In memory of Evan Owen Williams

bethesda_evan_owen_williamsEvan was born in 1898 to quarryman William Morris Williams and Jane Williams (nee Edwards). The couple lived in Middle Street, Bethesda. Two of their children had died by 1911, leaving Evan as their only surviving child.

The 1901 census records that William had moved to Ystradyfodwg parish, Rhondda, and worked underground as a colliery timberman. He had probably left Bethesda as a result of the Penrhyn quarry strike 1901-1903. Many men left the town during the strike to work elsewhere.

In 1911 William had returned to Bethesda and was working at Penrhyn quarry. The family lived at a different house in Middle Street (number 1). After his schooling, Evan also worked as a slate quarryman. He worshipped at Tabernacl Baptist chapel.

He joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ 17th Battalion in March 1915. Notes from Evan’s medical examination (carried out at 6 Ogwen Terrace, Bethesda) record that he was 1.65 metres tall (5ft 5ins) and weighed 49kg (7 stone 10lbs), and that his physique “will improve in training”.

After his military training, Evan sailed from Southampton on 15 December 1915 for the Western Front. In July 1916 he was part of the 38th (Welsh) Division tasked with capturing Mametz Wood in the Battle of the Somme. After five days of fighting, almost 4,000 men from the 38th Division were dead, wounded or missing.

Evan was badly wounded. He died on 14 July, aged 18. A chaplain reported that Evan was buried in Mametz Wood. Evan’s body was never recovered for formal burial, and he is one of more than 72,000 men listed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

News of Evan’s death reached Bethesda in early August. At the end of the month, a memorial service for him was held at the Tabernacl. After the war, Evan’s father received a memorial plaque, scroll and King’s message. His mother, still living at 1 Middle Street, received his 1914-15 Star in 1920 and his Allied Victory Medal and British War Medal in 1921.

With thanks to Hazel Pierce

Return to Bethesda war memorial page

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