UK's oldest poppy seller, Ron Jones, dies aged 102

9 September 2019, 23:11

Ron Jones has died aged 102
Ron Jones has died aged 102. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Tributes have poured in for a former Auschwitz prisoner of war who collected money for the Royal British Legion for more than 30 years.

Retired steel worker Ron Jones died on Sunday aged 102.

The Newport resident had been raising money for the Poppy Appeal until he was 101 and those who know him say "he will be greatly missed, but not forgotten."

His 73-year-old son, Leighton Jones, said his dad supported him in everything he did and that he was a "loving father".

Mr Jones was a prisoner of war in the Auschwitz concentration camp after being captured during the Second World War in 1942.

"His passion for the Legion and the Poppy Appeal shone through and for over 30 years he dedicated his time to helping raise funds for those in the Armed Forces past and present," said Lynne Woodyatt, a Royal British Legion community fundraiser for South Wales.

Mr Jones survived the Second World War despite being held prisoner at Auschwitz
Mr Jones survived the Second World War despite being held prisoner at Auschwitz. Picture: PA

She added: "We will be forever grateful for his support, and will deeply miss his enthusiasm, drive and commitment to helping those that served their country.

"He was a true one-off and Ron's remarkable efforts over the years should be highly commended."

"Our thoughts and condolences are with Ron's family, his son and two granddaughters, and with his many friends at this time."

After being called up to fight in 1940, Mr Jones served as a lance corporal in 1st Battalion Welch Regiment in the Middle East.

He was captured in Benghazi in 1942 and, after nine months imprisonment in Italy, was transferred to forced labour camp E715, part of the Auschwitz complex.

Mr Jones spent two years at the camp, until he was forced to join the death march of prisoners across Europe in 1945.

The retired steel worker sold poppies for 30 years
The retired steel worker sold poppies for 30 years. Picture: PA

The father of one had previously recalled his time at the Nazi death camp, saying that he was sent on the death march from Poland back to Austria.

He said: "Seventeen weeks on the road, pulling vans at night time and bitterly cold, no food. We lost about 100 blokes who died on the road, but I'm still here."

He was freed by American troops and returned home to Newport and his wife Gladys in May 1945, having almost halved in weight from 13 stone to seven.

Mr Jones worked at the city's docks until his retirement in 1980, then began collecting for the Poppy Appeal the following year.

Speaking two years ago, Mr Jones told PA: "I've been selling poppies for about 30 years, I go down to Tesco every year for a fortnight, practically every day.

"I like to do a lot for the British Legion as we help dependants, we help the boys coming back from Afghanistan.

He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2017 for services to the community.