The Torpedo Bomber, Recce and Trials Pilot turned Airline Entrepreneur - Jones

Reginald 'Jack' Jones joined the Royal Navy in 1926 but soon realised his true calling was aviation.  His application for the Fleet Air Arm rejected, he left the Navy and applied to the RAF, who also rejected his application.  Undaunted, he learned to fly with the Herts & Essex Aero Club at Broxbourne.  Jones' second application to join the RAF was successful; he reported to Brooklands Aviation at Sywell on 13 October 1936 where G-ADGT was his mount and Fg Off Grieve his instructor.

Following advanced training on the Hart and Audax at Netheravon, where he also flew the Avro 504N and Tutor, Sgt Jones trained at the Torpedo Training Unit, RAF Gosport, before joining 22 Sqn in March 1938 to fly the Vickers Vildebeest.


Vickers Vildebeest, RAF Gosport (IWM)

28 October 1939 saw Jones flying a Vildebeest on an anti-submarine patrol from RAF Thorney Island, his armament 6 x 100lb bombs.  On 10 November he was again on operations in his obsolete biplane, flying a convoy patrol, before attending a General reconnaissance course from 5 December.  By April 1940, 22 Sqn was re-equipping with the Bristol Beaufort and Jones was flying from both Thorney Island and RAF North Coates.  During May 1940, Jones flew 6 operations from North Coates, 3 of which were minelaying, with bombing attacks on Waalhaven airfield, oil tanks in Rotterdam and Motor Torpedo Boats in Ymuiden harbour.  


Bristol Beaufort (IWM)

Jones flew 5 bombing operations in June, typically armed with six 250lb bombs against shipping, the town of Ghent (twice) a Dutch aerodrome and Bergen in Norway.  22 Sqn's results were mixed during this period, due to non-sighting of targets and technical failures with the Beaufort, including engine unreliability and failed parachute flares.  

22 Sqn Beauforts North Coates 19 Jul 40

22 Sqn Beauforts at RAF North Coates, July 1940 (IWM)

By September 1940, Jones had been promoted to Pilot Officer and was commanding 'C' Flight of 22 Sqn.  On 2 September, he deployed to RAF Bircham Newton, from where his was one of 3 aircraft to bomb Flushing Aerodrome, returning to RAF North Coates.  On the 6th, 7th and 10th, Jones' target was Boulogne harbour, where much flak was encountered, one of 22 Sqn's 5 aircraft not returning on the 10th.  Later that day, Jones was minelaying, before returning to RAF Bircham Newton.  14 September was an attempted torpedo attack on shipping ,but no target was found.  Deploying to Thorney Island on the 17th, Jones released his torpedo through the mouth of Cherbourg harbour before firing guns at searchlights and warships; one of the six 22 Sqn aircraft failed to return.

22 Sqn Beaufort Mk XI Torpedoes North Coates

Mk XI Torpedos with 22 Sqn Beaufort, RAF North Coates, July 1940 (IWM)

Jones 4 remaining missions with 22 sqn were two anti shipping attacks, whose results were not seen and two final minelaying sorties.

22 Sqn Beaufort cockpit

22 Sqn Beaufort cockpit (IWM)

Pre-War, the French had ordered a batch of Glenn Martin Maryland bombers, which were subsequently diverted to the RAF and placed briefly with 22 Sqn.  With reconnaissance capability much needed in the Mediterranean theatre, Plt Off Jones found himself delivering one of these aeroplanes to Malta, before joining the famous 431 Flight, which later became 69 Sqn.

Maryland Malta

Martin Maryland at Malta (IWM)

On 7 November 1940, Jones carried out a recce of Taranto harbour, observing 4 battleships, 7 cruisers and 10 destroyers.  Three days later was the famous Battle of Taranto.  On 9 November, he carried out a recce of Sicily, Palermo and Messina, before returning to the UK to train as a flying instructor.

Instructing throughout 1941, he undertook an advanced instructor's course in 1942, before joining the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, receiving an Air Force Cross in recognition of his work there.  Towards the end of the War, he became a transport pilot, flying - amongst other things - a Dakota over Yugoslavia.

Jack Jones Crop

Sqn Ldr 'Jack' Jones

Demobbed from the RAF in 1946 as a Squadron Leader, and with the help of a £100 loan from his father, 'Jack' Jones formed East Anglian Flying Services with three war-surplus Puss Moth aircraft, offering pleasure flights from a field beside a holiday camp at Herne Bay, Kent.

Puss Moth

East Anglian Flying Services dH Puss Moth

On 5 January 1947, Jones became the newly-licenced Southend Airport's first operator.  By 1948, he was offering cross-channel holidays and charters with a fleet of dH Dragon Rapides.  By 1957, he was operating three Rapides, six Doves and two Bristol Freighters.

Vickers Viking Resize

Channel Airways Vickers Viking

DC 3 Resize

Channel Airways DC-3 at Rochester

DC 4 Resize

Channel Airways DC-4

The Rapides were replaced by Vickers Vikings and DC-3s and, in 1961, a DC-4.  During October 1962, East Anglian Flying Services became Channel Airways.  The Channel Airways story is well-documented elsewhere; suffice to say that by the early 1970s it had become a major charter / Inclusive tour airline, operating a fleet of BAC 1-11s, Tridents and Comets.

BAC 1 11 Resize

Channel Airways BAC 1-11

Following its move into the jet era, Channel Airways opened an engineering base and moved much of its operation to Stansted Airport, with plans to operate transatlantic services using Boeing 707s.  However, the seasonal nature of its income and poor utilization of the Trident fleet were causing financial difficulties and it ceased trading during early 1972, at which point 'Jack' Jones retired to Cornwall, where he died in 2006, aged 94.

Comet Resize

Channel Airways Comet IV 


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