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DateOriginal Topic
24th May 2003Pte John Williams/Fielding VC
By ed coan
Just read a biography of the above, which led me to ponder further the question of why he enlisted under a false name, before going on to win one of the Rorke's Drift VCs.
The existing theories appear to be:
a) he was too young to enlist so changed his name, or
b) he didn't want his father to know.
Both ideas are discounted by W.G. Lloyd's biography, but he does leave open-ended the question of whether he was the father of Elizabeth Murphy's illegitimate child (they later married I believe), born in 1878, and whether coming from a Catholic family in the Victorian era he enlisted in 'French Foreign Legion' fashion.
Any light to shed from anyone?
Also I noted one of his sons was killed in the retreat from Mons and wondered whether he and Smith-Dorrien would have been in anyway in the same part of the world as the retreat was taking place?
25th May 2003Martin Everett
Dear Ed,
I was quite common for soldiers to enlist in the British army in the 19th century under a false name - about 10 per 1,000 according to my researches in the 24th/SWB. John Fielding enlisted as John Williams in the Monmouthshire Militia (a local regiment where everyone would have known him) - he then had to carry this false name when he enlisted in the regular army in order to obtain free discharge from the militia. So these theories you have listed - are really trying to put 20th century answers to his story. I really believe that the Militia recruiting sergeant asked him his name and he said 'John Williams' (more as jock) and he remained John Williams for the rest of his service. Also at that time 30% of soldiers in the British army were catholics.