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John Williams (Fielding)
24 May 1857 – 25 November 1932
Place of birth Abergavenny, Wales
Place of death Llantarnam, Cwmbran, Wales,
Resting place St Michael's Churchyard, Llantarnam
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Sergeant
Unit 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot
Battles/wars Anglo-Zulu War — Rorke's Drift
World War I
Awards Victoria Cross

John Williams VC (born John Fielding 24 May 1857, Abergavenny – died 25 November 1932), was a Welsh recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.



John Fielding was the second eldest of eight children. John's parents were Michael and Margaret. He died at the age of 82 and is buried in the Cwmbran cemetery. John was born at Merthyr Road, Abergavenny. The entire family were Catholic. John was 172cm (5 feet 8 inches). He was 21 years old, and a private in the 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment of Foot (later The South Wales Borderers), British Army during the Anglo-Zulu War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. It is not known why he chose to join the army, nor why he chose to enlist under the name of Williams rather than his own. (possibly to avoid being traced after running away from home). [1]

On 22/23 January 1879 at Rorke's Drift, Natal, South Africa, Private Williams and two other men held a distant room of the hospital for more than an hour until they had no ammunition left, when the Zulus burst in and killed one of the men and two patients. Meanwhile Private Williams had succeeded in knocking a hole in the partition and took the two remaining patients through into the next ward. He was there joined by Alfred Henry Hook, and working together (one holding the enemy at bayonet point while the other broke through three more partitions) they were able to bring eight patients into the inner line of defence. His citation read:

Private John Williams was posted with Private Joseph Williams, and Private William Horrigan, 1st Battalion 24th Regiment, in a distant room of the hospital, which they held for more than an hour, so long as they had a round of ammunition left: as communication was for the time cut off, the Zulus were enabled to advance and burst open the door ; they dragged out Private Joseph Williams and two of the patients, and assagaied them. Whilst the Zulus were occupied with the slaughter of these men a lull took place, during which Private John Williams, who, with two patients, were the only men now left alive in this ward, succeeded in knocking a hole in the partition, and in taking the two patients into the next ward, where he found Private Hook.

These two men together, one man working whilst the other fought and held the enemy at bay with his bayonet, broke through three more partitions, and were thus enabled to bring eight patients through a small window into the inner line of defence.[2]

Further information

He was born John Fielding but enlisted under the name of Williams in the Monmouthshire Militia in 1877. Fielding later achieved the rank of Sergeant in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, South Wales Borderers. He was presented with his VC in Gibraltar by Major-General Anderson, Governor of Gibraltar in 1880.

In 1914, he volunteered for service and served on the SWB Depot staff at Brecon throughout the Great War and served as a recruiting agent for them. He married Elizabeth Murphy and had 3 sons and 3 daughters; one son was killed while serving with 1/SWB during the Retreat from Mons in 1914.

He died from heart failure in Cwmbran on 24 November 1932 and was the last surviving Rorke's Drift VC holder to die. The nursing home directly opposite his burial place in Llantarnam, Cwmbran was later named in his honour. Direct relatives of John Fielding currently reside in Maesteg, Aberdeen, Pontnewydd and Ontario Canada.

Picture of the grave

The medal

His Victoria Cross was donated to the SWB Museum by the Fielding family and is displayed at the South Wales Borderers Museum (Brecon, Powys, Wales)'.


  1. ^ Lloyd 1993.
  2. ^ London Gazette: no. 24717, p. 3177, 2 May 1879. Retrieved on 24 December 2009.


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