James Williams (1880–1957)


Royal Army Chaplains' Department
Courtesy Sally Leech
Photo of James Williams and his wife Mary Ann
James with his wife Mary Ann

Simon Johnson

James Williams was born at the Welsh village of Llanddewi Brefi, Cardiganshire, on 13 April 1879. He was the seventh of the nine children of David and Anne Williams, with five brothers and three sisters. James was raised in the family farmhouse, Pant-gwyn, on the Llanfair Mountain.

In 1963, the Reverend David Williams, a near neighbour and colleague of members of James’s family, published a local history book titled Y Wladfa Fach Fynyddig. In the book, Reverend Williams provided information about James’s family, and recalled that ‘James [Williams]… after working in the coal mines in south Wales for a few years, became a student at Lampeter Grammar School and eventually became an Anglican minister.’ Crockford’s Clerical Directory of 1932 confirms that James studied at St David’s College in Lampeter and graduated with a Licentiate in Divinity in 1910. He was ordained as a deacon in 1911 and as a priest in 1912. James subsequently served as curate of the church in Llandybie between 1911 and 1914 before moving to Derbyshire to become curate at St Mary’s Church at Crich between 1914 and 1922. By 1918 James was living on The Common at Crich with his wife, Mary Ann. They do not appear to have had any children.
His entry in Crockford’s Clerical Directory also shows that, during his time at Crich, James served as a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces in 1918-1919. Army chaplains are the only British Army officers who do not carry standard officer ranks. They are officially designated ‘Chaplain to the Forces’ (CF), though they do have grades which equate to the standard ranks and wear the insignia of the equivalent rank. Chaplains were usually addressed as ‘Padre’, never by their nominal military rank. A Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class (the lowest class) equated to the nominal military rank of Captain. Although no service records have been located for James, it can therefore be assumed that this nominal rank of Captain was used when his name was listed on the Roll of Honour inside St Mary’s Church at Crich.

After his war service ended, James returned to his post as curate at St Mary’s Church at Crich before becoming the vicar of Christ Church at Wessington in 1922. After the Benefices of Wessington and Brackenfield were united in 1923, James also assumed responsibility for Holy Trinity Church at Brackenfield. It has been suggested that James remained in this latter post until his retirement, whereupon he appears to have returned to Wales with his wife.

The Reverend James Williams passed away at Swansea on 19 September 1957, aged seventy-eight years. He was laid to rest in the village of Pontyberem in Carmarthenshire.

As James’s parents were still living in the family farmhouse at Llanddewi Brefi at the time of the First World War, he was also commemorated on the Roll of Honour inside St Mary’s Church in the neighbouring village of Llanfair Clydogau, which was the church James’s family attended. Unfortunately this Roll was badly water-damaged a number of years ago, and has subsequently been lost after it was sent for renovation.

Ref: 'Struggle for Survival in the Cardiganshire Hills: Story of the Settlement of the Mountains of Llanfair and Llanddewi' by Alan and Sally Leech. This was published in 2009 (ISBN: 978-0956111616)

Crockford's Clerical Directory 1932

James Williams entry in Crockfords Directory 1932

S.D.C. Lamp = St David's College, Lampeter
L.Div = Licentiate in Divinity
d = Deacon
p = priest
St. D. = St David's
C. = Curate
T.C.F. = Temporary Chaplain to the Forces
V. = Vicar
w = with (i.e. Wessington with Brackenfield)
Dio. = Diocese
P, = Patron
Gl. val. = Glebe Value (where 9l = £9!)
Eccles. Comm. = Ecclesiastical Commission
e.o. = Easter Offerings
o.s. = Other Sources

Army Records
Declaration by a Candidate for a Commission in the Regular Army, Special Reserve or Territorial Force.
I declare upon my honour that:–
1st. I have never suffered from any serious illness or injury
2nd. I am not, as far as I know, at present suffering from any mental or bodily informity, or phusical imperfection or disability
3rd. I have never suffered from "fits" of any descripion
4th. My vision for both near and distant objects is good with either eye without the aid of glasses
5th. I have fully reveals to the Examining Medical Officer all circumstances within my knowledge that concern my health
Jas Williams, July 17:1918

Revd J Williams: age 38; height in inches 69½

Chaplains Department
War Office
15 Albemarle Street
Picadilly W1
26 July 1918

Sir, I am directed to acquaint you That the Reverend Jmes Williams has been appointed for duty as a Church of England temporary Chaplain to the Forces 4th class in the Eastern Command, and has been ordered to report himself at that station to the A.C.C. on the 8th August next.
While so employed he will be entitled to pay at the rate of 10s a day (which will be issued to him by the Army Agents Sir S.R. McGrigor, Bt & Co) and also during the period of war, to :
i. a free issue of rations(or allowance in lieu) and
ii. to field allowance if under canvas, and otherwise to lodging and fuel and light allowances unless accommodated in puplic quarters or billets

I am requested that the date on which he commences duty may be reported to this office.
I am sir your obedient servant E.H. Pearce A.C.C. for Chaplain General.

Protection Certificate (Officer) 19/11/19
Last unit served : RASC
Born 1886, married
Rose Cottage, Crich, Matlock

Newspaper Reports

Derbyshire Courier, 12 October 1918
Harvest services at the Parish Church, Crich, realised £10 on behalf of the Derbyshire Royal infirmary. The fruit was also sent to the infirmary. A member of Thursday evenings congregation was the Rev James Williams, formerly curate of the parish, and now a chaplain in the forces.

Derbyshire Courier 16 November 1918
Owing to the illness of the vicar the services at Crich Parish Church were conducted by the Rev. James Williams on Sunday. Mr Williams, who was been curate in the parish for several years is a chaplain with the forces.


1891: Tregaron, Wales

Forename Surname Relationship Age Occupation Where born
David Williams Head 48 Farmer Llanfair
Ann Williams wife 48    
Mary Williams daughter 12    
James Williams son 11    
David William son 8    
John Williams son 4    

RG12 4564 piece 104 page 7

1911: Llandybie, Wales

Forename Surname Relationship Age Occupation Where born
Ann Thomas Head 70   Llangathen
Elizabeth Thomas daughter 42 Dressmaker Llandbrie
Edith Thomas daughter 28 Housemaid Llandbrie
James Williams Boarderer 31 Clergyman Llanfair Clylogan

RG14PN32978 RG78PN1891 RD598 SD6 ED5 SN83

1939 Register: The Vicarage, Brackenfield
James Williams b.11 March 1880; Clerk in Holy Orders
Mary Ann Williams b.13 December 1880