Jones was commissioned lieutenant on 14 March 1744 and saw service on the Dartmouth 50, Captains Essex Holcombe, John Bowdlier, John Crookshanks and James Hamilton, being employed in the Mediterranean and remaining with this vessel until the end of 1746. He then spent six months aboard the Portsmouth 24, Commander Joseph Soanes.
He was promoted commander of the Swallow 10 on 20 June 1765, and in the following spring transferred to the ketch Fly 8, which he commanded for the next three years, serving out of Plymouth. On 30 May 1770 he was appointed to her sister ketch, the Ranger 8, which again he commanded for three years until June 1773, mostly in the Irish Sea and visiting Liverpool, Dublin and the Isle of Man.
On 5 September 1776 Jones assumed command of the Beaver 14, going out from Portsmouth in December under the orders of Captain Thomas Pasley of the Glasgow 20 with a convoy for the West Indies. On 17 May 1777 he fell in with the American privateer Rattlesnake 16 and a sloop, which vessels fled from his pursuit into Martinique by taking to their sweeps. However on the next day the Beaver captured their consort, the poorly handled Oliver Cromwell 24, after a forty-five minute action off St. Lucia, with the loss of three men wounded as opposed to reported casualties of thirteen men killed and twenty wounded on the American. During the action Jones had a narrow escape when a musket ball passed through his upper clothes but only grazed his skin. The privateer, which enjoyed twice the broadside weight of metal as the Beaver but was crewed by a similar number of men at the time of the engagement, was bought into the Navy as the Beaver’s Prize.
Jones next collected the trade from the southern Caribbean islands and conducted them to the convoy’s rendezvous at St. Kitts. He thereafter continued to command the Beaver out of Antigua, and in December patrolled off Martinique and Deseada before he received the news in a letter dated 28 August that the Admiralty had confirmed the recommendation of the commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral James Young, that he be posted captain. For purposes of rank only he was appointed to the Fowey 24, and although it was intended that he be given the Beaver’s Prize this proved unfeasible once it was decided that she could not be rated a post ship, so instead he returned to England.
On 29 May 1778 Jones was appointed to the Penelope 24, which vessel was launched at Liverpool in June, being employed in home waters and delivering a convoy from Liverpool to Plymouth in November. She was later employed on the Irish station, and during January 1779 was sent from Cork in search of a French privateer that had been causing havoc off Cape Clear.
At the end of February 1779 the Penelope set sail from Cork for the West Indies with a convoy of almost one hundred and fifty vessels under the orders of the Salisbury 50, Captain Charles Inglis. After arriving at Port Royal, Jamaica on 16 June she went out on a cruise and took a number of Spanish prizes, including a guarda costa, the Hermosa Mariana 10 in November. In the spring of 1780 her return to Port Royal became overdue, and as concern for her welfare increased it was falsely reported in the newspapers that some Spanish prisoners she was carrying had risen against the crew during a gale and had slit Jones’ throat and murdered the remainder of his men.
In the event this erroneous account proved to be a mere harbinger of doom, for on 11 October 1780 the Penelope was lost with all hands in the Great Hurricane that devastated the Caribbean.
Jones left a widow, Eleanor, and an infant child.