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The Welshman honoured for single-handedly saving a French village in WWI

John Henry Williams, the most decorated Welsh non-commissioned officer in history.

Many Welsh soldiers have distinguished themselves by their valour on the battlefield, but John Henry Williams (known as Jack) stands apart.

The blacksmith from Nantyglo in Blaenau Gwent remains the most decorated Welsh non-commissioned officer in history. By 1918, he'd already won the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), Military Medal and Bar, as well as French honours.

Then in October 1918 he earned the ultimate accolade.

In 1919 Jack was presented with his Victoria Cross.

During an attack on the French village of Villers Outreaux, he observed a German machine gun post inflicting heavy casualties on advancing troops. Alone, he advanced on the post, capturing 15 of the enemy. When one tried to overpower him, he fought back - bayoneting five Germans and forcing the others to surrender.

Later that month, Company Sergeant Major Williams was medically discharged after suffering shrapnel wounds to the arm and leg.

In 1919 Jack was presented with his Victoria Cross, plus three others medals, by King George V. It was the first time a soldier had been invested with four medals on the same day.

During the ceremony, Jack's wounds opened up and he needed medical treatment at Buckingham Palace.

Members of Jack's family helped to open the bridge. Credit: Stephen Davies photography

Now a public vote has led to a new bridge in the Heads of the Valleys being named in his honour. The 'Jack Williams Gateway Bridge' spans Clydach Gorge over a new stretch of the A465, connecting Gilwern and Brynmawr.

Members of Jack Williams' family, including granddaughter Ann and great-great granddaughter Adriana attended the ceremony. His granddaughter described Jack as a "kind, gentle" man.

He was a man who had a great sense of humour, which really is surprising after what he went through in the war. He was kind, gentle, and that goes against the grain of his brave acts during the war

– Ann Page, granddaughter of Jack Williams VC
Credit: Stephen Davies photography

It's more than 100 years since Jack's heroism saved his comrades lives and earned him Britain's highest military honour. Now a landmark bridge will keep his name alive for future generations.

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