Mervin Jones was born in Hull, Quebec. He grew up during the Great Depression, facing economic uncertainty like many Canadian families, which influenced his decision to enlist in the Canadian Army in 1941. He trained in Cornwall before embarking for England in 1942.
Being fluent in French, Mervin was recruited for the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and at the age of 21, he parachuted into occupied France during the night of June 5-6, 1944 as part of the D-Day assault, thinking to himself that he may not survive to see his 22nd birthday. Fortunately, he survived, landing in a field and then connecting with 20 other paratroopers, who seized the strategically important village, Le Mesnil.
On August 22, 1944, in Beaumont-en-Auge, Mervin came across a farm where French civilians had taken shelter. Among them were children, including 10-year-old Jeannine Punelle née Quenderf. Mervin offered to share his rations in order to help feed the young children. His time with the family left an indelible mark on young Jeannine.
Mervin’s Second World War service ended in August 1944, after a knee injury he had sustained worsened.
He returned to Canada in 1945 with Bridget Howes, a British woman he had met in England during training and married shortly after. The couple raised four children together.
Mervin joined the military police and served in the Korean War. He retired in 1973 after a long career in the military as a warrant officer.
In 1994, after the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings, Jeannine Punelle became curious about what had happened to “her soldier” following the war. She took out an advertisement in a journal for veterans, hoping to somehow reach Mervin, whose name she had always thought to be François.
As luck would have, Mervin saw the advertisement and recognized their story. He contacted Jeannine and subsequently came to see her in France, creating a special bond between the two and their families.
Mervin Jones passed away in 2015. In May 2019, the Jones family made a pilgrimage to France to pay homage to their father. Along with Jeanine, they visited the Juno Beach Centre and shared memories of Mervin with staff.