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Richard Garnons Williams

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Not to be confused with the rugby union and rugby league footballer of the 1940s, and 1950s Dickie Williams
Not to be confused with the Australian rugby league footballer Richard Williams (rugby league)
Colonel Richard Garnons Williams
Richard Garnons Williams.jpg
Birth name Richard Davies Garnons Williams
Date of birth (1856-06-15)15 June 1856
Place of birth Llowes, Wales, UK
Date of death 27 September 1915(1915-09-27) (aged 59)
Place of death Loos, France
School Magdalen College School, Oxford
University Trinity College, Cambridge
Alice Jessie Williams (m. 1885)
Rugby union career
Position(s) Forward
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Cambridge University R.U.F.C.
Brecon RFC
Newport RFC
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1881 Wales 1 0

Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Commands held 12th Royal Fusiliers
Battles/wars Battle of Loos
Memorials Loos Memorial

Colonel Richard Davies Garnons Williams (15 June 1856 – 27 September 1915)[a] was a British Army officer and Welsh rugby union player who represented Wales, Brecon and Newport. He played in the first Wales international rugby union match in 1881.

Garnons Williams became an officer in the British Army in 1876, and retired from regular service in 1892, though he continued to serve in a voluntary capacity until 1906. Already aged 58 at the outbreak of the First World War, he rejoined the army and was killed in action in 1915.

Early life and family[edit]

Richard Garnons Williams was born on 15 June 1856 in Llowes, Radnorshire, the second child of the Reverend Garnons Williams of Abercamlais, Powys, and his wife Catherine Frances, the daughter of Fenton Hort, of Leopardstown, Dublin, and sister of Fenton John Anthony Hort.[2] Garnons Williams was educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford before being prepared for University by private tuition in Wimbledon, Surrey. He then went to Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1874.[3][4]

His siblings were Reverend Arthur, Richard Davies, Captain Aylmer Herbert, Gerald, Katharine Frances Helena, Annabella Mary, Hugh, who died an infant, Mark Penry Fenton, and Mary Elizabeth.[5] Aylmer Herbert joined the Royal Navy in 1871 and, after receiving his commission in 1880, served until his retirement in 1902, having reached the rank of captain. He then took command of the training ship HMS Cornwall until 1904 when he was appointed to command the Lancashire Navy League Sea Training Home at Liscard. He died on 8 February 1916 aged 58.[6] Gerald was married in April 1892 to Minnie Lilian Court, the youngest daughter of Major Henry Court of Iverfarne, Buckinghamshire.[7] Mark Penry was Fleet Surgeon aboard HMS Hampshire and died when his vessel was wrecked in 1916.[8]

Richard Garnons Williams married Alice Jessie Bircham on 8 January 1885.[3] They had a daughter, Barbara, who married Captain Hume Buckley Roderick of the Welsh Guards on 9 November 1916.[9][10][11] Her husband was killed in action on the Western Front in 1917. She was herself serving in France at the time.[12]


Wales Rugby Team, 1881. Garnons Williams is standing at the far right of the back row.

After going up to Trinity College, Garnons Williams represented Cambridge at rugby, but did not win a Blue.[13] He played three matches for Newport RFC in 1880, after he had joined the army: against Manchester Rangers (2 October), Gloucester (4 December), and Cardiff (18 December).[14] In 1881 he was selected to represent Wales in its first ever match, against England on 19 February at Blackheath.[15] The challenge to England came from Richard Mullock of Newport, who was not an official of the South Wales Football Union, but wanted to bring Wales up to the same level as the other home nations, rather than settle for playing against English and Irish provincial teams. England, for its part, had recently beaten Ireland by two tries and two goals to none, and the previous season had become the first winners of the Calcutta Cup by beating Scotland by three tries and two goals to one goal. The date offered to Mullock by the English Rugby Football Union (RFU), 19 February, coincided with a match for the South Wales Cup between Llanelli and cup holders Swansea, thereby limiting Mullock's selection options.[16] England won by eight goals to nil.[17] It was Garnons Williams' only appearance for Wales.[18]

International appearance
Opposition Score Result Date Venue Ref
 England 8-0 Lost 19 February 1881 Blackheath [17]

Military career[edit]

Deciding to follow a military career Garnons Williams was accepted into the Royal Military College Sandhurst, and is also recorded as representing the Sandhurst rugby team. He completed his officer training in 1876, and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant[b] on 26 February.[19] He was posted to the 38th Regiment of Foot, promoted lieutenant on 17 January 1877, and with his army rank (but not regimental seniority) backdated to his original commission as sub-lieutenant,[20] and a month later, on 17 February 1877, transferred to the 7th Regiment of Foot.[21]

By February 1885 he had been promoted to captain, and his unit had been renamed the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).[22] On 10 January 1887 he was appointed adjutant of the 4th Battalion of the regiment, the Militia unit of the regiment.[23] A regular officer was normally given this post in Militia units to organise training and generally maintain standards. His posting lasted the usual 5 years.[24] He then retired from the regular army on 4 May 1892.[25] On 8 August 1894 he was commissioned major in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, South Wales Borderers,[26] and on 1 November 1895 was appointed Brigade Major for the South Wales Brigade of the Volunteer Force.[27] On 12 July 1899 he was granted the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel.[28] He resigned his Volunteer commission on 26 May 1906, retaining his rank and with permission to continue wearing his uniform.[29]

First World War[edit]

He rejoined the British Army shortly after the outbreak of World War I and was posted to his original regiment, joining the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a major on 26 September 1914.[30] He was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel on 3 October 1914, and transferred back to the South Wales Borderers to command the Brecknockshire Battalion.[31][32] He was later posted back to 12th Royal Fusiliers, and, according to official sources, was killed on 25 September 1915 while leading his battalion at the Battle of Loos. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.[33][34] At 59 years of age, he was the eldest of the 13 Wales international players to be killed during the war.

A soldier under the command of Colonel Garnons Williams wrote an account of his commanding officer's death, which puts the date of his death as 27 September. Col Garnons Williams was in temporary command of the 12th Royal Fusiliers when on 25 September he led his battalion in an attack on German trenches. However, the flanks were exposed and on 27 September, Garnons Williams gave the order to retreat. He was at that moment shot in the head from a house nearby. The soldier who gave the account said: "I was very sorry for him, as we could not have had a better, braver officer. He was with us all the time in the front trench, and looked after us as well as he could; no man could have done better. Nobody could get back to him." The following evening, the battalion was relieved, Garnons Williams being declared officially wounded and missing in action, unofficially reported killed.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official sources say 25 September.[1]
  2. ^ Following the Cardwell Reforms the British Army briefly used the rank of sub-lieutenant before settling on second lieutenant.


  1. ^ "CWGC - Casualty Details Garnons-Williams, Richard Davies". 
  2. ^ Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort Internet
  3. ^ a b Venn 2011, p. 497.
  4. ^ Bebbington 2014.
  5. ^ Nicholas 2000, p. 121.
  6. ^ "DEATH OF CAPTAIN A H GARNONS WILLIAMS, RN". The Brecon County Times. William Henry Clark. 17 February 1916. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  7. ^ "Marriage of Mr Garnons Williams". South Wales Echo. Jones & Son. 29 April 1892. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "THE LATE FLEET SURGEON GARNONS WILLIAMS". The Brecon County Times. William Henry Clark. 29 June 1916. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "FORTHCOMING MARRIAGE". Llanelly Star. Brinley R. Jones. 14 October 1916. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "WELSH OFFICER MARRIED". Herald of Wales and Monmouthshire Recorder. [s.n.] 18 November 1916. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Wedding of Hay Interest". The Brecon Radnor Express Carmarthen and Swansea Valley Gazette and Brynmawr District Advertiser. Robt. Read. 23 November 1916. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  12. ^ "Our Fallen Heroes". Llanelly Star. Brinley R. Jones. 15 December 1917. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Jenkins 1981, pp. 145–152.
  14. ^ "Richard Williams". 
  15. ^ McCrery 2014, pp. 232–233.
  16. ^ Richards 2014, pp. 12–15.
  17. ^ a b "England-Wales 1881". ESPN UK. 
  18. ^ Richard Garnons Williams profile at ESPNscrum website
  19. ^ "No. 24299". The London Gazette. 25 February 1876. p. 886. 
  20. ^ "No. 24634". The London Gazette. 18 October 1878. p. 5610. 
  21. ^ "No. 24404". The London Gazette. 16 January 1877. pp. 218–219. 
  22. ^ "No. 25439". The London Gazette. 6 February 1885. p. 521. 
  23. ^ "No. 25666". The London Gazette. 21 January 1887. p. 338. 
  24. ^ "No. 26243". The London Gazette. 8 January 1892. p. 135. 
  25. ^ "No. 26284". The London Gazette. 3 May 1892. p. 2550. 
  26. ^ "No. 26539". The London Gazette. 7 August 1894. p. 4548. 
  27. ^ "No. 26679". The London Gazette. 12 November 1895. p. 6103. 
  28. ^ "No. 27097". The London Gazette. 11 July 1899. p. 4282. 
  29. ^ "No. 27916". The London Gazette. 25 May 1906. p. 3662. 
  30. ^ "No. 28960". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 October 1914. p. 8854. 
  31. ^ "No. 28922". The London Gazette. 2 October 1914. p. 7819. 
  32. ^ Smith 1980, p. 202.
  33. ^ Casualty details—Garnons Williams, Richard Davies, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved on 16 April 2009.
  34. ^ Rugby Heroes who went to War BBC Online Matthew Ferris, November 2008
  35. ^ "Col. Garnons Williams". The Brecon County Times. William Henry Clark. 11 November 1915. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 


  • Bebbington, David (2014). Mister Brownrigg's Boys: Magdalen College School and the Great War. London: Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-78346-299-5. 
  • Jenkins, Vivian (1981). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1981–82. Aylesbury: Rothmans Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-907574-05-X. 
  • Nicholas, Thomas (1991). Annals and antiquities of the counties and county families of Wales. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co. ISBN 0-8063-1314-5. 
  • Richards, Huw (2014). The red and the white the story of England v Wales rugby. Aurum Press. ISBN 1-78131-358-X. 
  • Smith, David; Williams, Gareth (1980). Fields of Praise: The Official History of The Welsh Rugby Union. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-0766-3. 
  • Venn, John (2011). Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1-108-03616-3. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "Colonel Garnons Williams". The Brecon Radnor Express Carmarthen and Swansea Valley Gazette and Brynmawr District Advertiser. Robt. Read. 1915-10-07. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  • Prescott, Gwyn (2014). 'Call them to remembrance': the Welsh rugby internationals who died in the Great War. Cardiff: St David's Press. ISBN 1-902719-37-9. OCLC 886886160.