The Welsh Commando unit leader awarded Military Cross for his 'gallant' service

A blue plaque in memory of WWII Commando unit leader Major Bryan Hilton-Jones is due to be put up in his native Harlech
-Credit: (Image: Nerys Pipkin)


A Welsh Commando unit leader is to be honoured for his exploits during World War II. Major Bryan Hilton-Jones recruited and led X Troop - Britain's first commandos with German speakers - and served in Normandy.

His remarkable life will be commemorated with a blue plaque on the wall in his native Harlech in a ceremony on June 2. It will be put up on the side of their meeting place - now a grocer's shop - in the Gwynedd town.

The grocer's shop used to be a butcher's shop, and was run by Peter Jones, 69, who was a distant cousin of Maj Hilton-Jones and who hadn't known that the building had been the unit's meeting place in 1942-1943.

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Harlech-born Major Hilton-Jones studied at Cambridge University before joining the army. His commando unit trained in North Wales, scaling Harlech Castle - undetected - then climbing Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).

He survived the war and after demobilisation worked in industry. Tragically he died aged 51 with two of his daughters Daryl and Nicola in a road accident near Barcelona on December 31, 1969.

Major Bryan Hilton-Jones in his military uniform
Major Bryan Hilton-Jones in his military uniform -Credit:Nerys Pipkin

The driving force behind the installation of the plaque is Peter's friend Charlie Rissbrook and Maj Hilton-Jones' family. He said they were looking for information about Maj Hilton-Jones when by coincidence Mr Rissbrook, 70, picked up a newspaper carrying a review of a book about the army hero by New York academic Professor Leah Garrett.

Mr Rissbrook looked into the history of the unit. "They were largely German and Austrian Jews and they became the most effective of all commando units. They wanted to get back at the Germans."

This blue plaque commemorating a building where X Troop commandos led by Harlech-born Major Bryan Hilton-Jones met in 1942-1943 during training will be unveiled there in June, 2024
This blue plaque commemorating a building where X Troop commandos led by Harlech-born Major Bryan Hilton-Jones met in 1942-1943 during training will be unveiled there in June, 2024 -Credit:Charlie Rissbrook

On the training, Mr Rissbrook said: "They scaled the walls of Harlech Castle, got in undetected, got out and ran up Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) then ran back to Harlech. They would meet in Harlech in a social club where they would fraternise. They called it The Melting Pot because it covered all nationalities."

After training, their linguistic abilities became vital during deployments, said Mr Rissbrook. "They were sent to lots of different commando units. Because of their command of German they were so valuable, they did not want them to be lost (together) in a single raid."

Harlech-born Major Bryan Hilton-Jones tragically died in a road accident in Spain in 1969
Harlech-born Major Bryan Hilton-Jones tragically died in a road accident in Spain in 1969 -Credit:Charlie Rissbrook

During his army career, Maj Hilton-Jones gathered intelligence in May 1944 for D-Day the following month. He was duly awarded the Military Cross "for gallant and distinguished service" after undertaking those covert operations in Operation Tarbrush.

Relatives of the late Maj Hilton-Jones, Prof Garrett herself and dignitaries are due to attend the unveiling ceremony next month. There is also expected to be an event at the local memorial hall with a performance by Cor Meibion Ardudwy.

Harlech Community Councillor Giles Bentham is delighted that the plaque is being unveiled. Cllr Bentham, who went to Rugby School (1967-1972) as did Major Hilton-Jones (1932-1936), said: "On behalf of the community council I am pleased that this commemorative plaque is being put up."

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