What will be less well known are the sacrifices made during those two conflicts by those who survived. John (Jack) Evans was a chauffeur to Lord Tredegar, keen on all sports, he played for the Newport first XV just three times between 1911-12 and 1913-14. According to newspaper reports he "was considered one of the fastest threequarters in Wales". Enlisting in the Royal Gloucester Hussars he was captured by the Turks in 1916.
Whilst a prisoner he wrote home, on one occasion asking "Is Map. Williams still at home? If so, remember me kindly to him, and thank him for the £1 he and W. Kelly sent. I have not had it yet, but I will get it allright" (Mapson Williams was a fine Newport forward playing around 150 games for Newport between 1911-12 and 1923-24).
Brief biographical details of John (Jack) Evans are given in the list of past players on this site. However the following article from the Evening Post tells the personal story of his experiences in World War I. Just one young rugby player from Newport amongst millions caught up in that terrible conflict. It reminds us that at the end of the day our heroes on the field can be even bigger heroes off it. Sadly it also reminds us of the capacity for man's inhumanity to man.
"The Terrible Turk"
"NEWPORT CAVALRY MAN'S NARRATIVE,"
"Stripped and Beaten in the Street"
"To be a prisoner in the hands of the Turks for two years and seven months is, as one may well imagine, not a pleasant experience, and Corpl. Jack Evans, of the Royal Gloucester Hussars (Yeomanry), who has been subjected to that trying ordeal, is very thankful to be back in Blighty again. Corpl. Evans, who in civil life was a chauffeur to Lord Tredegar, is well-known locally as a speedy Rugby wing threequarter and path runner. His home is at Tredegar Cottages, near Newport, and he is a son of Mr. Evans, for many years stud groom to the late Viscount Tredegar and the present Lord Tredegar. Corpl. Evans took part in the Dardanelles campaign, being at Suvla Bay four days after the first landing there. The Yeomanry, it will be remembered, were dismounted here, and to all intents and purposes filled the role of infantry. Evans was here two months, and was slightly wounded in the arm. He afterwards went to Egypt, and was at Katra, in the neighbourhood of the Suez Canal when captured by the Turks on April 23, 1916. He was one of a squadron of about 87 men, who were cut off from the main force by an overwhelming body of Turks numbering some 3,000, with reinforcements many miles away, and no hope of reaching them, and about half the squadron were wiped out before they finally surrendered."
"Their Death Ride."
"They were marched across the desert a distance of about 200 miles, to Beersheba, and what they suffered en route is too terrible to relate. A German, said to have been a captain of the Goeben, was in command. The prisoners were stripped of all rations, and in some cases the boots were taken off their feet, and for five days whilst on the tramp they did not have any food to eat. All they subsisted on was water which they obtained from wells, found in intervals of about 30 miles apart. But whilst the ravages of hunger were in themselves awful to experience the lot of the unwounded captives was not nearly so bad as the plight of those who happened to be disabled when captured. Men badly wounded in vital parts were put astride upon camels, and not one of them survived the journey. For sheer cruelty it would want beating. At Beersheba the remnants of the party entrained for Jerusalem, where they stayed one night and then went on to Damascus. Here they remained a week, and afterwards continued their journey to Aleppo, where they remained but one night before being sent to Afion Kara Hissar where they were put to work road-making, starting work at 4.30 in the morning, and knocking off at eight o'clock in the evening."
"Stripped and Beaten."
"A Turkish naval officer was in charge of the camp, and the prisoners were at times brutally beaten with a "cowhide" whip when found guilty of imaginary offences. Evans himself was on one occasion kicked, punched in the jaw, and then knocked senseless for daring to exchange a few words with another prisoner, and later the same day was stripped in the street, outside the baths, and was struck across his naked back with a "cowhide" whip."
"The prisoners were also called out early in the morning to steal stones that had been blasted from a rock by the Armenians, and this stone was used in roadmaking. Corpl. Evans was afterwards put upon a much lighter and easier task – water fatigue – which meant overlooking a water party."
"Later he was removed to the neighbourhood of Constantinople, and was here for three months. The prisoners were subjected to much better treatment at this quarter, and they used to cheer the British aeroplanes as they came over and bombarded the place. Occasionally, however, the raiders dropped their missiles too near to where the prisoners were housed for the latters' peace of mind. The armistice was signed on Thursday, but it was not until the Sunday that the glad news leaked through to the captives, and they gave way to rejoicing."
"No Medical Attention."
"During the whole time Corpl. Evans was in Turkish hands he never saw a doctor, but they had medicine sent to them through the Dutch Legation in Constantinople. Men died through want of medical care. He was at Constantinople when the British Fleet arrived, and they had a good time compared with their previous experiences at the close of their stay in that part of the world."
"Corpl. Evans took part in sports and enjoyed a fine measure of success, capturing six firsts, one second, and one third prize. Strange to say, however, it was in putting the weight, throwing the cricket ball, long and high jumping and wrestling etc., and not as a runner that he was most successful. He seemed to have lost a lot of his former dash as regards speed."
"The statement, previously made, that the Turks took very few prisoners in the Dardanelles campaign, is lent colour to by Corporal Evans, who says he saw very few men who had fallen into the hands of the Turks during the fighting on the Peninsula, and there can be no doubt that many were killed by the enemy after they had been taken prisoners. Corporal Evans refers with deep regret to the fact that Corporal W. Morgan of Michaelstone, who was captured by the Turks in October 1917, died from dysentery just before the armistice was signed.
With thanks for research material to Martyn Evans, John Evans' grandson.