Brig John Robert Blakeley “Bob” Jones, OBE, DSO, MiD, CD, P.Eng. (Ret'd)

    • rigadier John Robert Blakeley “Bob” Jones, OBE, DSO, MiD, CD, P.Eng.
    • RCE EIIR Badge

    We regret to advise of the death of Brigadier John Robert Blakeley “Bob” Jones, OBE, DSO, MiD, CD, P.Eng. in Calgary, AB on 14 March 2000 at the age of 91 years.

    Bob, or “JRB” as he was known, was born in Edmonton, AB in 1908. He showed an early interest in the military and was in the Army Cadets as a youth and later entered Royal Military College in Kingston, ON in 1925. He returned to Edmonton and joined the Canadian Officers Training Corps while attending the University of Alberta. Bob graduated in mining engineering from the University of Alberta in 1939 and enlisted in 1940 as an officer with Calgary’s newly formed 10th Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers at the Mewata Armoury.

    JRB followed the course of the war through North Africa, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.  During the war he commanded the 10th Field Squadron, 31st Field Company, 4th Field Park Squadron, and 2nd Drilling (Tunneling) Company.  On 21 February 1944, after receiving senior officer training, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed Commander, Royal Canadian Engineers (CRE), 4th Canadian Armoured Division. He held that appointment until the end of the war.

    JRB has been credited with having a strong influence on the selection of the Bailey Bridge as the primary equipment for river crossings in Northwest Europe. At the time, other bridges were under consideration and there was much controversy what bridge should be used.  JRB ended to the argument in dramatic fashion.  In a demonstration for General Dwight Eisenhower, he outlined the advantages of the Bailey bridge and he and his men then set about erecting a 40-foot Bailey Bridge, complete with 10-foot ramps. The entire task was completed in 14 and one-half minutes. 

    JRB described the task of military engineers in wartime as starkly simple - they must try to build while the enemy tries to kill them.  He lived by the motto: “First in, last out”.  He was a courageous man and led by example.  On the battlefield, he was a pragmatic and visionary engineer.  He was able to anticipate treacherous battle situations and prepare for them with daring and innovative actions.  He was named to the Order of the British Empire, awarded the Distinguished Service Order for bravery and twice Mentioned in Dispatches. Of these awards, he was very modest saying, he “just happened to be there.”

    He was Commander, Royal Canadian Engineers (CRE) of 4th Canadian Armoured Division when he was named to the Order of the British Empire.  Leading from the front, he encouraged forward units by example under fire and ensured his determination to have the roads and obstacles clear for the division’s rapid advance was made clear to every sapper under his command.  His personal attention to the innumerable crossings of water obstacles confronting the 4th Armoured Division in the opening stages of the Scheldt Battle and his efforts to reduce any delay in the advance were mentioned in his citation.  Still, as CRE, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order for bravery. The granting of this award for bravery to an officer of his rank was rare.  It was in March 1945 in Holland when the advance of the division was halted by a 75-foot crater.  The surrounding fields were impassable and the Germans had the site under constant observation and fire.  Due to the urgency of the task and the technical difficulties involved, Lt-Col Jones carried out the engineer reconnaissance personally in daylight.  The enemy opened fire at any sign of movement in the area and the lips of the crater were mined with anti-personnel mines. He returned to his field squadrons, gave his orders and returned with them to start the work under cover of darkness. He remained there under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire until the by-pass was completed at first light the next morning at which time the advance continued.  His leadership provided a constant inspiration to all those under his command.

    After the war, JRB returned to Calgary and was appointed as District Engineer but within a month he was assigned the task of managing and maintaining the Northwest Highway System in Canada.  Even after six years of war, he regarded this as the greatest challenge of his career.  After three years as the Senior Engineer of the North West Highway System, Bob became Director of Works at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, ON and was appointed Chief Engineer of the Canadian Army from 1951-1954.  Later, as a Brigadier, he commanded the New Brunswick Area, returning to the Yukon in 1957 as Chief Highway Engineer.  

    Bob retired from the Army in 1963 and went to work for a large construction company in Alberta. Following this, for 10 years he was Director of Campus Development at the University of Alberta, Calgary, and then with the Alberta Universities Commission. In 1970 he was appointed as the first Honorary Colonel of 8th Field Engineer Regiment in Edmonton, an appointment he held until 1973.  He remained vigorous until the last year of his life and was active in the Military Engineer Association of Canada, serving as President from 1965 to 1966. {dcSep2017gd} [zbd, zsp, zri]