I had no idea that my great grandfather, John Williams, had served in the army, in three different regiments between about 1917 and 1945. My dad never mentioned it, even though he was close to his grandfather, and I wonder whether he even knew. I’m writing this post hoping it will help me fill in the blanks.

I only found out that he had served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (TA) when I read my grandmother’s birth certificate, which shows her father’s occupation as ‘General Labourer (Private R.W.F.)’.

A search on Find My Past found that John had enlisted in The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (TA) on 8 July 1920 in Holyhead, Anglesey, his army number is listed as 4178620. The entry above John is for his brother-in-law, Joseph Henry Marshall (army number 4178619). A note at the end of John’s enlistment record stated he had previously been in the Welch Regiment (no. 85741) and had been discharged 2 months earlier on 8 May 1920. Sadly I haven’t been able to find any other information about John’s time in the Welch Regiment.

In 1931, John and his family moved from Holyhead to Fleetwood in Lancashire. He was discharged from the R.W.F. on the 31 December 1932, the reason given was “struck off strength” – meaning he was longer required. He was a lance corporal when he was discharged.

On the 8 June 1939, now living in Bolton, Lancashire, John re-enlisted, this time in The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) TA with the same army number as the R.W.F., 4178620.
In December 1939 his battalion was part of the 1st Infantry Brigade, attached to the 1st Infantry Division. They were sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. In May 1940, they formed part of the rearguard for the evacuation of Dunkirk and were based in Bergues.

According to casualty records, John was reported missing in action in France in May 1940, along with 11 other members of the 1st Loyals. He was later reported no longer missing, no date for him no longer being missing is shown, just that he was on Casualty List number 273.

Sadly that’s all I know of John’s military service. It’s one of those situations that I wish I’d discovered earlier, when there people I could have asked, but I will keep searching for more information.

John divorced from my great grandmother in the late 1940s, but he remained close to her and the family and my dad lived with him in Wesham when he was a teenager. John died in Wesham Park Hospital in Lancashire in February 1966.

Dates and places

  • May 1900 – Born in Holyhead.
  • Between 1917 and 1920 – Joined the Welch Regiment. Service number 85741.
  • 1920 – 8 May – Discharged from the Welch Regiment.
  • 1920 – 8 July – Enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (TA) in Holyhead. Army number 4178620.
  • 1932 – 31 December – Discharged from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Reason given “Struck Off Strength”.
  • 1939 – 8 June – Enlisted in the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) in Bolton. Army number 4178620.
  • 1940 – May – While serving in the 1st Batallion of the Loyal Regiment, he as reported missing in France.
  • 1940 – Reported no longer missing (Casualty list #273).