Captain/Reverend John Vaughan-Jones

Captain/Reverend John Paschal Vaughan-Jones


Unit : Regimental Headquarters, 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, RA


The following is printed courtesy of Bob Hilton, largely based on an obituary printed in the Daily Telegraph on the 29th April 2010.



Canon John Vaughan-Jones, who died on the 10th April 2010 aged 92, was believed to be the last surviving Padre to see action with Britain's Airborne Forces during the Second World War.


As his name suggests, John Paschal Vaughan-Jones was born on Easter Day 1918 in Maclear, South Africa, where his father, Canon William Vaughan-Jones, was a missionary. John was a third generation priest, his grandfather having been the Rev George Jones, Rector of Dagenham. John's family returned to England when he was three and his father was appointed Vicar of Good Easter in Essex. He attended King Edward VI Grammar School Chelmsford, and subsequently, when his father moved to Heybridge as Rector of Downham and rural dean of Wickford, transferred to Maldon Grammar School.


He graduated from Keble College, Oxford, in 1939 and took his MA in 1943. When not at his books he was to be found on the river where "Old Bones", as he was affectionately known, proved to be an artful and respected cox of the Keble boat.


Ordained deacon in 1941, he was appointed a curate at Laindon cum Basildon in the diocese of Chelmsford. In 1942 he was ordained priest and remained at Laindon until 1943 when he volunteered for service with the Royal Army Chaplains Department. Commissioned in October 1943, he was attached to a Training Regiment until 1944 and subsequently served on attachment with 171 Field Regiment R.A, 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles and the 53rd Air Landing Light Regiment, R.A, 6th Airborne Division.


As a Padre in the Airborne Forces, Vaughan-Jones was given no special treatment and took an active part in operations and was among the many who took to the skies in gliders leading the advance across Germany in 1945. His strong faith carried him through these nerve-racking times, during which Padres proved as vulnerable as any man. Indeed, the Royal Army Chaplains Department suffered many losses.


Captain/Reverend Vaughan-Jones was the Padre for the 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Air Landing Light Regiment, Royal Artillery and took off from R.A.F. Dunmow on the 24th March 1945, in a Horsa glider with the Medical Officer, Captain P.D. James, RAMC, four Other Ranks, a jeep + trailer and 2 x Light weight motor-cycles and landed successfully on Landing Zone 'P' near Hamminkeln, Germany as part of 'Operation Varsity'.


Despite the gruesome task he and his colleagues often faced, their attention to detail and accurate record-keeping enabled the War Graves Commission to retrieve many of the dead from their unmarked makeshift graves and bury them in consecrated war cemeteries. There was much other work of a welfare nature to be undertaken, as men on the front line sought assistance with all sorts of personal problems back home.


After the war, Vaughan-Jones accompanied 6th Airborne Division to Palestine until 1947 when he was released from active service and given the honorary rank of Chaplain to the Forces. He returned to Laindon until May 1949 when, aged 31, he was inducted as the 61st Rector of St Martin's, Chipping Ongar, and St Peter's, Shelley. At that time Chipping Ongar had a population of about 1,000, among them Joyce Tustin, whom he married at St Martin's in October 1950 with his father officiating and his lifelong friend (and stroke from the 1939 Keble first boat) as his best man. In 1972 Vaughan-Jones was appointed Rural Dean of Ongar and in 1978 received a Canonary Emeritus from the Bishop of Chelmsford, posts he held until he and his wife retired in 1983. As rural dean, he served as chairman of the League of Friends of Ongar War Memorial Hospital, and led a campaign against the government's plan to close the hospital down. Taking the protest to Westminster, he pushed an elderly lady around Parliament Square in a hospital bed, assisted by the then local MP, Sir John Biggs-Davison, and accompanied by local farmers in tractors. The day was won and the hospital saved.


He retired to Little Bentley in Essex which was then without an incumbent. Vaughan-Jones's offer to assist led to an almost full-time commitment until a new Rector was eventually appointed. Following the death of his wife in 1996, he moved to south Devon where he lived in the same village as his younger daughter and her family.


John Vaughan-Jones is survived by two daughters and a son.


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