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This is the diary of our grandfather William Glyn Jones of Abercynon which describes his life and thoughts whilst working in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), based in the General Hospital in Salonika, Greece from May to October 1918.
As a theologian and Non conformist minister, William Jones was almost certainly a conscientious objector and the diary entries hint at his constant worry of being sent to the front line which he believed would contravene his training as a minister ‘ preaching the Gospel of Peace’.
His feelings of despair at the futility and hypocrisy of army life are clear as is his fervent religious belief which brings him comfort in bleak times. Although sometimes seeming to look down on the ‘vulgar’ tendencies of his fellow men (especially when they were drunk!) Jones was not without a sense of fun and enjoyment, and did seem to appreciate the camaraderie evident in concerts, games of cricket and pleasant walks.

William Glyn Jones was born at Bronfynwent, Lledrod in 1883. We know that in 1907 he was living in Treorchy and working at the Co-op. By 1909 he was attending Trefecca College doing the equivalent of Matriculation. He subsequently became a Theology student in Cardiff (1913) undertaking his BA degree.
In 1915 Jones left Abercynon for Hermon Chapel, Pontardulais to take up his first ministry. In the same year he was drafted in to the Royal Army Medical Corps and by the end of the year was carrying out army training at Winchester.
In 1918 Private William Glyn Jones was posted to 52 General Hospital, Salonika, Greece and from May to October of that year he wrote a diary describing his life in the RAMC.
After the war, in 1921 Jones left Pontardulais for Seion chapel, Trealaw where he was minister until his retirement in 1956.
The diary reveals the great comfort he got from the letters to and from loved ones at home and he often refers to ‘Mabs’; he married Mabel Williams Lloyd in 1925.
William Glyn Jones and Mabel had four children; Catherine Glyn (known as Caryl) born 26/9/1926, David Glyn born 2/11/1927, Margaret Glyn born 21/11/1928 and Nerys Spencer Glyn born 31/12/1933. They lived at Maesycoed, Trealaw . He died in 1958.

1915 Winchester notes

Towards the end of 1915 until early 1916 William Glyn Jones left Abercynon for Winchester to undergo some form of army training for his role in the RAMC. Whilst there he wrote a brief diary which outlines what this involved:

‘Slept on floor of changing room with 3 blankets over!’

Morning parades and drills ‘knee deep in mud’.
‘No equipment but basin and plate’.
‘Eating with our fingers.’
The men carried out a long route march of 15 miles. He underwent vaccinations and medical examinations but enjoyed Church Parade (‘singing splendid’) and the company of good friends, including the ‘Rhondda boys’ in Winchester. He carried out ‘light work at YMCA’, and attended medical lectures on the skeleton, anatomy, joints, bone fractures and the use of gases, as well as practising stretcher drills. All this in preparation for his work in the RAMC.

Diary of 48959 Private Jones,W. RAMC, 52 Gen Hospital, Salonika.
13 May – 9 June 1918

Although it is unclear from the diary, it is thought that Private Jones worked as a stretcher-bearer.
The diary highlights various aspects of William Glyn Jones’ life in the RAMC in Salonika such as the monotony and the uncomfortable heat, his appreciation of the comradeship of fellow men alongside his hatred of the hypocrisy of military life. His fervent religious belief is clear as well as the comfort he derives from his close links with the community back home in Wales.

Futility and Hypocrisy

Early entries in the diary show Jones’ feelings of emptiness due to the monotony and futility of life there:

‘14 May Visit 660 Coy where a revue is given by the Camouflage. Fairly good on the whole; yet how empty. Still it served to relieve the monotony of our life here.’

‘19 May …I am at work. Before me across the road are officers & sisters laughing and giggling playing tennis. Yonder in France the boys are bleeding to death – for what? O tempores ! O mores!’

‘21 May …Salute for 10 minutes or so. Why waste time with such trifling things? Why wonder that we are so slow? Saluting is more essential than to find a way out of chaos. This is rank militarism. NCO charged with drunkenness is let off. If I happened to pass an officer without saluting him it would mean 17 days CB (confinement to barracks). What fools we are.’

Jones seems to be appalled by the possibility of being promoted to officer status because to him it would be a great hypocrisy to lead men to fight:

17 May ..What can we expect from the army when such soulless men lead? Talk of Prussianism- it is rampant in our midst…..Am told that I shall soon be L.CPL. Ye Gods!

Close ties with Wales

Jones derived great comfort from his love of Wales and his links with the Welsh community back home. He very often talks of writing to or getting mail from his nearest and dearest at home, and of his friendship with fellow Welshmen out in Salonika. His yearning also seems to bring out his overwhelming feelings of disillusionment faced with the hypocrisy of the Army and even of the men of cloth.

‘14 May Another fine day. Mail small. Letters from VJ, Vrina, Annie and Phyl. Wrote to poor Chas.’

‘19 Sunday. Glorious day. But oh for the Sunday of Wales! How I long to be at home with the folk who spend it in the good oldfashioned way…..Wrote to Mabel – a letter with a sad note. I could not help it. It was my mood.
Am told that my promotion to the honourable rank of Lance Corporal in HM’s army will be an accomplished fact. I hate the idea. Everything that pertains to the army is hateful to me….

‘25 Saturday. …G.G.Davies Treorchy boarded & passed. Have great surprise – my old chum Rogers calls to see me. He is now on HS Braemar Castle…I was glad to see him. He looked well & smiled as of yore. Met one of the Welsh unit , Bevan who has recently joined us…..Rec.letter from Mabs with snaps from Anne, VJ & Miss Davies, 5 Llandybie St with a small parcel.’

‘27 May Glorious day. Letters from Mrs Lloyd & Rachel. All well at home. Saw Davies Treorchy & Jones. Both going on HS in the morning. Lucky chaps!’

‘3 June. Fine day. Inspection of Y men. Nothing much doing; off in afternoon, have photos taken with Timmy and Rickup. Received letters from Mabel & one from O. Griffiths who is still free and bitterly criticising the Gov. He is obviously right & thoroughly agree with his remarks. He is free to state them. I am gagged. Wrote to Mabel and quoted 2 lines of Welsh poetry for which my letter was sent to the Base Centre. What will he say I wonder?’

Religious conviction

Jones’ strong religious faith is evident throughout his diary, but he often seems disappointed with the sermons he attends which, he believes ‘play to the gallery’.

‘19 May Still through the darkness of human folly I see the glorious dawn of the day of the Son of Man…..Shall go to services tonight when I hope my drooping spirit shall be revived. I hope the Padre will not indulge in any of his gallery play as he did last Sunday ….. Yet I trust and believe I shall be saved the trouble of fighting in the army. I have much to be thankful for. The hand of Providence is clearly evident in my life. I bow to Him gratefully.
…The subject acc. to the Speaker was ‘perfect manhood’. By spiritual the speaker meant the refined in nature – the glow. This is impossible without religion. If a man has no respect for God & His worship he neither has respect for the good in man. So religion is absolutely essential to a perfect manhood. Speaker severely criticised after the meeting – unjustly to my mind. The fact that man wears the cloak of religion and lacks the glow does not affect the argument that a man who is truly devoted to & recognises things divine also recognises goodness in man. The cloak is not the glow nor is it religion.’

‘26 May … religion opens out ones character – takes one up to the highest also reveals the lowest; having achieved great things one realises the depth one might fall.’

9 June. Attend service at 7.15 Singing good; sermon disappointing. Subject –forgiveness. Points that Christ taught general forgiveness is incorrect. He taught that we would forgive those who know no better, referring to the incident on the Cross, but Christ did not teach that we should forgive those who sin knowingly. He did not forgive the Pharisees but denounced them. Yet we should forgive as far as we can. Charity is very nice but justice is the fundamental principle between man and man but not between man and God. We must insist on justice which is unchangeable; charity is something which depends on moods. Never have I heard such contradictory statements in a sermon. It was all a distorted view of the Gospel to Justify circumstances.

16 June…Attend communion service at 7pm. Few present, sermon again disappointing….There are sins and sins- good sins and bad sins… The speaker appeared to be getting at the point that a distinction should be made between good and bad but never said so. He almost condoned many sins. He said that God is not so angry with some sins as others. Absolutely no gospel. All his preaching devoid of the Cross. He seems to be a man who desires to please the mob.

But Jones has every faith in his fellow men….But if he thinks he is pleasing the boys he is wrong. For the boys however they live have a keen sense of what is right and what is wrong. Heard strong condemnation of his preaching last night.


Jones appreciated the ‘fine’ and ‘glorious ‘days in Salonika and took advantage of them when he could to go on regular walks in company or on his own.

‘Saturday 8 May …Take a stroll with Luke March – enjoyable walk. Sleep out – good night’s rest.’

‘1 June Fine & fresh after the rain but muddy….Take a walk through the golden cornfields ..fine sunset.’

He attended the revues and concerts put on by and for the men but was sometimes upset by their rather ‘vulgar ’overtones.

‘25 May ..Concert or revue at BM & d. I suppose it was a good show. But I can’t say I enjoyed myself. Make-up was good, some of the singing splendid & great deal of humour but there was much vulgar suggestion running through the whole show….’

But Jones does seem to have seen the good in many of his comrades and enjoyed their companionship…..
4 June … Visit Salonika with March in the afternoon, town full of all sorts of men, soldiers of all nations; visit various shops but see nothing but toys for which exorbitant prices were charged
16 June.. March is to go away tomorrow to S Hill for reposting. Sorry to lose him. He is a fine boy; cheerful & good natured; has the making of a man in him.

Added by Catrin Davies
Further extracts from the diary will be posted in the future.

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