On Tuesday evening in a Peckham, South London, nursing home Jack Jones died at the age of 96.
Being myself a child of the 50s and 60s I am only too familiar with the role Jack Jones played through the 1970s when he led the then mighty Transport and General Worker’s Union and he was known as Britain’s most charismatic and powerful union leader.
When he retired in 1978 he merely took on a new role of crusading for Britain’s pensioners.
However with his passing we have not only lost a trade union stalwart but an honorary Spanish citizen too.
Jack Jones joined the TGWU as a shop steward and organised protest meetings against fascists. He became active in the Aid Spain campaign and in 1937 he joined the International Brigades and fought against the fascist forces of Franco in the Spanish Civil War before being wounded in the Ebro battle of 1938.
Of that time he said: “Franco’s troops had started to win the battle at Gandesa, next to the Ebro. We didn’t have any artillery or planes. We were fighting with primitive weapons against a mechanised army supported by Hitler and Mussolini.”
He wrote about his experiences in his autobiography, Union Man, explaining how he led a group of volunteers in a clandestine operation to Spain from Britain, via Paris.
It was for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War that Jack Jones and other surviving members of the International Brigades were later honoured with citizenship by the Spanish Government of José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
In life Jack Jones was at heart a "passionate internationalist". In death the working people of Britain and Spain have lost a sound friend and owe him a great debt.