On the morning of February 13 1944, the landing craft carrying the 8th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (8 RF) was creeping into the harbour at Anzio, when down through the barrage balloons dived four Focke Wolf bombers. The captain on the bridge took a flying leap under a table and the CO of 8 RF would have followed him had there been room.
The nearest bomb narrowly missed the stern of the landing craft, which ploughed on into the harbour wall. “Well,” announced the captain, “At least you chaps won’t get your feet wet.”
Williams, as adjutant, quickly discovered that the battalion was in for a very tough time. The country was dense, thickly wooded and intersected by ravines choked with undergrowth. It lent itself to infiltration by the enemy and made it difficult for the Allied soldiers to maintain contact with one another.
The German attacks were relentless. At Battalion HQ, Williams and his CO had the agonising experience of hearing over the wireless the unfolding of disasters — “platoon overrun... company surrounded... subalterns killed in heavy fighting... unable to hold out much longer... too late for help now” — and being unable to avert them.
The position where rations and ammunition were delivered every night was highly exposed and subjected to constant bombardment; but Williams took no account of the danger to himself in organising the swift collection of these supplies.
On one occasion a wounded man who was under constant small arms fire called for help. Williams at once went to his assistance. He himself was then wounded, but he pressed on and led the stretcher bearers to recover the man. He later refused to be evacuated and remained on duty. He was awarded an Immediate MC.
George Mervyn Williams was born on October 30 1918 and educated at Radley. He hated school and once ran away, but was brought back by his elder brother. Aged 19 he borrowed £500 and opened a tobacconist’s shop in the Finchley Road, but war was looming and the next year he was commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers.
Posted to the 8th Battalion, he served in Iraq before taking part in the North Africa campaign, in which he was wounded at Enfidaville, north Tunisia. He rejoined 8 RF in Italy on the Garigliano river in winter 1943. After the end of the war he moved to Greece to take up a staff appointment at the British Military Mission.
Williams was demobilised in 1946 and became assistant to Sir Isaac Wolfson, the philanthropist and managing director of Great Universal Stores. In 1949 he returned to Wales on becoming sales director of Christie-Tyler, a small, underperforming company on the Bridgend trading estate, Glamorgan.
The following year he was appointed managing director, a post that he held for the next 30 years. Money was tight. His wife ran the farm and a commercial chicken business. (Their son cannot endure the taste of chicken to this day.)
Williams was chairman of Christie-Tyler from 1959 to 1985. In 1972 the company was listed on the stock exchange and became one of the largest upholstery businesses in Europe.
He was appointed High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1966, CBE in 1977 and Vice-Lord Lieutenant of Mid Glamorgan in 1986. In the 1970s he bought a house near Crickhowell, Powys, where he created a much admired arboretum.
George Williams married first (dissolved), in 1940, Penelope Mitchell. He married secondly, in 1950, Grizel Stewart. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their son.
George Williams, born October 30 1918, died January 7 2013