The 1911 census records John Rees living at Erwlihen, Pen y Bryn nr Wrexham. He lived with his father Stephen Rees a colliery horsekeeper below ground. John was 21 and also worked below ground as an engine driver. There was one other resident a Margaret Davies who was 87 and ‘housekeeper’.
UK Soldiers who Died in The Great War 1914 – 19 accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk confirms the regimental details above and adds that he enlisted in Ruabon. This source tells us he was Killed in Action.
His medal card also accessible on ‘Ancestry’ details his medals and adds that his first Theatre of War was France and he entered it on the 5th December 1915. It also adds that he was ‘Killed in Action’.
John Rees’s Army Service Records exist – accessible on ‘Ancestry’ and they tell a very remarkable and detailed tale. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the chronology and it is certainly difficult to comprehend this soldier’s experiences.
The records show that he signed up on the 6th June 1915. His attestation papers were signed in Wrexham. His address was Erwylinhen Pen y Bryn, near Ruabon and he was 25 years and 4 months old. He was appointed to the 17th Bn of The Royal Welsh Fusiliers and he joined them at Llandudno the next day.
One of the papers in his records is a Conduct Sheet. There are no misdemeanors reported at all but the form tells us his place of birth was Eyton, he was an engine driver and his religion was C of E.
He went to France in December of 1915. The records show that within a very short period of time in January and February 1916, John suffered from a number of injuries that are recorded on an army casualty sheet. He was slightly wounded, then he had shrapnel wounds to the back, then shrapnel wounds to the buttocks and finally a very serious gunshot wound to the chest. He was in hospital in Abbeville on the 13th February 1916 and dangerously ill. By the 28th February he was deemed to have made good progress and on the 11th March 1916 he was sent back to the UK on HS ‘Brighton’.
The remarkable thing is, that he went back to France in 1917. He left Southampton on the 9th September 1917 and disembarked at Le Havre the next day. He was back ‘in the field’ on the 23rd September 1917. He received yet another injury on the 28th November 1917. This was a gunshot wound to the left arm.
There is a letter from the army to John Rees’s father dated the 7th December 1917. It is reproduced below.
“Shrewsbury 7th December 1917
Mr S Rees
Erwlihen ,Pen y Bryn Nr Ruabon
Sir or Madam,
I regret to have to inform you that a report has been received from The War Office to the effect that (No) 25305 (Rank) Pte (Name)J Rees (Regiment) Royal W Fus was admitted to 3 General Hospital Boulogne, France suffering from gun shot wound left arm severe.
Any further information received in this office as to his condition or progress will be at once notified to you.
Officer in charge of records.”
He was returned again to the UK and was admitted to Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley Lancashire on Christmas Eve of 1917. He was discharged on the 11th January 1918 to furlough.
It would appear that John Rees made yet another miraculous recovery. He was promoted on the 19th October 1918 to Lance Corporal. Twenty days later he was ‘Killed in Action’ in France.
The records contain correspondence between the army and John’s father, regarding his medals and his ‘message from the King’. There was an army letter about John’s possessions.
There is in the records a list of John Rees’s living family members. It was signed on the 31st January 1920 and contains the following:
Father Stephen Rees, Vedwygoed Farm Eyton, Nr Wrexham
Full Blood Sisters Catherine Watson 26, Caer Cottage, Foden, Welshpool, Montgomeryshire
Half Blood Sisters Margaret Rees 8 and Sarah Ann Rees 6. Vedwygoed Farm Eyton Nr Wrexham