John Edward Downes (L/Cpl – 2 PARA & RAMC PARA)
30/04/1941 – 31/12/2021
The Veterans Contact Point joins the Family and Friends of a much-loved Military Veteran Parachutist and Army Medic – Mr John Edward Downes (also known to many as Lonnie or Budgie) in remembrance and in celebration of his life. Lonnie was diagnosed with an asbestos related lung disease, Mesothelioma in late 2020, but passed peacefully in hospital with heart failure. In civvy street Lonnie briefly worked in waste collection and in 1972 he reported that poisonous waste was being dumped locally. As a direct result of this a bill was rushed through Parliament regarding the disposal of toxic waste and was passed into law in March of that year. It is sad to note that around that same time Lonnie was himself exposed to dangerous asbestos waste.
Lonnie (Budgie) Downes (Centre) with fellow Para Veterans Rich and Roger
Lonnie started his military career with 2nd Parachute Regiment (2PARA), later transferring to the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) – Parachute Regiment Field Hospital to end his career as a Lance Corporal Para Medic, ending his military career to be with his family, returning to live in Coventry where he became a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Driver and an active trade unionist.
Lonnie Centre with Fellow Members of Bedworth Para’s
He was one of the founding members of the Coventry Airborne Forces Association which was formed to encompass those veterans who had served with Airborne Forces but not in the Parachute Regiment itself. Lonnie continued also to be an active member of the Bedworth Branch of the Parachute Regiment Association (also known as Bedworth Paras), where he became involved as a Welfare Officer supporting the welfare needs of former Para’s which included hospital welfare visits.
Coventry War Memorial Park – Lonnie (right)reminding Lord Mayor of protocols
Budgie was passionate about local veterans, especially those who had served with any of the UK’s Special Forces. His work involved the development of the Coventry Airborne Forces Association Memorial in Coventry City’s War Memorial Park, where he ensured that fallen veterans continue to be remembered. He was also involved in the memorials of two former Royal Marines Frank Parsons and Jesse Owen which are laid in Bedworth and Nuneaton.
He was also active in supporting his own local community of Longford being awarded the Good Citizen Award 2016. He has been involved in raising many tens of thousands of pounds for local good causes which have also included in 2014 a parachute jump in support of Coventry City’s Lord Mayors Appeal and supporting memorials that remember his fellow veterans such as the Pegasus Bridge Memorial which is now situated in the National Memorial Arboretum.
Lonnie on Armed Forces Day his mate Cecil Jeffcoate a D-Day Veteran and Wife
Lonnie was never shy of encouraging and enlisting support in his fund-raising efforts, none more a willing source than Leigh Watts the Landlord of his local The Greyhound Inn in Longford. The Greyhound also obliged Lonnie by allowing and supporting many fund-raising events and even permitting the situating of memorials for local veterans to be remembered.
Lonnie with his collection tin at the Greyhound Pub Longford
His daughter Shelley later said “It always amazed me how he managed to get so many people involved in his endeavours, pulling in help from many people”. The VCP and The Greyhound Inn are organising separate celebrative event in June 2022 where they plan to dedicate a memorial in memory of John Edward (Lonnie/Budgie) Downes.
Shelley also said that she remembered her Dad, “He was a man who would do anything to help anybody, whatever it took. He always did things on his terms and with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. Our home was mostly full of chatter, whistling, singing and all-round cheerfulness, nothing seemed to faze him and problems were never around for long before a solution would be found. Dads diagnosis did not stop him, he remained positive, full of hope from the start to the very end. Two days before Dad went into hospital he had spent 4 hours delivering Christmas Cards, the morning that dad was admitted he had popped out in his car, nothing seemed to be able to stop him or slow him down. His heart was full of love, fun and joy to the very end.”
Picture taken on Armed Forces Day – Lonnie stood with Cecil (Right)
His fellow veterans from the Veterans Contact Point (VCP), which he said had become his place to go to for support and the charity of his heart, became very fond of Lonnie and his death really has impacted on the people with whom he volunteered alongside and those whom he became friends with. The VCP is very much driven by people like Lonnie, who are passionate about the mutual support and comradeship that they provide. It will definitely be a quiet place without his Friday whirlwind visits, talking about people and characters he had known and his “top men”.
Lonnie and one of his best mates Roger Vines (Veteran – 7th Parachute Regt Royal Horse Artillery)
Lonnie has a large family and will be missed by all including his Brothers and Sisters Ron (passed) Les, Sylvia, Phil, Elaine and Kevin. His Son, John, Daughter, Shelley, Son in law, Phil and Grandson, Carter.
He will also be sadly missed by everyone who’s heart he has touched, who’s good cause he has supported and who’s life he has made a little better by his friendship; by his fellow Airborne Family; his fellow Veterans; by his local and wider Community. “Lonnie old pal your reserve parachute didn’t work on this occasion mate”.
Lonnie pictured with General the Lord Dannatt and Warwickshire Lord Lieutenant Tim Cox – Re-opening the VCP 2019
Funeral details and location are not yet known, but his family have said that he requested a Military Funeral with Standards, Berets, Boots and Medals and they hope to honour his wishes. Funeral arrangements are being made with JE Hackett & Sons, Coventry 02476 367149. The wake is planned at The Greyhound Inn in Longford. The VCP are working with the family and will provide funeral information (when known).
Ring 02476 343793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“We can no longer see you,
For the light that clothes you is too fine a fire
For our dull, ordinary eyes;
But every day we shall remember you
In the brave glory of the golden sun.”
– – –
Lieutenant Richard Spender – 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment
Finally, it is time to say “Hello old pal, stand easy duty done, welcome to the final DZ”