Tuesday 26 March 2024

Colonel Richard Davies Garnons Williams (1856 – 1915) – Welsh Rugby International player and soldier

Born on 15th June 1856 in Hay, Breconshire, Wales, UK, Richard’s parents were Garnons Williams, an Anglican priest and Vicar of Brecon and Justice of the Peace for Breconshire, and his wife, and Catherine Frances Williams, nee Hort. 

Initially educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford, Richard went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1874. He represented Cambridge at rugby, but did not win a Blue. In 1881, Richard played in the first Wales international rugby union match.

Deciding to follow a military career Richard was accepted into the Royal Military College Sandhurst, and is also recorded as representing the Sandhurst rugby team. He completed his officer training in 1876, and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant[ on 26 February. 

Richard was posted to the 38th Regiment of Foot, promoted Lieutenant on 17th January 1877, and a month later, on 17th February 1877, transferred to the 7th Regiment of Foot.

By February 1885 Richard had been promoted to Captain, and his unit had been renamed the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

In 1885, Richard married Alice Jessie Bircham on 8 January 1885 in Chelsea, London. They had a daughter, Frances Mary Barbara, born in 1890, and a son, Roger Fenton Garnons, born in 1891, who played first-class cricket and served in the army.

On 10th January 1887 Richard was appointed adjutant of the 4th Battalion of the regiment, the Militia unit of the regiment. He retired from the regular army on 4th May 1892. On 8th August 1894 he was commissioned Major in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, South Wales Borderers, and on 1st  November 1895 was appointed Brigade Major for the South Wales Brigade of the Volunteer Force. On 12th July 1899 he was granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He resigned his Volunteer commission on 26 May 1906, retaining his rank and with permission to continue wearing his uniform.

Richard rejoined the British Army shortly after the outbreak of the First World War and was posted to his original regiment, joining the 12th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a Major on 26th September 1914.  He was promoted temporary Leutenant Colonel on 3rd October 1914, and transferred back to the South Wales Borderers to command the Brecknockshire Battalion.

Posted back to 12th Royal Fusiliers Richard was killed on 25th September 1915 while leading his Battalion at the Battle of Loos. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.  At 59 years of age, he was the eldest of the 13 Wales International players to be killed during the First World War.

Sources: Find my Past, FreeBMD, Wikipedia