Lover of languages and rugby, resident Brian tell his life story to date

Resident of Abbeyfield Brecon Society’s sheltered house, Brian Jones humbly shares his remarkable life story – from an esteemed service in the Royal Navy and encounters with royalty, to a love of languages and rugby.

The Early Days

Born in 1933, Brian was brought up in the suburban village of Llantarnam, near Cwmbran – home of a Roman Catholic convent which later became a camp for Italian prisoners of war.

“My father was the works manager of the Star Brick & Tile Factory, a Welsh firm making ceramic products.” Said Brian. “Its head office was based in Newport, overlooking the ancient castle – it was from the office balcony that I witnessed the visit of King George VI following his coronation in London.” He continued.

“We lived in a converted works office in the abandoned clay pit, to the constant noise of lorries coming and going with loads of clay (in) and of salt-glazed drainage pipes (out) to all corners of the UK.”

School Days

Brian started school at St Dial’s, Cwmbran, but shortly after made the move to Coalville in Leicestershire, when his father was promoted at work.

“In 1939 the War started and I recall busloads of refugees, evacuees and Jewish children arriving. Dad was not called up for the armed forces, but made parts for the engines of our military vehicles. Mum was a member of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), so I toured the town collecting scrap aluminium for ‘the war effort’ with her. I joined my sister in the local grammar school – a junior brother was to arrive later – and in 1944 we returned to Wales to prepare for peace by resuming construction of building materials.

“The first really significant date I recall was 6th June 1944 when, emerging from school (St Julian’s) we found Newport totally swamped by lines of American army trucks awaiting transport from the docks to Normandy, where the allies had landed.

“School was enjoyable – not least for sport and I recall playing in the Welsh Secondary Schools Rugby final trial – our team (East Wales) consisted of 14 Monmouthshire players, but the 15th, the team captain, was from Christ College, Brecon.

“Academically, I gained a Duke of Beaufort Exhibition at Oriel College, Oxford (founded 1326 by Edward II) but this was restricted to candidates born in Monmouthshire and Breconshire – not much competition!

“After Oxford, and wanting to teach languages I served a year in Au lycée in France at Chaumont as an English Assistant – which rounded off my French nicely.”

(Pictured above is Brian's rugby team)

National Service & Beyond

Brian was called for national service and spent two years in the Royal Navy before becoming a teacher at Northampton Grammar School.

“I spent two years in the Royal Navy – very usefully acquiring Russian at London University and having the pleasure of living on the edge of Hyde Park and being able to attend the theatre and the Proms whenever I wished. There was frequent rugby and on 3rd June 1953 I joined the massed crowds to cheer the Queen as she was driven in her coach along Coronation route.

“I was promptly offered a teaching post at Northampton Grammar School – for rugby as much as anything, and was in the (elderly) staff team which beat the school XV (but we did include two senior England players).

“A move to the Crypt School, Gloucester, followed and among various places of worship the beautiful, impressive cathedral figured frequently.

“I also kept up my association with the Royal Navy and did regular exercises in the intelligence world – which provided numerous visits to France, the states (USA) and The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).

“A source of great joy and everlasting happiness was meeting my wife-to-be, Dorothy, at the French Circle in Newport and soon after we were married, I was lucky enough to gain a language teaching post at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. This was a whole-time existence for which I was able to draw on my languages knowledge and military awareness and frequent trips abroad resulted. During a reorganisation at Sandhurst, I was lent to the French Military Academy, St-Cyr, for a term and later a similar exchange saw me at Dartmouth several days a week.

“In France and the UK, I was not just teaching – I ran or helped run the staff rugby XV, the army rugby referees branch, film club, wrote military history (Napoleonic), etc. The most rewarding post was as secretary of the Royal Memorial Chapel – unbelievably rewarding.

“I even managed to do some naval duties – interpreting for French and Russian ship visits to UK, working in intelligence centres and government offices and – the supreme reward – acting as interpreter for a visit by HMS Avenger to Odessa on the Black Sea – where I and a selected group of sailors had a box at the Ukrainian National Opera for a performance of La Traviata.

“This, however, was not the peak of one’s bliss. Our Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was also present in Odessa and the Ukrainian President was flying him home in his personal aircraft. Sir Malcolm very kindly made available to the interpreters for their return to the UK the aircraft he had come in – one of the Queen’s Flight – with everything provided. Needless to say, I was reminded during the flight of the numerous occasions on which I had been presented to the Royal Family at Sandhurst.”

(Pictured above is Brian then, and now)

Present Day

Today, Brian lives with us at the Abbeyfield Brecon Society, where he enjoys the friendly staff, sense of community and fantastic facilities at Abbeyfield House, sheltered housing.

“At this point I should cease wallowing in the exceptional experiences I have been privileged to enjoy – but fortunately I was able to offer some compensation to my poor wife by, on retirement, moving to Brecon from where she was able (usually me as driver) to travel regularly to Swansea University where, as she approached her 80th birthday, she was awarded her PhD, on a World War II theme following numerous independent visits to Sicily.

“Our three daughters graduated successfully and are enormously proud of their Mum.”