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John Williams/Fielding VC Headstone
Colin Fielding


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
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There is to be a service to unveil the replacement headstone for my great grandfather on 19th January, 2013 in Llantarnam, south of Cwmbran.

Best regards, Colin Fielding
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1418
Location: Wales
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Colin,
could you say why it's being replaced?
I know there was a number incorrect and it was a little 'rugged' in finish. Is that why?

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Colin Fielding


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
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Hi,
the inscription is wearing rapidly through weather erosion, partially due to the shape of the stone causing water to collect then run down the faceof it. There was a mistake on it (21th rather than 24th regiment), but that was corrected some time ago. If there is more to it than that, I'm not aware of it.

Regards, Col.
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Bill Cainan 3


Joined: 19 Feb 2011
Posts: 105
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Hi all

Yes, Colin is correct in that the old headstone was made of sandstone and has not aged well. The new stone will be of granite and will last a lot longer. It's also given us an opportunity to correct some of the inscription.

The old headstone has been donated to the Brecon Museum and will be displayed here from the Spring of next year.

Bill
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1418
Location: Wales
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Coll,
do you have a time for the service?

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Colin Fielding


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
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The annual memorial service usually starts at 10am but don't quote me on this one. Perhaps Bill could give an accurate agenda?

Col.
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Bill Cainan 3


Joined: 19 Feb 2011
Posts: 105
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All

The service is scheduled to start at 0930hrs (Saturday 19 Jan 2013)

There will be a brief talk (3 - 4 mins) by Capt (Retd) Lew Freeman, the Chairman of the John Williams (Fielding) VC Memorial Trust on "The John Williams (Fielding) Memorial trust and the new grave memorial"

This will be followed by another brief talk (8mins or so) by Bill Cainan the Curator of the Regimental Museum Brecon on "Pte John Williams VC - a local man and national hero"

Concluded by a short talk (3-4 mins) by the Rt Hon Paul P Murphy MA AM, Member of Parliament for Torfaen on "Our Proud Community".

The Colour Party of the 1879 Group will be in attendance.

Bill
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Colin Fielding


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
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Can recommend Springfields Guest-house if anybody needs to stay over the night before. It's literally one minute from the cemetery (and the pub).

www.springfieldsguesthouse.com 01633 482509
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Colin Fielding


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
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The headstone replacement ceremony has been postponed due to the weather.
Regards, Colin Fielding
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margaret mcfarlane


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 28
Location: Derbyshire
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Please let us know when it is rescheduled Colin. I was unable to attend on the planned date but may be able to come in the future
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Bill Cainan 3


Joined: 19 Feb 2011
Posts: 105
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Hi All

Just heard that the revised date for unveiling the new headstone will be SATURDAY 20th April 2013. I'm assuming the times will remain the same - the service starting at 0930hrs.

I will update as and when I get more info.

Bill
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Colin Fielding


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 108
Location: Chelmsford, Essex
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Thanks for that Bill and to all those involved in re-arranging the service.

Regards, Colin Fielding
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Colin

It's a remarkabe coincidence that your great-grandfather lies in the churchyard of St Michael & All Angels there, because the four Sisters who nursed him through his long period of illness with enteric fever at Ladysmith, were all from the Anglican mission of St Michael & All Angels at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, the ladies having been asked to make the tough journey from the OFS to Natal to bolster the overstretched makeshift hospital in April, where they remained for four months.

I can't see a reference to his illness during a quick flick through W. G Lloyd's book, but may have missed it. He and Pte Luddington, both RD hospital defenders, were the two worst cases among the 80 sick patients there, having gone down with fever in the awful conditions at RD after the fight. He was suffering badly at Ladysmith, occupying one of the two air beds available, when news came through of his VC. He described one of his narrow escapes in the fight to Mother Superior.

I only came across this account, originally appearing in an obscure contemporary missionary journal, last week, and read it in detail only today, noticing the coincidence between the dedications of both Llantarnam church and the Bloemfontein Mission just a few minutes ago. Given the odds of this, I thought it rather poignant that the devoted women who saved his life in 1879 would have approved of his last resting place 53 years later! If any of this is new to you I can always fill in a bit more and quote the source.

Hope the ceremony goes really well.

Peter
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Following my previous post, I’ve spent a few minutes this evening checking a few of the more relevant AZW publications which offer a little biographical detail on Pte John Williams (Fielding) VC and was surprised to see no reference at all to his lengthy sojourn in the hospital at Ladysmith. It eventually occurred to me that, despite this chap’s life and career being the subject of considerable attention and research for obvious reasons over the years – including a published monograph - it may be that his post-22nd January travails during the AZW were previously unknown? I suppose that’s perfectly possible if none of the obvious published sources mentions he was invalided to Ladysmith, whereas sick officers sent there such as Chard, Smith-Dorrien, Dunne, Rev G Smith etc are known about from various reports and accounts. Still, given that Lloyd and Holme (both in the SW & N24) appear to have collated certain of his personal info from WO97, such as his numerous misdemeanours between 1878 & 1882, I’d have expected any long term hospitalisation to have appeared in the usual way. (Unless not much of his WO97 papers have survived and the defaulter material was culled from charge sheets in regimental archives at Brecon?)

Anyway, no matter. If – as his biography appears to suggest – it was believed he had languished at Rorke’s Drift with his mates during those interminablly dreary months of fatigues for “B” Coy after January, then the following will clear that up:

The Bloemfontein Quarterly mission journal (probably the third quarter issue of 1879) carried a lengthy account of the efforts made by three Sisters at the Ladysmith hospital, who had travelled from their OFS mission (where they’d been nursing their Diamond Mine fever patients) to Natal at the request of Dr Woolfryes, the senior medical officer in Natal. Sister Louise (Mother Superior), Miss Potts & Miss Longlands (a sister & lady helper) left at Easter in mid-April and found at Ladysmith around 80 patients (all sick, no wounded) and an “overworked” doctor, a hospital sergeant & four orderlies. Describing the premises (Dutch church plus four tents) the equipment and procedures - all primitive - they changed and improved much immediately, so that the sick & dying men at least didn’t starve or lack other comforts. A description of the very basic hospital beds (simple, raised planks) continued:


"Two air beds were used for the patients most in need of them. These were two very long and tedious cases of enteric fever contracted at Rorke’s Drift. They both recovered eventually, and we had the pleasure of congratulating one of them on becoming a Victoria Cross man. He was a young Welshman named Williams, a private in the 24th, and he received the Victoria Cross for so gallantly defending the hospital at Rorke’s Drift against the Zulus. They came to such close quarters on this occasion that one of the enemy snatched the bayonet off Williams’ rifle and aimed it at his head, which he happily missed."


The other patient was Pte Luddington, Army Hospital Corps, another Rorke’s Drift defender with fever. He didn’t leave until 29 July because they used him as an orderly there after his recovery, but although the dates of Williams’ admission & discharge aren’t given by Mother Superior, it seems clear he was there when they arrived in April and may have been there since February or March. From the wording of the account I think it likely he was still there in May and may not have left until June at least, when some hopeless cases were brought in from the Field Hospital at Dundee. Later, they treated gunshot wounds in Ulundi casualties. On one night when Williams was there, they were warned about a possible attack by Zulus and spent all night laagering the place, utilising some Gatling guns on the way to the front, but of course no attack came. The ladies returned to the OFS when replacements arrived from Netley about August. Given the number of officers and men who died at Rorke’s Drift and Helpmekaar where precious few medical supplies remained after 22nd January, and at Dundee and Ladysmith where supplies were more adequate, as well as the hundreds who hovered between life and death for weeks and, in some cases, months, Pte Williams VC might just have viewed his dangerous few hours at Rorke’s Drift as a piece of cake (or perhaps a short, sharp shock) compared with his lingering suffering at Ladysmith, where the round-the-clock devotion by the three intrepid ladies from the St Michael & All Angels mission at Bloemfontein helped him to – just about - pull through.

P.
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Alan
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Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1418
Location: Wales
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Martin Everett has sent this image of the new headstone.



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-Wales-22217349

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John Williams/Fielding VC Headstone
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