Lieutenant, West Yorkshire Regiment
Born: June 17th 1894
Died: March 27th 1918

Age at Death: 23

Killed in action, France, March 28th 1918

Grave Reference: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

Brighton College Register: Son of Rev. T. Rhonndda Williams


Eric Williams
Eric Williams was born in June 1894 in Bradford, Yorkshire. He was the son of Thomas Rhondda Williams, a Congregationalist pastor, and his wife Ellen (nee Henry), they had one other child, a daughter called Gwlandus. Eric’s father had initially been a Coal Miner in Wales before training to be a Congregationalist minister and ministering first to Greenfield Church, Bradford (1888-1909) and then to Queen Square Church, Brighton (1909-1931). Eric as therefore brought up and schooled in Bradford until he was 15 and then spent one year at the school before leaving to become a banker’s clerk.

In 1915 he joined the 2nd Bradford Pals (18th battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment), indicating that his connection with Yorkshire was still very strong. Contemporary newspaper reports indicate that while recruiting for the more famous 1st battalion, Bradford Pals had been swift the ‘keenedge of patriotism had passed off’ by the time the second was recruited in 1915, perhaps accounting for why they cast their net wide enough to catch someone with Yorkshire roots who was now living in Sussex. He received a commission and appears to have joined the battalion in its postings first, briefly to the Suez Canal, and then to the Somme area of the Western Front from March 1916 onwards.

In the context of the BEF’s manpower crisis in Winter 1917/18, which was in part caused by Lloyd George’s refusal to release reserves from the United Kingdom, the 2nd Bradford Pals were disbanded and Williams was transferred to 2nd battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. The 2nd West Yorkshires were in the ill-fated British Fifth Army and, as such, bore the brunt of the ‘Ludendorff Offensive’ from March 21 1918 onwards. After the German offensive opened there followed a sequence of actions in which the BEF tried to hold its ground against an apparently overwhelming German onslaught. The fact that the BEF did manage to avoid complete collapse (inspired perhaps by Haig’s famous ‘backs to the wall order’), despite giving more ground in a fortnight than had been gained all four months of the Battle of the Somme, was arguably the decisive point of the war as a whole and opened the way to the Allied victory later in the year. It was in one of these small, desperate actions, the Battle of Rosieres, that Williams was killed in action on March 27th 1918.

Williams’ has no known grave but he is commemorated with honour on the Pozieres Memorial, Pozieres, France.

Source: LEST WE FORGET PROJECT, Brighton College 2014/15

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