Mounted Photograph (Trimmed)
4 3/8 Inches by 6 7/8 Inches(11cm x 17.5cm)
Bedecked with campaign medals for service in Queen Victoria’s last two major colonial wars, Sergeant Loftus Swift Williams of the Rifle Brigade strikes a very regimental pose in this photo which he touchingly inscribed to his daughter Flora in 1912.
Williams himself hailed from Sandown on the Isle of Wight, being born in early 1878. His mother was Charlotte James Williams while his father’s name remains unknown at this time. He served in the militia with the Hants Volunteer Artillery before his enlistment in the Rifle Brigade as No. 4463 on 26 February 1896.
After a brief stay in Malta, Williams, who had been posted to the 2nd Battalion, traveled up the Nile River with Kitchener’s expedition to retake Khartoum and was present at the capture of the Mahdist stronghold. He was entitled to the Queen’s Sudan Medal and the Khedive’s Sudan
Medal with the clasp “Khartoum”.
Leaving the land of the Pharaohs, Williams took part in the occupation of the island of Crete between September 1898 and October 1899. The 2nd Battalion would be presented their
campaign medals for Sudan while on the island. With turmoil erupting in South Africa with the Boer Republics, the 2/Rifle Brigade departed Crete on board the SS Jelunga on
October 3 1899 for Durban, Natal via Suez and Zanzibar, arriving at their destination on October 26.
Williams would see considerable action in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War as evidenced by the six clasps on his Queen’s South Africa Medal (QSAM). One medal roll for the
QSAM accounts for five of the clasps that Williams was entitled to “Belmont”, “Belfast”, “Tugela Heights”, “Relief of Ladysmith” and “Laing’s Neck”. A second roll dated March
1903 lists four additional clasps: “Cape Colony”, “Orange Free State”, “South Africa – 1901”, and “South Africa – 1902”. The last two dated clasps were later disallowed when he
became entitled to the King’s South Africa Medal with its two clasps. That still leaves a total of seven clasps listed in the medal roll while Williams wears a total of six in his photo
portrait. One of the minor mysteries of the Anglo-Boer War.
Williams was apparently invalided home on 30 May 1900 but returned to South Africa on 16 December 1901 and remained there until 3 February 1903. He remained at home until
deploying back to Malta from 18 June 1904 to 24 October 1906. While in Malta he completed the mounted infantry course.
Williams was steadily promoted during his career:
Attested Rifleman No. 4463 - 26 February 1896
Appointed Acting Corporal - 3 September 1901
Promoted Corporal – 1 July 1902
Appointed Acting Sergeant – 22 May 1905
Promoted Sergeant – 21 October 1909
Promoted Colour Sergeant – 9 August 1914
Appointed Acting Company Sergeant Major – 28 August 1915
Promoted Company Quarter Master Sergeant – 15 May 1917
Williams would see continuous service through the end of World War One. He arrived in France late in the war on 15 May 1917 and was initially posted with 8/Rifle Brigade before being
reposted to his old 2nd Battalion on 21 June 1917. He helps his position of company quarter master sergeant throughout the war and was finally discharged on 9 March 1920. He had
some 24 years with the colours under his belt and was entitled to the British War and Victory Medals for service during the Great War. But he could not rest on his hard-won laurels
since the Crown was not quite done with this old soldier yet.
On 11 April 1921 Williams attested for 90 days of emergency service as was posted to the 4th Hants Defense Corps. By this time he seems to have already settled down to civilian life at
Winchester and was supporting his family as a fishmonger. He was appointed back to his former rank of company quarter master sergeant and although his emergent service attestation
papers are silent to his specific duties, duties may well have been associated with the massive post-war demobilization that was still taking place. His 90-day term of service expired on
31 July 1921
Although no mention is made in his Rifle Brigade service papers, Williams stated in his emergency service papers that he had been gassed near Passchendaele on 17 November 1917
and had been suffering from a chronic cough ever since. His medical sheet describes his condition as chronic bronchitis and mild emphysema.
In his personal life, Williams has married Miss Lilian Denton at Holywood on 3 June 1907 while he was posted to Ireland with the 1/Rifle Brigade. The couple would have three
daughters: Violet, born at Southampton in 1905, Flora Victoria (to whom this photo was inscribed) born at Holywood in 1908, and Emily Rosaleen born at Winchester in 1914.
Loftus Williams would soldier on - presumably as a fishmonger (a much-decorated fishmonger) – until passing away at Community Hospital, Winchester at the age of 54 on 26 March
1932. He was laid to rest at Magdalen Hill Cemetery, Winchester.