A Casualty of the Great War

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

ELLEN

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.

Inscriptions on family grave of Rees Davies at Saron Graveyard, Troedyrhiw

Inscriptions on family grave of Rees Davies at Saron Graveyard, Troedyrhiw

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

Complexion: Dark

Eyes: Brown

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.

Horse transportation was extremely important in ensuring that materials reached the front line.

Horse transportation was extremely important in ensuring that materials reached the front line.

Rees Davies died at Stationary Hospital Boulogne on 7th December 1914.

A ward at Stationary Hospital Boulogne during WW1.

A ward at Stationary Hospital Boulogne during WW1.

He  was buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Part 11 UK Graves A-F.

Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

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’).

WW1 medals as awarded to Rees Davies.

WW1 medals as awarded to Rees Davies.

A handwritten note from Emily to the War Office reads:-

                         E. Davies

                        39, Trevethick Street

                        Merthyr Tydfil

Dear Sir

I have received the articles

belonging to my husband.

Thank you very much for them.

I remain

E. Davies

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About davidjcollier

Originally from South Wales I have lived in Nottinghamshire for over forty years. I am married and have three grown up children and two grandchildren. Having worked in education for 43 years I will retire in July 2012. My interests include history (general, local and family), rugby union, swimming, photography, bird watching and gardening. For the benefit of anyone who may actually read this (extremely unlikely, I admit) please do not confuse 'interests' with knowledge or skill. My involvement in a community project which aims to rescue a graveyard from the effects of almost 30 years of neglect. also keeps me quite busy. View all posts by davidjcollier

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