South East Wales

Winston Churchill's friendship with Welsh miner revealed

Winston Churchill
Image caption Winston Churchill and Maj John Williams served together during World War I

An unlikely friendship between a south Wales coal miner and one of the UK's most revered prime ministers is to feature in a TV documentary.

Collier John Williams, from Aberavon, met Winston Churchill in the winter of 1915-16 when they were both serving officers in France during World War I.

Later, Churchill helped Maj Williams find a job when he fell on hard times in the depression in the 1920s.

His grandson tells the story, which will be revealed on S4C next month.

Darn Bach o Hanes (A Little Piece of History) interviews Peter Williams, from Port Talbot.

Economic depression

He said his grandfather wrote to Churchill, who was living in California at the time, to ask for his help when he lost his job as a miner in the late 1920s.

Maj John Williams, a miner by trade, had served with Churchill on the western front in the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, when he was a Lieutenant Colonel and a sitting MP.

Mr Williams said: "After the First World War, they stayed in touch.

"After the miners' strike and the economic depression, my grandfather lost his work in the coal mine. He wrote to Churchill to ask for work in the Ministry of Defence."

Churchill wrote back from Santa Barbara, California, and in a letter dated 1929, he said: "I am extremely glad that you have obtained a post under the government as a result of my intervention.

"When I return to England in the middle of November, perhaps you will write again and let me know how you are getting on.

"Naturally, I would do anything I could, but I have - of course - no influence with the present government.

"Sincerely Yours, Winston Churchill."

Image caption A letter from Winston Churchill to Maj John Williams

Mr Williams said Churchill obviously had some clout as he pulled a few strings that helped his grandfather find a job in the Ministry of Labour near London.

John Williams was so grateful that he named his son after Churchill, calling him Robert Winston Spencer Williams.

Miners' strike

Darn Bach o Hanes producer Euros Wyn said it was an unlikely friendship, especially after Churchill's role in the Tonypandy Riots of 1910 when, as the then Liberal Home Secretary, he sent troops onto the streets to support the police against the miners.

Mr Williams said Churchill was "hated" in south Wales because of his condemnation of a miners' strike which led to the General Strike of 1926.

He said: "My father had to bear his name for the rest of his life."

The little known story of Churchill and his Welsh friend will be shown on S4C on 23 February at 21:00 GMT. English subtitles will be available.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites