A Devon man recently received a package he has been waiting for since 1946. It contains the life details of the man whom he most held dear and was ripped away from him long before he should have been.
But he had a surprise in store. It turns out that Anthony Jones’s father was a spy. Nothing like the ones that grace the silver screen such as the infamous British James Bond or the American action hero Jason Bourne, of course. But the elder Jones was very much a real-life hero, one who served during the Second World War. Sydney Jones had entered service about halfway through the war, volunteering for the special operations executive sometime in 1942.
The papers that were recently delivered to his 80-year-old son contain the details of his time with the executive and have been held by the British government’s current spy agency, the notorious MI5, as classified information for over 70 years.
The order was finally being lifted in December 2016. The papers will not sit merely as a collectible or antique either. Instead, they will now serve as the basis for a book written by a local author, who has taken a particular interest in Sydney’s career.
And a career it was. Sydney performed daring raids and countless missions in occupied France throughout the war, often with the assistance of the French resistance fighters. Unfortunately for Sydney, his career in espionage would be short, as in 1943 he was betrayed by a contact in France and handed over to the Nazi occupation forces, who, despite execution being the typical punishment for espionage, sent the elder Jones to a concentration camp.
He would survive the horrors of the German murder system operating in the camp for almost a year when, in 1944, as the war was quickly turning south for the Germans, many prisoners were merely shot. Sydney was among one particular group of 50 to be killed. His son was just six years of age.
Over seventy years later his son unceremoniously received the papers detailing the answers to the questions of what happened to his father after they were mailed to him by the Special Operations Executive’s successor agency, MI5. According to Jones, he initially did not realize what they were, but quickly understood their importance, bringing forth pride and a feeling of closure in the hero’s son.
A local author named Chris Robillard caught wind of Sydney Jones’ story and spent over a year researching details further, gaining whatever extra information he could, finally compiling the story of Anthony’s father into a rousing historical tale of adventure. The author compares Sydney’s exploits to that of the Spitfire pilots who flew against the Luftwaffe in the battle of Britain, who, though outnumbered, won the day time and time again.
Despite at the time not being able to learn the details of his father’s death or even his father’s service, Anthony Jones did have one memory regarding his father’s service in the war. In 1946, summoned to Buckingham Palace at the tender age of eight years old, Anthony Jones was asked to accept an MBE, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, awarded posthumously, on his father’s behalf.
Though seventy years have passed since that day, and a medal is a small consolation to a child grieving over the loss of his father, the younger Jones now feels the greatest pride and a sense of closure with the papers that reveal the fate of his father, as well as the knowledge that he was indeed a hero.