Elizabeth Duckham Jones, a British World War II veteran who helped patrol harbors for downed pilots, died Wednesday of breast cancer at her home in Parkton. She was 81.
Described as both tough and gracious, Mrs. Jones served in the Women's Royal Naval Service, the first women's branch of the Royal Navy, from 1943 until the end of the war. During that time, she married Lt. Edward G. Jones Jr., an American soldier who took part in the D-Day landing at Normandy.
The couple settled in Baltimore County after the war and raised three daughters, primarily in Stoneleigh. Mr. Jones died in 2000. They were married for 55 years.
One of four sisters, Mrs. Jones was raised in Salisbury, England, and graduated from St. Margaret's boarding school in Tunbridge Wells. Later, she worked in a dress shop selling lace, dresses, gloves and hats.
During the German bombing of England, her parents took in a displaced mother and daughter, inspiring Elizabeth and her sister, Patricia, to do their part for the war. The two joined the Women's Royal Naval Service, (known popularly as Wrens) whose advertising slogan was "Join the Wrens and free a man for the fleet."
The service was established during World War I and disbanded shortly thereafter before being revived in 1939.
"She was a pretty tough old girl - young girl, actually," said her sister, Patricia D. Pearce, who is known as Paddy and lives in Poole, England. "When we entered the Navy, we had to go into gas chambers without our gas masks for short periods, just to see what that was all about."
Stationed on Whale Island off the southern coast of England, she began her service as a stern linesman on a small launch that patrolled the harbor and ferried British sailors to and from ships anchored off shore.
"She had to learn all the knots, signal flags, all kinds of codes," said her daughter, Elizabeth Hansen of Stoneleigh. Mrs. Jones rose through the ranks to command the vessel, the HMS Excellent.
She met her future husband, a member of the 29th Infantry Division out of Maryland, during the group's preparation for the Allied invasion. They met at military base dances and wrote letters during a courtship that culminated with their wedding on Feb. 10, 1945 at a church near Salisbury.
After the war, the couple settled in Baltimore County and moved to Stoneleigh. Mr. Jones was a salesman and later owned a lumber and veneer company in New Freedom, Pa.
Mrs. Jones, a homemaker, was active in the Stoneleigh neighborhood and elementary school. She was a member of the Stoneleigh Investment Club, the Picket Fence Garden Club and the Hunt Valley Country Club. She was a member of the Daughters of the British Empire.
She was an accomplished fencer who also enjoyed golf and painting in watercolors.
"She was spicy. She was tough in the sense that you get through things and you persevere, and you don't give up," said her daughter, Mrs. Hansen. Upon discovering rats that had invaded a kitchen cupboard, she picked up a can of peaches and hammered them to death, her daughter said.
"You couldn't have had a better sister," said Ms. Pearce. "We had such fun together. She was a very good person, a tremendous hostess with a party."
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Episcopal Church, 120 Allegheny Ave., Towson.
Mrs. Jones is survived by two other sisters, Mary D. Frampton of Salisbury, England, and Wendy Proyben of Cadouin, France; her two other children, Sandra J. Cook of Harrisville, N.H., and Edward G. Jones III of Parkton, and five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.