First World War hero, CSM John Henry Williams VC DCM MM, remembered by Blaenau Gwent Council
Updated 3:28pm Tuesday 18th March 2014 in News
NEXT Saturday will see the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the most decorated non-commissioned officer in Welsh history.
On Saturday March 8 at the General Offices in Ebbw Vale, a blue plaque will be unveiled in memory of the town's most famous son.
CSM John Henry Williams VC DCM MM and Bar was the most decorated Welsh non-commissioned officer of all time.
He was born in Nantyglo on September 29 1886. At 12 he started working for the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company, working as a blacksmith in Cwm Colliery.
He enlisted with the South Wales Borderers in 1906, and rejoined the 10th battalion of the South Wales Borderers as a Private in 1914 at the onset of the Great War.
His leadership qualities were recognised and he was quickly promoted to Sergeant in 1915. The 10th Battalion was soon posted to the battlefront and in July 1916, in the Somme, he was part of the 38th (Welsh) Division sent to clear the Mametz Wood, for which he was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for "conspicuous gallantry in action.”
A year later on July 31, 1917, CSM Williams found himself in action at Pilckem Ridge during the Battle of Passchendaele (3rd battle of Ypres). The 38th Division was again victorious in capturing the ridge and CSM Williams was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.
Then at Armentieres on October 30, 1917 he performed another act of heroism when he ignored bullets and shrapnel to bring in a wounded comrade. For this, he had a Bar added to his Military Medal.
In 1918, at Villers Outreaux, his unit were being fired on by an enemy machine gun and were suffering heavy casualties. CSM Williams, in an act of bravery and without regard for his own life, rushed the machine gun post, took 15 prisoners and secured the position. This won him the Victoria Cross.
Leg and arm wounds led to his medical discharge from the army on October 17 1918 and in December of that year, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire, the French equivalent of the V. C.
In Buckingham Palace, on February 22, 1919, King George V presented CSM Williams with his four medals. It was the first time the king had presented so many medals to one person in one day.
CSM Williams returned home and rejoined the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company, where he was given a house, coal and electricity for life.
The plaque will be unveiled by Brigadier Philip Napier OBE, Colonel of The Royal Welsh Regiment. He said: “In the year that we start our commemorations of the centenary of the First World War it is very appropriate that we acknowledge the bravery, initiative and dedication of this outstanding man.
"To win just one of these decorations for leadership and bravery would have been impressive. To win the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for bravery, as well as three other gallantry awards is quite exceptional."
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