Gareth Vaughan Jones was born at Barry on 13 August 1905, the son of Major Edgar and Annie Gwen Jones. He was educated at Barry County School, the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining first class honours in Modern Languages. He then became private secretary and researcher to David Lloyd George, 1930-31 and 1932-33, and also spent a year at New York, 1931-32, as a foreign affairs advisor to Ivy Lee and Associates. In 1933 he joined the editorial staff of the Western Mail, and visited Russia, writing a series of articles exposing conditions in the famine wracked Ukraine. He embarked on a ’round-the-world-tour’ in 1934, but was cruelly murdered ostensibly by ‘bandits’ in Mongolia on 12 August 1935.
A fascinating archive of his papers came into the custody of the National Library of Wales from various members of his family between 1987 and 2011, and a composite list of the entire archive is now available. Of particular interest are the long sequences of informative letters which he sent regularly to his parents and two sisters from a large number of foreign countries. He outlines vividly conditions in these nations and the array of people whom he meets. Equally absorbing are the pocket diaries and notebooks in which he recorded thrilling details of his travels and adventures. They include graphic pen portraits of Hitler and Goebbels in 1933 Nazi Germany, and harrowing descriptions of conditions in the Ukraine in the early 1930’s when millions starved as a result of the Holodomor. There are also many vivid photographs, press cuttings of Jones’s articles and the extensive research papers of his niece the late Dr Siriol Colley.
An investigation into the mysterious death of Gareth Vaughan Jones, drawing on sources within the NLW archive, was broadcast in the BBC4 programme ‘Storyville : Hitler, Stalin and Mr Jones’ on 5 July (available on the BBC iPlayer until 30 July 2012).
J. Graham Jones