THE five-year-old great-great granddaughter of a First World War hero has unveiled a plaque naming a new bridge after her heroic ancestor.

Born in Nantyglo on September 29, 1886, John Henry Williams, known as Jack, enlisted with the South Wales Borderers in 1906.

Rising to the rank of company sergeant major, the former blacksmith is still the most decorated Welsh non-commissioned officer of all time.

(John "Jack" Henry Williams)

He was awarded the Victoria Cross, a Distinguished Conduct Medal for "conspicuous gallantry in action” and a Military Medal for bravery , to which he added an extra Bar to add to for another act of heroism.

CSM Williams was also awarded a Medaille Militaire, the French equivalent of the V. C.

In honour of his achievements, the huge bridge across the A465 near Brynmawr was today officially named after him.

(The newly maned Jack Williams Gateway Bridge)

The Jack Williams Gateway Bridge spans 118-metres and dominates the most westerly part of Clydach Gorge.

Today (Monday, January 21) his great-great granddaughter Adriana Smith was joined at the unveiling of a naming stone by twelve other family members including five of CSM Williams’ grandchildren.

Most of the family travelled from Maidstone in Kent to be at the official naming ceremony of the bridge.

Granddaughter Ann Page said it was an amazing tribute.

“We’ve been to quite a few events in honour of him now,” she added.

“It’s just so good to see how supportive the local people are, and it’s definitely a fitting tribute.

(The inscription on the naming stone)

“We went to France in October for an unveiling of a memorial in the place he won the VC – it was just incredible.

“The family is immensely proud of Jack Williams VC and very grateful that the people of Blaenau Gwent share our pride and help to keep his memory alive by supporting memorial events.

“Naming this spectacular bridge after him will hopefully generate an interest for future generations to explore the reasons why and to understand why his courageous actions during WW1 should always be remembered along with the sacrifices made by so many young men and their families.


“Jack and all Victoria Cross winners have a special place in our history - as the bravest of the brave.”

Grandson John Henry Williams, named his ancestor and also known as Jack, wore his grandfather’s medals to the ceremony.

Allan Page, Karen Smith, Kerin Williams, Peter Williams, Daphne Williams, Shirley Daly, Janet Gardiner, Jan Tester, Gary Jones and Marie Jones also braved the cold weather to honour their ancestor.

Economy and Transport Deputy Minister Lee Waters gave a speech before the unveiling.

(Around 60 people braved the cold to honour CSM Williams)

He said: “Jack Williams was a true hero and naming such an iconic bridge built in the area he lived after him is a fitting tribute to a man whose name should never be forgotten.

“This connection with Jack will create a lasting legacy for generations to enjoy. That we can do it in the same year Jack received his Victoria Cross from the King in Buckingham Palace – and marking almost exactly 100 years since Jack acted so bravely - is moving.”

Three schoolchildren from Brynmawr Foundation School presented a time capsule to engineers – which will be stored inside the bridge and opened 100 years from today.

Scott O’Neill, 16, Alex Sturdy, 15, and Thomas Snell, 13, said it was important that people could look back and remember the past in 100 years time.

Royal Welsh captain Ian Moore, MBE, called the ceremony “fantastic”.

“When young soldiers join us they are still taught about Jack and his actions,” he added.

Nick Smith MP said: “It is great to see the new bridge in Brynmawr being officially named after Nantyglo’s WW1 Victoria Cross hero John ‘Jack’ Henry Williams.

(Some of CSM Williams' family travelled from as far as Kent

“This is a fitting tribute to a local hero and a fantastic way of keeping his memory - and the memory of all those young men who never came home - alive for generations to come.

“I spent some time talking with members of Jack’s family at the memorial event held in his honour in Nantyglo last autumn. They remain incredibly proud of his immense bravery.

“This new bridge now provides not just a gateway to Blaenau Gwent, but a gateway to many more people learning about Jack’s heroics.”

Company Sgt Maj Williams’ citation for the Victoria Cross described his heroic deeds.


(Pupils from Brynmawr Foundation School presented a time capsule to store in the bridge for 100 years)

It says: “For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty on the night of October 7 and 8, 1918, during the attack on Villers Outreaux, when, observing that his company was suffering heavy casualties from an enemy machine gun, he ordered a Lewis Gun to engage it, and went forward, under heavy fire, to the flank of the enemy post which he rushed single handed, capturing 15 of the enemy.

“These prisoners, realising that Williams was alone, turned on him and one of them gripped his rifle. He succeeded in breaking away and bayonetting five enemy, whereupon the remainder again surrendered. By this gallant action and total disregard of personal danger, he was the means of enabling not only his own company but also those on the flanks to advance.”