As the Royal Airforce celebrates 100 years we look at the amazing life of a Carmarthenshire man who took to the skies and earned 37 dogfight victories, and survived 28 crashes over the Western Front.
Ira “Taffy” Jones was born near St Clears on 18th April 1896. The illegitimate son of a farm labourer went on to become one of the most decorated fighter pilots in the RAF’s 100-year history.
His years of service in the RAF spanned from 1913 to 1936 and from 1939 to 1945. He rose to the rank of Wing Commander and was attached to No. 74 Squadron RAF.
He saw action during the Great War and the Second World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, The Military Cross, The Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar and The Military Medal
Ira Jones was friendly with local photographer Stanley Phillips, another St Clears man who saw active service in the Great War in the navy and as a member of the Home Guard during the Second World War.
Stanley documented life in and around Carmarthenshire and took a number of portraits of Ira Jones including this one with his mechanic Jim Phillips.
Local people still talk about the day that Ira Jones landed a plane in one of the local fields on a visit to see his mother. During an interview some years ago a local woman Mrs Betty Marks who was a young girl at the time when Jones landed his plane said that he had offered to take her up in the air for a flight around the area. She said that she had declined the offer.
This is Betty’s recollection of that event, the death of Parry Thomas, the arrival of Lloyd George at the local railway station and the arrival of the aviator Amy Johnson:
This image by Stanley Phillips shows Jones beside his plane flanked by local people.
A book documenting the work of photographer Stanley Phillips is available at the National Library of Wales. An archive of his substantial photographic work is also available to view by request.
Ira Jones settled back in his beloved Wales and became an author. Jones wrote three books, two of them between the wars; King of Air Fighters, a biography of Edward Mannock, Tiger Squadron a history of 74 Squadron, and An Air Fighter’s Scrapbook.
Ira Jones died on the 30th August 1960 (aged 64) at Aberaeron, Wales. He is buried at Sarnau Chapelyard, Bancyfelin.
Despite his great bravery and well documented history the grave of Ira Jones had been left to deteriorate for some time. There is a special commemorative plaque dedicated to Ira Jones in the town of St Clears. It is located next to the War Memorial.
It is hard to imagine that this young man from a rural part of Carmarthenshire went up into the skies during one of the most horrific wars on Earth and managed to not only survive but to go on to become one of the most decorated pilots of our time and to volunteer to fight in more wars.