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100-Year-Old Poppy Seller Who Survived Nazi Work Camp Says He Will Never Quit

Ron Jones, a veteran who survived a prisoner of war camp at Auschwitz, is selling poppies for The Royal British Legion...

A 100-year-old former soldier who survived a prisoner of war camp at Auschwitz is selling poppies for The Royal British Legion.

Ron Jones, who turned 100 on 30th April, volunteers for up to six hours a day at his local supermarket in Newport, south Wales.

The grandfather-of-two has been collecting for the Poppy Appeal since 1981.

He was called up to fight in 1940 and served as a lance corporal in 1st Battalion Welch Regiment.

Mr Jones was captured in Benghazi in 1942 and was transferred to forced labour camp E715, part of the Auschwitz complex.

After two years of being held at the camp, he was forced to join the "death march" of prisoners across Europe in 1945.

He was eventually freed by American troops and finally returned to his wife Gladys in Newport in May 1945, weighing just 7st.

Mr Jones worked at the city's docks until his retirement in 1980, then began collecting for the Poppy Appeal the following year.

He told the Press Association:

"I've been selling poppies for about 30 years, I go down to Tesco every year for a fortnight, practically every day."

"I like to do a lot for the British Legion as we help dependants, we help the boys coming back from Afghanistan. 

“If they need help, I'm there. I've made as much as £15,000 occasionally but normally we get up to nine or £10,000."

When asked whether he would ever retire from his role, Mr Jones replied firmly: "No".

The pensioner admitted that he has become "a bit of a celebrity" at the Tesco on the Harlech Retail Park where he sells poppies.

Auschwitz
Pictured: The infamous Nazi death camp, Auschwitz.

Customers come in each year looking for him, with one woman driving from London to Newport to buy a poppy from Mr Jones.

"She put £20 in my box, that's what happens," Mr Jones said.

He usually volunteers for three hours each day but takes on a double shift, lasting for six hours, for three days of the appeal.

Last week, he attended the launch of the 2017 Poppy Appeal in Newport and refused a chair, standing instead for the 45-minute ceremony.

Mr Jones, whose wife died in 2005, said the Legion had been there for his friends who returned home after the war and needed help.

He described how he was called up in September 1940 and was sent to Cairo, Egypt, in 1941.

During his time at the Nazi death camp, he worked alongside Jewish slave labourers at IG Farben's infamous chemical factory.

"When they got desperate they sent us out. I marched, I was on the death march from Poland back to Austria," he added.

"Seventeen weeks on the road, pulling vans at night time and bitterly cold, no food.

"We lost about 100 blokes who died on the road but I'm still here."

Lynne Woodyatt, community fundraiser for The Royal British Legion, paid tribute to Mr Jones as "a legend": 

"He's one of our key volunteers and an ambassador for the appeal. He does supermarket collections for us, he's quite a celebrity.

"The young generation love to interact with him and he loves to get them involved.

"He's so generous and the Legion is quite close to his heart."

Mr Jones features in a film called The Poppy Seller, released on November 11, and has donated the payment for his appearance to The Royal British Legion.

Ron Jones poppy seller