November 2019 – John Powell – The Great War and its aftermath: A poignant tale of heartbreak, bravery and enduring friendship-

This month’s lecture was given by local historian and author, John Powell.

Whilst British War Memorials commemorate some 750,000 dead from World War One more than twice as many were injured, including William David John.

He was born in Pembroke in 1891 and later lived in West Cross Lodge, Swansea where his father was a chauffeur. On 9th December 1914 he enlisted in the Army Service Corps and shortly afterwards arrived in France as a driver in the Mechanical Transport Section. This was a special reserve of wagon drivers formed 1912 to transport ammunition and supplies at the front. Some 8,500 drivers died and Will John was badly injured after grenades he was transporting in a sack

In August 1917, Will was discharged from the army having been awarded a silver moon badge. He had lost his left eye, was nearly blind in the other, his left arm was amputated and he had been gassed. He was sent to St Dunstan’s in Regent’s Park which had been founded by Sir Arthur Pearson in 1915 to cater for blind ex-servicemen. The home taught braille and trades such as basket weaving, joinery, and mat making. Dancing and sport also featured. When Will was transferred to their Westcliff home in Hove, he met one of the assistants Dolly Marshall.

A strong friendship developed between Will and Dolly’s husband Arthur. After 18 months Will returned to Swansea and by 1921, Dolly ,Arthur and their baby Joan had moved to Swansea where they built a property. Will lived with them initially but by 1924 had opened a shop in Mumbles and lived in the flat above. He died in 1937 of bronchial pneumonia and is buried in an unmarked grave in Oystermouth cemetery. The friendship endured over many years and the story was recounted to the
speaker by Joan Marshall who passed away recently in Mumbles.

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