William Morgan Williams was born in Dyserth in 1899. He was the only child of Goodman and Elizabeth Williams who were also born in the village. The family was Welsh speaking and were members of Mynydd Seion, the Wesleyan chapel which can be seen at the top of the hill in the photograph.
When Willie was a baby they lived in Cefn y Gwrych, a row of cottages in Meliden. His parents were 36 years of age when he was born and his father was working in the quarry.
In 1911 Goodman Williams was lodging with a family in Barnsley where he was working as a coal miner. Willie and his mother remained in Dyserth.
When he became of age in 1917 Willie joined up. He went to Mold to enlist and was recruited into the South Wales Borderers, later transferring to the 13th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers – a service battalion. By 1917 the 13th Battalion was part of the 38th (Welsh) Division which formed part of the Third Army that advanced on the town of Albert on the 21st of August 1918. This was to be the third time a battle had been fought at Albert.
This smaller Third Battle was significant in that it was the opening push that would lead to the Second Battle of the Somme, and heavily involved the Australian Corps. This attack opened the advance, with the main attack being launched by the British Third Army along with support from the British Fourth Army.
The attacks developed into an advance, which pushed the German Second Army back along a 50-mile (80 km) front line. On the 22nd of August, the British 18th [Eastern] Division took Albert, with the British and Americans advancing on Arras. On August 29th, Bapaume fell into New Zealand hands, which resulted in an advance by the Australian Corps who crossed the Somme River on August 31st and broke the German lines during the Battle of Mont St. Quentin. Ultimately, the overall battle resulted in the German Army being pushed back to the Hindenburg Line from which they had launched their spring offensive.(Wikipedia)
Deville Wood, covering an area of 1 kilometre square, was retaken from the Germans by the 38th (Welsh) Division on the 28th of August 1918. Apparently Willie Williams died on the 27th of August. His body was recovered and re-interred in Delville Wood Cemetery some time later.
Back home in Dyserth the chapel community paid their respects to Willie and to two of his comrades by holding a memorial service. This account appeared in the Welsh newspaper Gwyliedydd Newydd.
Rhagfyr 25 1918
DYSERTH. Diolchaf am ofod o’ch newyddiadur i roi ychydig o hanes Gwasanaeth Coffa a gynhaliwyd yma, Tachwedd 13eg. Yr oeddwn wedi disgwyl y buasai llaw mwy cyfarwydd na mi wedi ymgymeryd a’r gorchwyl. Dau o fechgyn ieuangc oedd wedi myned yn aberth i’r ryferthwy fawr, sef Willie Morgan Williams, unig blentyn Mr a Mrs G. H. Williams, Ty Capel, a Robert Davies, mab i Mr a Mrs R. Davies, Bryn Terrace. Pregethwyd ar yr achlysur gan y Parch Hugh Evans ar Timotheus fel cymeriad i’w efelychu. Nid oedd ond ychydig amser er pan oedd Willie Morgan wedi myned allan, ac nid oedd ond 19eg oed. Yr oedd Robert Davies wedi bod allan am oddeutu dwy flynedd, ac nid oedd yntau ond newydd adael ei 20ain oed. Cafwyd gair yma yr wythnos o’r blaen fod un arall o aelodau yr eglwys hon wedi syrthio, sef Ellis T. Evans, fu yn gwasanaethu yn Bryncnwllyn hyd nes yr ymunodd a’r fyddin, ac nid oedd yntau ond newydd adael ei 20ain oed.
Cynhaliwyd gwasanaeth am y ddau flaenaf cyn i’r newydd gyrraedd am y diweddaf. Gresyn fod cymeriadau mor ddisglair wedi cael ei rhoddi yn aberth i chwantau dynion treisgar, a (ni?) gallwn ddweyd i ba beth y bu y golled hon, gan nad oes ond swn gorfodaeth filwrol i bara er fod y rhai yn dweyd pan yn llusgo gwerin Ewrop i’r anrhaeth ofnadwy ei bod yn myned i ryfel i derfynu pob rhyfel. Pa hyd y goddef y werin i’w thalentau goreu gael ei hoffrymu ar allor *Moloch, ond ein hunig gysur yw os llwyddodd pechod i ladd cyrff y bechgyn annwyl fod gennym pob sail i gredu wrth y bywyd glan oeddynt wedi ei gerdded fod ei henaid yn ddiogel mewn gobaith am adgyfodiad gwell, a’n cysur i’w rhieni ydyw nad yw y golled y maent wedi ei gael yn ddim ond y ffaith fod Duw ei hun wedi dod i nol y benthyg adref, oblegid rhaid i ni gofio mae benthyg cyfeillion a pherthynasau yr ydym yn ei gael ar y ddaear hon. Gobeithiwn y caiff y rhieni nerth a gras i allu canu yn y storom;
“0 Fryniau Caersalem ceir gweled
Holl daith yr anialwch i gyd.”
Chwareuwyd y “Dead March” gan Miss Ethleen Williams.
The service was conducted on the 13th of November 1918 and reported thus:
“Two young men were sacrificed to the mighty tempest: Willie Morgan Williams, only child of Mr and Mrs G H Williams, Chapel House, and Robert Davies, son of Mr and Mrs R Davies, Bryn Terrace. It was only a short time ago that Willie Morgan had gone out (to France), and he was only 19 years old. Even though Robert Davies had been out for about two years, he too was only just 20. We heard the week before last that another member of our chapel had fallen – Ellis T Evans, who worked in Bryncnwllyn until he joined the army, and he too was only 20.
A service was held for the first two (young men) before news reached us about the last one. What a shame that such outstanding characters should be sacrificed to the demands of the oppressors, and who knows what will be achieved by this loss as compulsory army service is set to continue even though some say, whilst sweeping the people of Europe into horrendous destruction, that they are going to take part in a war which will end all wars. Notwithstanding the fact that the people are allowing the most talented among them to be offered on the alter of *Moloch, our only comfort is that if sin has succeeded in killing the bodies of these dear boys we have every right to believe, because of the unblemished way in which they lived their lives, their souls are safe in the hope of a better resurrection, and we console the parents by saying that the loss they have experienced is merely God taking back that which has been on loan, for we must remember that friends and relatives are on loan to us whilst we are on earth.”
*Moloch: a costly sacrifice
Willie’s parents asked for the following inscription on his gravestone:
“Ei aberth nid a heibio
Ei wyneb annwyl
Ni a’n ango”
“His sacrifice will not be forgotten
His dear face
We shall never forget”
As a child growing up in Dyserth I well remember Mrs Goodman Williams as we both attended the same chapel. My memory is of an elderly, gentle and dignified lady. As a four year old I would have been totally unaware of the role she played in the opening of the Garden of Remembrance in the village. It was 1950 and Mrs Williams had been asked to perform the unveiling of the War Memorial on behalf of the families of those village lads who had been lost in the Great War.
Many years had passed since Willie’s death. However time cannot erase a mother’s loss.