Ivor Rees VC

b. 18/10/1893 Felinfoel, Wales. d. 11/03/1967 Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Ivor Rees (1893-1967) was born at Union Street, Felinfoel, near Llanelly (now Llanelli), Carmarthenshire, Wales on 18th October 1893. His father, David, was a tin plate worker and later an electrical engine driver at Llanelly Steelworks. He married Ann Bowen in 1888. Sadly, Ivor’s mother died a year after his birth, and he remarried to Margaret Jane nee Harry in 1899. Ivor had six sisters in all.

Ivor Rees VC

Ivor was educated at Pwll Council and Old Road Schools, Llanelly. He was originally employed as a steelworker in the South Wales Steelworks at Llanelly and was later a crane driver there. He enlisted on 9th November 1914. He was promoted Lance Corporal on 5th August and Corporal on 1st December 1915. He was promoted to Sergeant on 19th September 1916. He was invalided home with trench fever in February 1917 and spent seven weeks at Cardiff Red Cross Hospital.

At Pilckem, Belgium, on 31st July 1917, an enemy machine gun inflicted many casualties when it opened fire at close range. Sergeant Rees, leading his platoon, gradually worked his way round the right flank, by making short rushes, to the rear of the gun position. At 20 yards from the machine gun, Sergeant Rees rushed forward towards it, shooting one of the crew, and bayoneting the other. He bombed a large concrete emplacement, killing five of the enemy and taking 30 prisoners, including two officers and capturing a machine gun, undamaged.

The VC was presented by King George V outside Buckingham Palace on 26th September 1917. Ivor was later promoted to Company Sergeant Major and returned to Britain on 11th February 1918 to become an instructor in 53rd (Young Soldier) Battalion at Kimmel Park. He was fined 12 shillings for being drunk and disorderly at Llanelly on 11th March 1918. On 21st March 1919 he was discharged, but joined 4th Welch (Territorial Force) until being discharged on 30th December 1921.

He received a gold watch and illuminated address from the villagers of Pwll, Llanelly. About 20,000 people lined the streets cheering the VC, including Sir James Hills-Johnes VC. Ivor received a cheque for £156 raised by public subscription, £100 having been pledged by the late Chairman of the South Wales Works to the first company employee to earn a VC.

On 30th September 1917 he married Martha “Mattie” Jenkins at Trinity Chapel, New Duck, Llanelly. They went on to have five children: Lewis Jenkins Rees, Meiriona Jenkins Rees, Aranwen Jenkins Rees, Annie Jenkins Rees, and Ifan Jenkins Rees. Civilian life following the First World War was tough on Ivor and he soon found himself in trouble with the law. He was charged at Carmarthenshire Assizes on 1st June 1921 with an attempted roadside assault on Elsie Green, who was just fourteen. An all male jury reduced the charge to common assault and he was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment.

Ivor returned to his job as a crane driver, then trained as a barber, but was unemployed for two years until being employed by Llanelli Borough Council as a water inspector and cleansing superintendent until retiring in 1959.   During World War Two, he was a Company Sergeant Major in 2nd Carmarthenshire Battalion Home Guard. On 9th July 1953 he was introduced to Queen Elizabeth II just after her coronation at Swansea.

Ivor died at home, 5 Craddock Street, Llanelli on 11th March 1967 and was cremated at Swansea Crematorium within Morriston Cemetery. His ashes were scattered in Section 5 of the Garden of Remembrance. In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were loaned to the South Wales Borderers Museum in 1969 and the Regiment purchased them from his widow a few years later. The medals are displayed in the Regimental Museum, Brecon.