NANTYGLO and Blaina Town Council yesterday unveiled a monument in honour of a famous son, John Henry Williams VC, who was born in Nantyglo in1886.
The monument is on the green in front of Nantyglo Pensioners Hall and the majority of it has been paid for by local donations to the Town Mayor’s Appeal. The remainder is being paid for by the town council.
Prior to the unveiling of the monument, a short commemorative service took place in Wesley Chapel, Nantyglo at 2pm, where local schoolchildren had the chance to learn more about the most decorated non-commissioned officer in Welsh history.
CSM Williams started working for the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company at 12, 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. He was promoted to sergeant in 1915 and was posted to the battlefront in July 1916, and 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, the third 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, winning him the Victoria Cross. Leg and arm wounds led to his medical discharge on October 17,1918 and in December of that year, he was awarded the Medaille Militaire, the French equivalent of the VC. In Buckingham Palace, on February 22, 1919, King George V presented CSM Williams with his four medals. He returned home and rejoined the Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Company, where he was given a house, coal and electricity for life. He died in 1953 aged 66 and his grave is at Ebbw Vale Cemetery.
Steve Bartlett, the town council clerk, said: “The monument is looking really good. There is a photo of him and a slate plaque detailing his time during the Great War.
“There is a lot of civic pride when it comes to John Henry Williams – people are proud of him and his achievements and the are glad he is being recognised.”