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Jonathan Williams

As a former senior police investigator, Jonathan likes researching and has put his training and skills to use to support his lifelong interest in military history which he attributes to his headteacher at junior school. A passionate Nelsonian, it was he who inspired Jonathan's interest in all aspects of military history.

In later life his focus moved to the history of the US military, from the Civil War to the conflict in Vietnam. With visits to the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pearl Harbour and latterly the Normandy beaches, and with several visits to Arlington National Cemetery under his belt, he has now established a unique collection of autographs and memorabilia relating to the United States’ military’s highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor, with items relating to recipients who fought across the various conflicts the US military has participated in since the award was established in 1861.

Having accompanied school parties and adult groups to the battlefields of the Western Front, my interest in the First World War deepened. I enrolled on a Master's course in Britain and the First World War at the University of Wolverhampton under the tutelage of renowned historians Professor Gary Sheffield and Dr Spencer Jones. I was honoured to become one of the first recipients of the WFA’s Masters Study Grant which assisted me in graduating with my MA.

The actions at Mametz Wood in July 1916 and the role of the 38th (Welsh) Division was one of the first ‘stands’ he presented, under the memorial to the division that stands on the battlefield, and his fascination with the action and the men who fought there has grown from that moment. His dissertation for the MA focused on the controversy that came to surround the 38th (Welsh) Division in the aftermath of the capture of Mametz Wood and sought to fill a gap in the historiography by seeking to identify the reasons behind the hostility towards ‘Lloyd George’s Welsh Army’ by sectors of the British military establishment and others.

One individual took the full force of that hostility, the division’s Commanding Officer, Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps, DSO, KCB, MP, a Welsh Liberal Party MP and close confidante of David Lloyd George. Philipps left no diary or personal papers after his death. Jonathan's book, based entirely on archival sources and contemporary works, will tell the story of the life of a remarkable man who engaged in careers not only in the military, but in politics, international commerce and archaeological conservation, and which is largely unknown. It will, of course, address the issue of his alleged lack of competence at Mametz Wood being the reason for his removal from command, and seek to set the record straight.

As Dr Spencer Jones wrote: “What more remains to be said about Mametz? As it turns out, a great deal! This was a very fine dissertation which combined deep research with originality to provide a new interpretation of a much-studied action."

Jonathan Williams
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