Jack Williams (VC)
John Henry Williams
|Born||29 September 1886|
Nantyglo, Monmouthshire, Wales
|Died||7 March 1953 (aged 66)|
Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales
Ebbw Vale Cemetery, Monmouthshire
|Years of service||1914–1918|
|Rank||Company Sergeant Major|
|Unit||South Wales Borderers|
|Battles/wars||First World War|
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Military Medal & Bar
Médaille Militaire (France)
John Henry Williams, VC, DCM, MM & Bar (29 September 1886 – 7 March 1953) was a Welsh colliery worker, soldier, and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Williams is the most decorated Welsh non-commissioned officer of all time.
First World War
In November 1914, Williams gave up his employment as a colliery blacksmith and enlisted in the 10th Battalion, South Wales Borderers (part of the 38th (Welsh) Division). He was promoted to sergeant in January 1915.
His citation for the Victoria Cross reads:
For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty on the night of 7th – 8th October 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 fifteen 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.
In 1919, Williams was invested with his Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal and Bar by King George V, the first time that the King had decorated the same man four times in one day. At the time of the investiture Williams had not recovered from his severe wounds, and during the presentation the wound in his arm opened up with the result that medical attention had to be given before he could leave the palace.
Williams' grave and memorial are at Ebbw Vale Cemetery. The original headstone was removed during cemetery clearance and a new headstone was erected on 21 October 1990.
In September 2018 the villagers of Villers-Outréaux dedicated a especially commissioned memorial to commemorate him and express their thanks for saving their village from certain destruction.