At the outbreak of the First World War on 28th July 1914 Rees Benjamin Davies was a 24 year old miner with a wife Emily and 4 year old daughter Doris. At this time he and his family were probably living at 43 Wyndham Street, Troedyrhiw as they had been when the 1911 census was taken. On 19th August he went through the Short Service Attestation process at Merthyr and, the following day, he enlisted at Aldershot with the rank of Driver and Regimental Number T2/016668 in the Army Service Corps / A.S.C. (later the Royal Army Service Corps / R.A.S.C.). The ‘T’ prefix to his army number meant that Rees would be a horse driver rather than a mechanical driver which would have carried the prefix ‘M’.
The bare facts of what happened to Rees Davies are starkly noted in this inscription found on his family grave in Saron Graveyard, Troedyrhiw:-
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
BELOVED WIFE OF
ISAAC B DAVIES
DIED MAY 27TH 1930 AGED 60 YEARS
LIFE’S WORK WELL DONE, LIFE’S CROWN
WELL WON. THEN COMES REST.
ALSO REES THEIR SON, WHO DIED IN FRANCE
ALSO OF THE AFORESAID ISAAC B DAVIES WHO DIED FEB 20,1934
AGED 65 YEARS
THY WILL BE DONE.
Available records tell us a little more about Rees Davies and his sad fate:-
Description on Enlistment
Apparent age: 24 years and 240 days
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Chest: Fully expanded 38½ inches. Range of expansion 2inches
Religion: C of E
Distinctive Marks: Tattoo ‘True Love’ on right forearm
It seems likely that Rees Davies was part of the British Expeditionary Force which fought the Battle of Mons (23rd August 1914) followed by le Cateau, the Aisne and Ypres (19 October – 22 November) by which time it had been, effectively, wiped out. At some point during this period Rees Davies sustained a gunshot wound to the left knee which required amputation of his lower leg and from which he would not recover.
Rees Davies died at Stationary Hospital Boulogne on 7th December 1914.
He was buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Part 11 UK Graves A-F.
Surviving records add a poignant postscript to this story showing that Emily, the widow of Rees Davies, was awarded a war widows pension of 10 shillings a week. He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914 Star (also known as the ‘Mons Star’).
A handwritten note from Emily to the War Office reads:-
39, Trevethick Street
I have received the articles
belonging to my husband.
Thank you very much for them.