My father gave me my name in honour, and memory, of the great Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who was murdered one day short of his 30th birthday by bandits in China in 1935.
I’ve written a monograph – click here – which briefly outlines his life and describes a flight he took with the electioneering Hitler in 1933. It’s free to download on multiple platforms.
This is an extract from my monograph on Jones, based around a flight he took with Hitler.
Jones writes: “Somebody gave a cry: ‘The Leader is coming.’ A car drives through the snow. Out steps a very ordinary looking man…a slight figure in a shapeless black hat, wearing an ordinary greyish brown mackintosh. He looks like a middle-class grocer. His hair is fairly dark and brushed. Hitler surprised me by his smile. He was more natural and less of a poseur than I had expected.
“When he raised his arm flabbily to greet those who had assembled to see him, I was mystified. How had this ordinary-looking man succeeded in becoming deified by fourteen million people?”
Jones is introduced. “His handshake was firm, but his large, outstanding eyes seemed emotionless as he greeted me.” He notes that Hitler is not closely protected. “The Bodyguard just chats around; one gives his photo as a boxer to [Jones’s colleague] Delmer.”
In a later age of cleverly crafted media moments, what happened next would have been expertly choreographed and carefully rehearsed as a photo opportunity. But here it seems to have been entirely spontaneous.
Jones reports on the laddish diversion: “Hitler sees Goebbels’ new brown motor-car and immediately displayed a great interest in it. He gets inside. He wants to learn all about it. A few minutes later, with Hitler inside, the car is driving through the snow, hooting. Hitler comes out – there was something boyish about him.”
Jones is one of only two outsiders, non-German observers present that day. The other is Sefton Delmer of the Daily Express. Together they are the first journalists to accompany Hitler in his new aeroplane since he became Chancellor. Was Jones chosen because the Nazis thought he might be intoxicated by the charisma of the emerging tyrant, as many journalists would show themselves to be over the coming years? [But] simple research by Nazi intelligence would have shown that Jones was no tame sycophant.
About Gareth Jones…..
Gareth Jones was a prolific and adventurous journalist who was murdered one day short of his 30th birthday by bandits in China. His brief career, in which he filed more international scoops than most of his contemporaries would deliver in a lifetime, followed a path closer to Indiana Jones, with an additional touch of Zelig, a fictional character who had the knack of turning up in important places – until he found himself in the wrong, last place.
Outside his native Wales, the superficially unremarkable, non-conformist linguist with pebble spectacles, a perfectly buttoned up overcoat and trilby – in an age when foreign correspondents were self publicist, drink sodden bartflies – was soon forgotten. (Intriguingly, however, George Orwell may have given him an unlikely enduring celebrity by taking his name for the character Mr Jones in Animal Farm.)
Jones’s ultimate misfortune may have been to stray too deeply into the murky world of international power politics. He lost his life in 1935, when the world, sliding towards another great conflict, had no time to spare for solitary victims such as him, the small, brave people on the edge of the action.
The writer was on his last big assignment, to try to make sense of the murky political picture in the Far East, dominated by the tension between between China and Japan, with Russia pulling the strings in the background.
He had earlier walked around remote spots in the Ukraine exposing the horror of a state-sponsored famine which was killing millions. He travelled with Hitler in his private plane during his election campaign in 1933. He wrote perceptive pieces on Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the early days of his presidency. He penned agreeable essays on the declining rural traditions of his native Wales.
Outside his native Wales, the superficially unremarkable, non-conformist linguist with pebble spectacles, a perfectly buttoned up overcoat and trilby – in an age when foreign correspondents were self publicist, drink sodden bartflies – was soon forgotten. Or was he? Some believe George Orwell gave him an unlikely enduring celebrity by taking his name for the character Mr Jones in Animal Farm.
This is my account of one of his scoops.
“So wise so young, they say do never live long.” Shakespeare – King Richard III.