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A brave young man who volunteered and was shot for desertion.

Byline: By Dafydd Llyr James

Tonight S4C will screen a moving documentary telling the story of the soldiers shot at dawn for cowardice during the First World War. Dafydd Llyr James, producer of Ar Doriad Gwawr (The Final Dawn) reveals the impact the tragic story of one Welsh soldier has had on him

THIS is the time of year when people remember those who sacrificed their lives in the World Wars. But not all of the victims are commemorated on the war memorials.

While researching and filming Ar Doriad Gwawr, I began to discover the tale of William Jones: a brave man shot for cowardice.

He was barely 18 when he enlisted and was probably a miner. In the killing fields of the Western Front, William was a stretcher-bearer, going out into No Man's Land to recover wounded soldiers as bullets whizzed past his ears.

At some point William Jones's store of courage was exhausted and he deserted, returning home to Glynneath. The story could have finished there, if William had chosen to slip back into the anonymity of the Joneses of Wales, but he decided to re-join his regiment and was immediately arrested as a deserter.

One month later, on October 25 1917, William Jones was shot.

During the war, more than 300 British soldiers were executed for desertion. Today, post-traumatic stress disorder is a recognised condition. As Gareth Williams, Professor of History, University of Glamorgan, and the programme presenter, said, 'the treatment of deserters was one of the most tragic, most shameful and most disgraceful episodes in the whole history of the British Army'.

On Glynneath's war memorial, you'll find no mention of William Jones. Perhaps it's time for the citizens of Glynneath to add his name to their town's memorial.

Ar Doriad Gwawr, tonight on S4C, 9.30pm. Subtitles available.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 15, 2005
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