Engineer Harold Jones' Cardiff graduation 66 years late

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An 85-year-old man has finally collected his degree, 66 years after World War II forced him to miss his graduation.

Harold Jones was sent to complete Royal Navy training in 1945 and never picked up his Cardiff University award.

Now a grandfather of eight, he returned on Monday to graduate formally with students more than 60 years his junior.

"It's exciting even after all these years to finally get my degree," said Brecon-born Mr Jones.

"It's a big thrill - I'm probably the oldest by 40 or 50 years but that is relatively unimportant. It's just nice to be here back in Cardiff."

Despite missing graduation Mr Jones, who now lives in Madrid, went on to a successful engineering career, working in his native Wales - in Pembroke - as well as the Middle East, London, the Netherlands and South Africa.

He started his studies in the city in 1942 when he was a student at Howard Gardens Sixth Form, and his mother then enrolled him on a mechanical engineering course.

"We never really discussed it," he said.

"Some people did it to avoid getting called up, so that might have been my mother's motivation.

"People on the course had an added incentive to make sure they passed their exams, because if you didn't you were handed a rifle and told, 'Right, go and get some Germans'.

"There were originally 15 people on the course to begin with but only five finished their studies.

"But I never felt any pressure. There's probably more pressure on students nowadays, because you are not guaranteed a job when you come out of university."

Home Guard duties

While at university Mr Jones completed weekly fire-watching and Home Guard duties, which saw him staffing a radar plotting station to track incoming German bombers.

Image caption,
Class of 1945: Harold Jones (far right) missed graduation for war training

"We had the fire watch at night occasionally. I was also in the Home Guard manning a radar station plotting German bombers coming over," he told BBC Wales.

"If they went over the south coast and stayed around Southampton we were happy, but if they starting coming our way we had to get the rocket launchers ready.

"In 1950 I did get a letter from the university signed by the registrar saying I had passed the exams, otherwise I would be unsure whether I had passed or not. But no-one's ever questioned it."

Mr Jones also helped the war effort by making nuts and bolts for aircraft at a factory in Treforest, near Pontypridd.

Mr Jones described being in Cardiff during the war - which saw more than 500 people killed during air raids by the Luftwaffe - as pretty surreal.

"On one occasion a landmine cord was found in our garden," he said.

"Though despite the bombs and the chaos everybody took it in their stride. You just got on with things - you just had to."

In 1944, with a year of his studies remaining, Mr Jones travelled to London with three friends and was accepted to join the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as a midshipman.

He reported for training in 1945 just as hostilities were coming to an end in the war.

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