Gwent VCs



Able Seaman William Williams of Chepstow, was killed while  helping men to land at Gallipoli from the River Clyde, a “shabby old tub” of a collier turned troopship.  In direct sight of the enemy he stood in the sea holding mooring ropes to allow troops to use a smaller ship as a floating bridge from the River Clyde to the beach.  He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, the first naval rating to be awarded a Victoria Cross for fifty years.  A painting of the action around the River Clyde is displayed in St Mary’s Church, Chepstow.


Captain Angus Buchanan, 4th South Wales Borderers, had been head boy at Monmouth Boys’ School before enlisting.  On April 5th 1916 he twice crawled out into the open under heavy Turkish fire to rescue a wounded man.


Private James Fynn, 4th South Wales Borderers, a member of the Salvation Army,  had worked at Cwmtillery Colliery faced heavy fire to rescue an injured comrade.  In spite of being wounded in 1915 he was able to return to duty in Mesopotamia. He had crawled from the trenches under cover of darkness to tend to injured men and returned to collect a stretcher.  When he couldn’t find one he crawled out again and, under heavy fire, carried a man back on his shoulders.  He then repeated the action to rescue a second man.  He survived the ordeal unscathed but was killed in action the following March.    He is commemorated on the Basra memorial in Iraq.


Lance Corporal George Onions had worked at Pontnewynedd tinplate works, where his father had been manager.  He had originally enlisted as a Lieutenant  but lost his commission after being court-martialled for taking leave in London without permission.  He promptly volunteered to join the Devonshire regiment as a private and was sent to France.  On 22nd August 1918,  Onions and a another man were exploring an old trench system near the village of Achiet-le-Petit, trying to make contact with another battalion, when they saw a large force of Germans approaching.  Private Onions opened fire and threw a number of grenades.  The Germans were caught unawares in the open and suffered heavy casualties.  When Onions, who had himself been wounded, called on them to surrender, no fewer than 200 gave themselves up.  Although he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Onions was not re-instated as an officer until after the war.


The Victoria Cross awarded to CSM John Williams, 1st Gwents, a blacksmith at Cwm colliery, Ebbw Vale, gave him the distinction of becoming the most decorated Welsh soldier of the war.  He had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Mametz Wood in 1916, the Military Medal at Pilkem Ridge  in July 1917 and a bar to his MM at Armentieres in October 1917.  He won his VC during a night attack at Villers Outreaux on 7-8 October, when he  single-handedly attacked and took an enemy machine gun post.