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H.Jones VC: The Life and Death of an Unusual Hero [Hardcover]

John Wilsey , John Keegan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Mar 2002
This is the biography of the H. Jones VC, a Falklands War hero whose death in the battle for Darwin had huge significance and was one of the turning points for the whole campaign. It is the story of an emblematic but complex war hero whose family history was surprising, whose army life included exposure to most of the military problems which Britain has encountered since the World War II, including security in Northern Ireland. His dramatic death and subsequent posthumous VC symbolized an extraordinary campaign which was truly the end of an era. Including much new material, this biography was written with the help of H. Jones's widow and is introduced by Sir John Keegan.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (6 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091793556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091793555
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.6 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A remarkable book... a worthy tribute both to the man John Wilsey calls 'an unusual hero' and to the ethos of the British Army in which he lived and died.' John Keegan in his Foreword --John Keegan --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'An important new biography' Daily Mail --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
John Wilsey has written a splendid book about perhaps the last soldier officer of an era his death helped to end. H Jones VC can be read for three topics. First Jones life as a young officer spent in Belize, Germany, Kenya and God knows which tiresome spots in the back of beyond. His wealth, high intelligence and ambition got him more lumps than plaudits. He worked hard, and not on the backs of his juniors, to climb his army's greasy pole. In the end he had become or rather made himself the consummate infantry officer. Kipling would have found all this all too familiar.
Second, the book is a tale of family life spent under the contradictory conditions of materiel ease and the normal hardships of a peripatetic life that the dwindling empire still demanded of its serving officers. Jones comes across as a devoted family man, caring husband and interested father who preferred the intimacies of home life to the smarmy workings of regimental politics.
Last, Wilsey tells of Jones' last hours as he led his 2 Para into the battle for Darwin Hill and Goose Green during the Falklands War of 1982. The going gets meticulous here because Wilsey must dispose of two issues that have bedeviled Jones reputation from the moment of his death. Did Jones blunder into a near disaster that he failed to avert? Wilsey's common sense answer is no. Jones may have died heroically, in a fit of rage or in a moment of lost self-control. But such was Jones' imprint of his tactical views on his men, such was his rigorous training of them and such was his preparation for battle that it was inescapably Jones' soldiers that triumphed. Did one or more of Jones' men shoot him as he ran towards enemy lines? Almost certainly not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tactical Exercise 8 Sep 2009
This book has the advantage of having been written by a contemporary of Colonel Jones who served with him as a junior officer in various places (Devon and Dorsetshire Regiment, now I think subsumed into The Rifles). The author stayed on to command the Devon and Dorsets and retired as a Major-General in 1995. Jones himself moved over to the Parachute Regiment, commanding 2 Para in the Falklands, where he made his individual charge into history and legend, winning a posthumous Victoria Cross.

The author writes very well, better than most people of similar rank (cf. memoirs of people like Admiral Donitz and the works of Montgomery) and does explain for the benefit of those of us without much or any military experience the jargon seemingly inseparable from khaki.

It seems that Colonel Jones was half-American and pretty wealthy. It does show that his wealth and arrogance made him some enemies even in places where such things are the norm (eg. Eton). And the author does not shirk from exposing Jones' unwillingness to take orders at times; also, his disloyalty to his senior commanders, at times.

I have to say that, as with others such as Ranulph Fiennes (who admitted to it) Jones might well have had a CV involving borstal or prison had he not been from the background he was. An armchair psychologist might wonder about his mental state, his lack of a brake on his own wishes.

I felt that the book was fair toward its subject. It showed Jones' positive qualities (courage, determination, honesty) as well as his more negative personality-aspects (rashness, rudeness, lack of thought in a crisis). The author does say that Jones might well have made general-officer rank had he survived the Falklands.

Well worth reading.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
In fluid, elegant and eminently readable style, John Wilsey provides a fascinating contemporary insight into the English public school, the complex and sometimes subtle workings of life in the army, as well as the early stages of the Falklands conflict from the military point of view. These accounts exude the authority and detail which only first hand knowledge can impart.
The book is really about H Jones though. Told with greater warmth and sensitivity than many will readily associate with senior military figures, it is in effect the story of the man who apparently had everything, but who strove for and succeeded in achieving, both personally and professionally, all that money and privilege cannot buy.
So far as his demise on the Falklands is concerned, Wilsey demonstrates convincingly that H did all the right things, for all the right reasons and to good effect. Even H's good fortune was finite though, as foreshadowed by earlier events such as the broken collar bone he sustained in the mess rugger and his car being identified after the incident on the roof at the Dartmouth Commissioning Ball.
This thoroughly enjoyable book, which would translate admirably to the large or the small screen, leaves the reader genuinely sorry to have finished it.
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