Momentum building for campaign to create memorial for Wigan SAS war hero
Corporal Jones’ family have spoken of their pride at the growing recognition of his efforts for his country and say they would be delighted to see a permanent tribute to him.
The calls for a memorial have also come from military historian Damien Lewis, who has written a new book featuring the story of Corporal Jones and his fellow combatants, and Wigan author John McKay who has written a number of historical novels.
Wigan Council has also spoken admiringly about Corporal Jones' feats and said it will be speaking to his family about creating a permanent tribute to him.
Corporal Jones was one of a group of SAS fighters who were involved in sabotaging the German efforts to respond to the D-Day landings behind the lines in France.
They were captured and an order was given for their execution, but when they were taken to the woodlands to face the firing squad Corporal Jones and his compatriot Corporal Serge Vaculik managed to evade their would-be killers, with Corporal Jones falling as he ran and then playing dead so the Nazis would think they had already shot him.
Both eventually made their way to the Resistance and continued to fight against the Germans.
Corporal Jones’ battle against the Nazi regime did not finish with the cessation of hostilities in 1945 either as he was involved in the search for men who had served Hitler to bring them to justice for their crimes.
Poignantly Jones and Vaculik remained brothers in arms to the end, dying within 24 hours of each other.
The full extent of Corporal Jones’ incredible heroism serving Britain during the war is only now becoming better known, and those calling for a memorial would love to see something installed which would increase public awareness of him.
Corporal Jones’ grandson Andrew Atherton said: “We have treasured the story of our grandad for such a long time but since the book, the support we’ve had has been overwhelming.
“It is incredible that such a light is being shone on the story. The profile has been raised so much and there are now growing calls for some kind of recognition in Wigan, his hometown.
“As a family that has never previously been part of our considerations and that it is now being talked about is incredibly humbling for us all.
“The book brings the story to life and shares his bravery, courage, loyalty and justice.
“When people learn about the story it is both powerful and emotional and it could be a great opportunity for the town to share and celebrate a story of one of its own.”
Mr McKay said: “When I read the book I made a comment to Damien Lewis about there being nothing in Wigan to remember him.
“People aren’t even aware of this.
“There should be a memorial to him. It’s just about getting something together, whatever it might be.
“Corporal Jones was one of the original members of the SAS and the story about him is unbelievable.
“There should be something in the town for him and his family as a form of recognition.
“He is a total hero from World War Two. He escaped from a firing squad, linked up with the Resistance and hunted Nazis after the war. “
The calls for Corporal Jones to be recognised are also strengthened by the fact that Corporal Vaculik, who escaped the Nazi killers with him, has a street named after him in an area of France where he fought.
Wigan Council’s heritage and armed forces departments have been contacted to begin discussions, and the response so far has been extremely positive.
Lesley O’Halloran, Wigan Council’s director for customer and culture, said: “The story of Thomas ‘Ginger’ Jones is an important one nationally and in the proud history of service in the armed forces by people from Wigan borough.
“It is a remarkable story of heroism and the amazing new research into the early years of the SAS places a proud Wiganer at the very centre.
“Corporal Jones’s life shows us how important it is to record and remember the military service of men and women from the borough and to share the events with current and future generations.
“We will be in dialogue with the family to see how we can celebrate Corporal Jones’s life.”
Corporal Jones was born on Tram Street and was brought up in Platt Bridge, serving as a miner before he went into the army.
After the war he lived on Pagefield Street, which is close to the main Wigan and Leigh College base on Parson’s Walk, for a time.
He was also well known during his life as a steward working in a variety of social clubs in Wigan, with Mr Atherton saying that as a boy he knew him as ‘Grandad Pop’ because when he went to see him he would get a soft drink from wherever he was working at the time.
He also spoke of Corporal Jones’ sense of humour, which comes across vividly in Mr Lewis’ book.
He died in 1990 and a number of veterans turned up on the day to unfurl a Union Jack over his coffin.
Corporal Jones had two children, his daughter Glenys Atherton and his son Norman, who still lives with his family in Wigan.
He has six grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
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