PARACHUTE Regiment soldiers past and present gathered today to pay their respects at the funeral of ‘Stormin’ Norman Jones, who in 1944 took part in the biggest airborne operations in history.
More than 200 people gathered at St James’ Parish Church at Seacroft Green in Leeds for the funeral of Mr Jones, of Swarcliffe, Leeds who died earlier this month aged 99.
Parachute Regiment men formed a guard of honour as the coffin - his Red Beret and medals placed on top - was carried into the church.
Mr Jones was dropped on the Dutch town of Arnhem in September 1944. Although the operation failed, it was regarded as one of the most courageous Allied actions of the war.
Mr Jones’ grandson-in-law, Flight Sergeant Philip Holt, read his eulogy, describing the first time he met his grandfather-in-law.
“I instantly warmed to him. He made time for me and welcomed me into the family fold. My first impression was one of total admiration.
“He had a striking appearance - very upright and still carrying a military bearing. He was always very smartly turned out.”
Mr Holt remembered how, on revisting Arnhem, Mr Jones was “hero worshipped” by young and old among the townsfolk.
“They stopped him in the street but he was very modest and willing to chat and have a snap or two taken.”
Mr Jones, he said, had shown “dogged determination” in order to carry out anniversary parachute jumps many decades after the 1944 operation.
He added: “When I was asked by the family to say a few words today I was touched and honoured. He was such a gentleman. He was a man who was influential, capable, funny and loving. Norman will be sorely missed.”
After the service, former Parachute Regiment men and those from other regiments and the Royal Air Force gathered to talk.
Ex-Para Mike Huggans, 58, said: “It was a lovely, emotional service. As was said in the service, another feather has fallen from Pegasus, the emblem of airborne forces.”
Former Para Raymond Cutts, 82, said: “It was a beautiful service, the best send off I have ever seen. He was a bloody good soldier.”
Mr Jones’ daughter Pauline said she felt very proud of her dad.
“Everybody that knows Dad thought he was a wonderful man and had lots of respect for him.”