War vet marks 70 years as a Moth

2014-07-22 00:00

SEVENTY-FIVE years after serving for his country, the oldest member of the Moths is still patriotic to the core.

Peter Barlow Jones was only 19 when he volunteered to be part of the Active Citizen Force (ACF).

Little did he know the experience would shape his entire outlook on life.

Jones, now living in Blackridge, was trained as a soldier at the Bisley Valley (Oribi) army camp and fought in World War 2 in 1939, when South Africa declared war against Germany.

Now 94 years old, Jones is the oldest serving member of the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moths) in the country, and probably the third eldest in the world.

“I have been a member of the Moths for 70 years because the spirit of comradeship that exists in the organisation,” he said.

Jones said he joined the ACF because the war was imminent and “it was adventurous”. His father fought in the First World War (WW1) as a Captain.

Jones still drives a car and, although he suffers from hearing problems, his memory is still very sharp when he talks about his experiences in the war.

“The war taught me how read people. I can tell you by just looking at the person that they are either good or bad,” said Jones, sitting next to his wife, Colleen.

The two met after he returned from the war and got married in 1954.

Jones pulled up his trouser pants leg to show the scars from the shrapnel wound on his leg.

“I was wounded after three years of fighting at 21 years old during the intense Battle of Gazala in Egypt.”

After his injury, Jones moved back to South Africa to work at the Railways fixing locomotives in Ladysmith. He emigrated to Zambia to raise a family while working in the Nkana copper mines.

“When my four children were growing up and needed better education we moved back to SA,” he said. “If I were to do it again, I would, to defend my country.”

His motto in life is, “Let everyone get on with their lives and stop dictating to other people how to live their lives to avoid friction.” He said this has been his secret to longevity.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

How Jones escaped during the war:

Jones played a game of matches to escape from Egypt after he had been injured. He said many people wanted a place on the boat back to South Africa, but there was only space for ten people.

“So we played a game of matches, where we had to guess how many matches a person had been given,” he said.

Jones said he was lucky to be the first one selected for the boat ride when he guessed the correct number of matches a soldier held concealed in his hand.

“The war is not a wonderful thing to go to because it is not nice to kill other people,” said Jones.

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