Private R.W. Williams

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2012), Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 20

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Bunratty graveyard to Private R.W. Williams, the last British soldier killed in Clare during the War of Independence, whose body was never recovered.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Bunratty graveyard to Private R.W. Williams, the last British soldier killed in Clare during the War of Independence, whose body was never recovered.

The last British soldier to be secretly buried in Clare was Private R.W. Williams (service no. 4179390). Williams, son of Mrs M. Williams of 3 Abbey Green, Chester, was a member of the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, stationed in Limerick.

 

On 26 May 1921 the IRA had attempted to blow up the two-arched bridge spanning the Owengarry River at Bunratty, causing a significant breach on its western side. At 2pm on Sunday 10 July 1921 two British Army motorcycle dispatch riders approached the bridge from Limerick. Despite the attempts of local people to warn them of the breach, both plunged into the river below. Private Williams split his head open on the stonework as he fell and had lost consciousness by the time he reached the water. The second soldier managed to save himself but Williams was seen to go under. A few weeks later Williams’s body was washed ashore on the eastern bank of the river about 200 yards north of Bunratty Bridge. It was discovered by a local farmer, who had also witnessed the fatality. The farmer dragged the body from the river and buried it nearby in marshy ground.

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