action man’ – a man who led from the front and who believed that setting an example was the best way to lead men. Such an outlook was rewarded with promotion and by the time of the Falklands War in 1982, Jones was in the Parachute Regiment and commander of 2 Para.
When 2 Para landed at San Carlos Bay on May 21st, they moved south to Sussex Mountain where they dug in to protect the southern flank of 3 Brigade. A large Argentine force was known to be based south of San Carlos at Darwin and Goose Green and it presented a real threat to the men at San Carlos. The plan was to move from west to east across East Falklands to attack Port Stanley. Therefore any force left in the rear was a real threat to the Task Force.
Many Task Force ships had been lost or damaged during the landings at San Carlos. In material terms, the greatest loss was the ‘Atlantic Conveyor’, which was hit by an Exocet with the loss of most of the helicopters on board. Therefore, the Task Force needed a ‘spectacular’ and a successful attack on Goose Green would have been the first opportunity for this given the proximity of the Argentine army there. Brigadier Julian Thompson, head of 3 Commando Brigade, was less than enthused about an attack believing that the Argentine force there could be quarantined so that it could not move across the isthmus that connects Goose Green to the rest of East Falklands. ‘H’ Jones was adamant that an attack was necessary and argued his case for such an attack.
This approach by Jones had led to some historians claiming that the commander of 2 Para had a gun-ho policy.
As his men moved south, they had a good knowledge of what to expect as they had been fed information from men from the SAS who had already been in the area. However, machine gun emplacements on a hill near Darwin had been so well constructed by the Argentineans that they had not been seen.
Accurate machine gun fire from the Argentine 12th Regiment pinned down A Company 2 Para at Darwin Hill. It was here that Jones led a charge against a machine gun post. He was hit by machine gun fire from one of the six trenches that had not been seen by reconnaissance near Darwin Hill. His wounds were fatal. ‘H Jones was killed on May 28th, 1982.
Jones is buried at Blue Beach War Cemetery on the Falklands. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.
There were some who were critical of what Jones did in the final moments before he was killed. His critics have claimed that Jones failed in his task of being the overall leader of 2 Para and that he lost sight of the ‘big picture’ which required him to take a step back and take on board what 2 Para as an entity was doing, not just A Company. There are also those who supported what Jones did who have stated that he believed that his men were in mortal danger while they were pinned down and that Jones did what came naturally to him – leading from the front. Brigadier Thompson presumably believed that latter as he “very strongly recommended” Jones for his VC while the overall commander of the Task Force, Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, “recommended” Jones to the VC committee – but no more than this.
The citation that went with the award of his VC states:
“On 28th May 1982 Lieutenant Colonel Jones was commanding 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment on operations on the Falkland Islands. The Battalion was ordered to attack enemy positions in and around the settlements of Darwin and Goose Green. 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 11 trenches on an important ridge. A number of casualties were received. In order to read the battle fully and 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 time as the enemy positions.
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 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.”