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William John Curtis Private - No 2124 - 2nd battalion Monmouthshire Regiment

William is an example of a working class Welshman who, aged 18 sought the adventure of war being one of the first to go to France. He escaped from being a coal hewer in a mine. His father was the publican of the Plasycoed Hotel, Pontnewynydd, Cwmffrwdoer Pontypool. His mother had died when he was 14. As an 'old contemptible' he eventually qualified for the 1914 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

A month before war was declared William joined the Territorial Army with the 2nd Battalion The Monmouthshire Regiment. The regiment spent a short time in Oswestry and Northampton before being sent to France on November 6 2014. They joined the 12th Infantry Brigade in the 4th Division at Le Bizet, Belgium, on 20th November 1914. They remained in the Ypres sector fighting in the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. There are a number of photographs of William and colleagues from his regiment.

On 3rd August 1915, William was taken ill and admitted to 12 Field Ambulance (4 Division) and diagnosed as having appendicitis. He was discharged from the Army on 27th March 1916 under Army Council Instruction 301 dated 6th February 1916. The reason was not stated but the Act made provision for discharge through ill-health or "if it is expedient in the national interests that he should be engaged in other work". The latter is the more probable, as he had returned to the coal mine "in the national interests".

William spent the next fifty years as a miner. His son, a British gymnast, joined him down the pit. They both suffered serious injury. William survived until 1971, eventually dying from the effects of pneumoconiosis.

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