Nisien Jones who lived in Brecon Road Pontardawe passed away in Nov 2004 and his son Rhodri and daughter Sarah have kindly agreed to allow this letter, first published in the South Wales Voice on 10th April 1943, to be placed here.
Driver Nisien Jones RASC, Middle East Forces was writing during WW2 to his father, Mr. Ben Jones, headteacher of Ystalyfera Grammar (Intermediate) School.
Below the letter are Nisien's funeral memorial card and a photograph of him taken during the war.
He was taken as a Prisoner of War on two occasions. He was with the 552 Corps RASC attached to the 8th Independent Armoured Brigade.
The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry has just published this letter in their recent obituary of Nisien, and the obituary itself is also included below.
(This letter was first published in the South Wales Voice 10th April 1943)
Battle of El Alamein
Reflections of an Ystalyfera Boy
Certainly no apology is required for publishing in its entirety a letter we have been privileged to read from Driver Nisien Jones, R.A.S.C., Middle East Forces, son of Mr. Ben T. Jones, M.A. and Mrs. Jones Post Office, Ystalyfera, to his father. The graphic description of the memorable battle of El Alamein and the startling contrasts portrayed cannot but grip every reader. Thus writes Nisien: -
We are now stationed by the sea - our fight, for the present is over. The guns are silent, the tanks are still, and the ambulance ply no more. We swim in the sea, and laze on the sands. We make ourselves clean once more, and erase the stains of battle from our tired bodies and weapons of war. It is indeed a strange contrast.
About a month or so ago we set out in twilight to begin this adventure. So much has happened in so little time that the days before the battle of El Alamein seem to belong to another era. So many names that meant nothing to us before, have now an everlasting significance.
We are the lucky ones of a famous armoured division who have come through it all.
We live, and we remember; we remember, these things ... But what a warlike scene it was! The rows of tanks upon the ridge; the quick flash and roar of the guns, the swelling mounds of earth made by bursting enemy shells. The blazing trucks and smashed-up tanks and broken guns. Our own R.A.S.C. vehicles driven fearlessly into a deluge of fire in which it seemed even the tanks would suffer annihilation; the enemy and our own dead scattered all over the desert. Prisoners streaming back in their own vehicles on a trip to Cairo, - the endless forward flow of our own troops, - the sappers still clearing the minefields; the military police doing their best to control the "traffic"; and the ambulances on their errands of mercy. The order of the day - issued to us from the Brigadier, "We've got here, and we'll stay here."
Not for another ten days were we to surge forward into the open desert.
The night of terror when the Luftwaffe paid is a visit and made a lucky hit with a stick of bombs on one of our petrol and ammunition dumps, causing a fire which illuminated the whole sky when our brigade of tanks were creeping forward. The heroism of the infantry of our own brigade whose job it was to weed out the crews of the deadly German 88's in order to give our tanks a free passage. The cheery, happy and unassuming sort of lads in my own company of R.A.S.C., taking up, unfailingly, to the fighting troops the things they need, if they are to live and fight, - ammunition, food, and water.
The routes along which we travelled were known to the enemy and were constantly attacked by enemy fighters and dive-bombers.
After the delivery of supplies we never expected a word of thanks but every man in the dessert knows what he owes to the drivers of the R.A.S.C.
Those grim days of November 2nd and 3rd, when the enemy was putting all his weight into a last fling against us as we stood exposed in the hard won wedge which was eventually to lead us into the open dessert.
Marvellous was the work in those days of our bombers, which we watched with awe, as they unloaded on enemy positions; and the Aussie soldier's remark to me: "I say, Tommy, I'm damn glad I ain't on the receiving end!" was the most expressive.
Then came November 4th and 5th - days of liberation for the Eighth Army. At last we had won it, - freedom of manoeuvre, and the chase had begun.
Fuka was ours, a station and an aerodrome littered with the hulks of the Axis aircraft. Half an hour after the place fell, the vanguard of the R.A.F. arrived and "touched down," just as if they had scored a try.
Jerry was by now retreating fast towards old Mersa Matruh and Barrani. More delaying actions by Jerry, and then we reached Matruh. The British were back after an absence of five months!
Our division had been used as a spearhead, and consequently had suffered casualties in men, tanks and vehicles. Fresh troops took over from where we left off, and we are now here by the sea, taking full advantage of a well-earned rest.
The church bells have been ringing in England, Wales and Scotland again so I am told. I like to think of the bells of the churches of Ystalyfera squatting in the works-id centre of coalfields and tinworks. I like to think of the bells ringing across the meadows, and of you and mum standing on the doorstep listening to them, and rejoicing. Each one of us thinks of some church or chapel at home, and in fancy hears the bells. We are the lucky ones. We hope to hear those bells again in reality. There were others, not so lucky, - many of them friends. They went into battle, but they are not with us now; they will never hear the bells again. As we try to catch the music of the bells in this desert air we think of them too.
Cheerio, and God Bless you my old pal.
Your loving son,
CPL.Alun Nisien Jones, 1919 -2004
This obituary was written in a Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Regimental Association publication
by his friend Fred Rixon
He joined the T.A. in May 1939 and after mobilization was posted to 552 Coy. R.A.S.C based at Worksop Nottinghamshire. The Company embarked at Portsmouth on the 28th, December bound for Palestine via France. The Troopship 'Devonshire" also had on board the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, arriving in Haifa early January.
For the first few months Nisien was driving all over Palestine supplying the 1st, Cavalry Division witli their requirements. In November 552 Coy.were transferred to Egypt to support General Wavell's troops in the WesterDesert. In April they were withdrawn and sent to Iraq with a column to subdue a rebellion. This was followed by involvement with the Vichy French in Syria. It was during this affray that Nisien along with a few others were ambushed and became P.O.Ws for a short time.
The summer ended with a further excursion, this time to Iran (Persia) supporting the Wiltshire Yeomanry to restore the situation, and with meeting up with the Russian Army in Tehran.
In March 1942 found himelf al Khatatba, Egypt, and informed he was now in the 8th. Armoured Brigade, 10th.Armoured Division. His final period of Desert service commenced in May with the move to Mersa Matruh, and later to Alam-el-Halfa, then El Alamein and the chase up to Tunis involved with the S.RY.most of the time. He finally finished his Desert Service at Enfideville is May 1943.
In November they left Cairo for 'Alex' and the journey back to the U.K. arriving on 10th. December '43.This was followed by 4 weeks leave, water-proofing started on vehicle training and a move from Soham, Cambridgeshire to the New Forest area Brockenhurst / Beaulieu. The landings in Normandy were phased in from D4 to D16
For the duration of the War Nisien remained with the Brigade and finished his Service in Hannover in April 1946 when like the S.R.Y. were stood down and placed in 'Suspended Animation'. He was one of a small number who served all his time with 552 Coy. The Unit and 168 Field Ambulance, with the S.R.Y. and had been with the 8th, Armoured Brigade from start to finish
Following demobilization Nisien rejoined Lloyds Bank, and completed his studies to become a qualified Banker, at at early age. He retired at 60 yrs. after 42 years in the financial world of business.
In retirement he became more involved with the Royal British Legion and its work, especially for the 'Poppy Appeal' along with his work for the 8& Army veterans, and other Old Comrades associations, and never forgetting his Rugby.
He was blessed with a very dry sense of humour, always ready with a quick response, very kindly towards his Comrades, always cheerful and full of optimism. His air of confidence was always uplifting to those around him, was a gentle man and set a fine example of real comradeship.
Farewell old Son, Farewell
Gareth Hicks © Copyright notice