The John Fielding, Cwmbrân
The John Fielding, Caradoc Road
This pub is named after a Victoria Cross recipient. John Fielding was born in Abergavenny on 24 May 1857. His Irish parents, Michael and Margaret Fielding, had 10 children. John enlisted, aged 20, in the Monmouthshire Militia under the alias John Williams. It’s believed he ran away from home.
In 1879 he joined the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot and went to the Anglo-Zulu War in South Africa. A day after the British Army’s defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana, in January 1879, 150 British troops were stationed at the mission station of Rorke’s Drift when the garrison was attacked by over 3,000 Zulu warriors.
In the battle that followed, John and two other soldiers (Joseph Williams and William Horrigan) defended a room in the hospital for more than an hour. When their ammunition ran out, the Zulus advanced into the room, killing Joseph Williams and two patients. John knocked a hole in the partition wall and took the two remaining patients with him, through to the next ward, where he was joined by Private Alfred Hook. While one of them fended off the Zulus with his bayonet, the other broke through three more walls and they took eight patients with them into the inner sanctum of the British defence line.
For his valour in the defence of Rorke’s Drift, John was presented with the Victoria Cross in Gibraltar by Major-General Anderson, Governor of Gibraltar, in 1880. The 12-hour defence of the mission station at Rorke’s Drift saw 11 Victoria Crosses awarded, more than for any other single battle before or since. From 1880 to 1883, John continued his military service in the regular army, in India, before joining the reserve battalion of the South Wales Borderers, where he was promoted to Sergeant.
John married Elizabeth Murphy and they had six children together; three sons and three daughters. John lived at various times in Llantarnam Road and Cocker Avenue. One of his sons was killed in the First World War while serving with the South Wales Borderers. John volunteered for service and helped with recruitment at a depot in Brecon throughout the war.
In Cwmbrân on the 24 November 1932, John was the last of the Rorke’s Drift VCs to die. His funeral procession was filmed by Pathé News. His grave at St Michael’s Churchyard, Llantarnam, was given a new £4,000 headstone in 2013.
The Fielding family donated his Victoria Cross to the Royal Welsh Museum in Brecon, where it is now displayed. A parade in John’s honour is held in Cwmbrân each January.
With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front museum, Llandudno
Postcode: NP44 1PP