Aber Valley Heritage Museum
Gwern Avenue
CF83 4HA
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Private Gilbert Williams

Private Gilbert Williams, 17th Lancers

Enlisted 1914, aged circa. 20.  Survived WW1.

Also enlisted for service in WW2 (1939-1944).  Died of malaria, aged 50.

Private Gilbert WilliamsAt the beginning of the First World War, the 17th Lancers formed part of the Sialkot Cavalry Brigade of the 1st Indian Cavalry Division.  In 1921, the 17th had its title altered to the 17th Lancers (Duke of Cambridge's Own). 

Bert was born in 1894 to Thomas and Rebecca Williams. He had three younger sisters: Nellie, Florie and Jessie. The family lived in the Garw Valley, Bridgend, before moving to Senghenydd for work, a few years after the Universal Colliery opened in 1891. 

Bert was a well known footballer and boxer in the area. He worked in the Universal Colliery, Senghenydd, as a haulier.  His job was to haul coal from the seam face to the lift collection area. His father, Thomas, worked alongside him in the mine, and was a coal hewer.

He survived the Senghenydd Colliery disaster of October 14th 1913, in which 439 miners and 1 rescuer lost their lives. In some instances whole families were wiped out. He was one of the last 20 men rescued, and gave interviews to the newspapers about his experience.  "I heard a noise like a gun, and was knocked off my journey senseless. Then followed a dense cloud of dust, and I was almost choked"
In another interview he said the following: -

"The first I heard of the explosion was a loud report when I was riding along on a journey. Soon afterwards I was knocked off the tram and fell helplessly to the ground, where I lay unconscious for hours and hours. I remember coming around, and was told it was about midnight.

Bert Williams, minerWhen I recovered I was laying near a horse which was dead, and about 20 yards away I heard someone shout. I was told later it was Archie Dean, who was also saved. I was coughing continually on account of the dense smoke. I noticed a light some distance from me, and managed to cry out, and the attention of the rescuers was attracted. They were very good to me, and I was not long before I was all right.

But I will never forget the awful time I spent in the dark by myself. I saw many bodies lying about on my way out. I was working in the Britannic district, which is on the west side of the colliery."

The First World War broke out less than a year later. Bert was around 20 years old at the time, and joined the 17th Lancers, whose motto was “Death or Glory”. He served in harsh conditions, but returned uninjured.  He married Sarah Ann Williams, who was also from Senghenydd.  Together they had 9 children: Gwilym, Bert, Tommy, Bryn, Violet, Mary, Martha, Ruth, and my Grandmother, Rebecca.

In 1939 he joined the Pioneer Corps. He won two campaign medals: the 1939-45 War Medal, and the 1939-45 Star.  Unfortunately, his luck finally ran out. After surviving the worst mining accident in Britain, the First World War and the majority of the Second World War, he was shipped back to his family from North Africa in 1943 after contracting malaria - commonly known at the time as swamp fever.  

He died on 24th January 1944, at the age of 50, just over a year and a half before the end of the war. He left behind his 9 children and wife, Sarah Ann.

Sgt. Gilbert Williams WW2

Information Source:  Hannah Mortimer, Great Granddaughter


A typical act of bravery took place on 17th August 1917 when Sgt Gilbert Lloyd, (Senghenydd), South Wales Borderers who, together with five others soldiers, held an isolated position until his battalion had been relieved and then brought out their wounded whilst still under fire.

He was awarded the MM at a local ceremony held on “The Rec” in August 19, 1919.  At this same ceremony where the villagers turned out in their thousands to see Colonel H E Morgan Lindsay, CB, DSO award the decorations to Sgt Lloyd and the men and also to the families of those Killed in Action (KIA). All listed below.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)   Military Medal (MM)

Cpl. Tom Locke Sapper Robert Jackson

Pte. William Higgs Bdr. H C Fleet

Dvr. R G Taylor

Gnr. David Davies

Sgt. King Humphries

Pte. Syd Edwards


Distinguished Conduct Medal Military Cross (MC)

Sgt. T H Brown (KIA) Lt. J A Roberts(KIA)

(accepted by his wife) (accepted by his father)

Photo of Sgt Gilbert Lloyd


Wounded on three occasions before winning the MM in 1917.  Became a


Lieutenant in Home Guard, Aber and

and Senghenydd Platoon 1940-46.

Secretary of local Ex-Servicemen’s

Club for over 50 years.