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TOPIC: Private John Rees, Haverfordwest Volunteers & Welsh Regiment;

Private John Rees, Haverfordwest Volunteers & Welsh Regiment; 1 week 20 hours ago #55086

  • BereniceUK
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Haverfordwest Volunteers for the Front.

FIVE MEN ACCEPTED.

Out of the twenty members of the Haverfordwest Volunteers who offered themselves for active service, five, we understand, have been accepted. They have satisfied the necessary requirements, and on Monday evening passed the medical examination before Dr. Lloyd. Their names are :
Sergt. T. C. White, Market Street;
Private J. Rees, ex-Artilleryman, Merlin's Bridge;
Bandsman Thomas John, Portfield;
Private Morgan Mathias, North Gate;
Drummer John John, Portfield;

Sergt. T. C. White is an expert signaller, and grandson on the maternal side of the late Major Canavan, 18th Royal Irish Regiment; Drummer J. John was for several years one of the successful Harlequin Football team; Bandsman T. John is a member of the Fire Brigade; Private Morgan Mathias was last year highly complimented by the Mayor (Sir Charles Philipps) for jumping over the quay and rescuing a drowning man; Private Rees is an ex-Artilleryman who has had a wide experience.

Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 10th January 1900

* Thomas John didn't go out to South Africa.
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Sent Home in Rags.

EXTRAORDINARY TREATMENT OF OUR VOLUNTEERS.

HOW THE WAR OFFICE INJURES THE VOLUNTEER MOVEMENT.
["TELEGRAPH SPECIAL"]

The condition in which Private Jack Rees, of Merlin's Bridge - one of the Haverfordwest Volunteers - has been sent home, is certainly not calculated to make the Army a more attractive profession amongst our young men. He has been sent home absolutely in rags, with the heels and soles out of his boots. After landing at Southampton, from the vessel in which Lord Roberts returned, he was sent to Gosport, and from that to the depot at Cardiff. They evidently knew nothing about him there, for they simply sent him on to Haverfordwest on six weeks' leave, with a hint to call at the volunteer depot here to get a new rig. As he is no longer a volunteer, but is now a member of the regular forces, he could not be equipped there nor allowed any money to purchase either clothing or boots. This is a scandalous condition of affairs. If volunteers, who sacrifice, as they do in most cases, good positions and good wages at home, are to be treated in this fashion, the sooner a change is effected the better. Private James Bushell, of Narberth, who came home some time since, was treated in somewhat the same fashion. He was sent from Billy to Jack; apparently no one in authority had any directions what to do in regard to him, and they solved the difficulty by giving him leave of absence, and saying nothing as to how he was to receive his pay, if any. From communications from soldiers at the front, it seems that there also both the ordinary Tommy and the volunteer have every reason to be discontented. Australians and Canadians get all the "soft things," as well as 5s a day. Our men have to do all the heavy work and are paid at the magnificent rate of a shilling a day with deductions - and even that irregularly. Eulogiums of their bravery and endurance are not sufficient compensation for this neglect. We cannot see any reason why our own men should not be treated as generously as the Colonials. They have to bear the brunt of the heavy work, and, without implying any reflection on our Colonial friends, they ought to be paid as well, or something done to make the disproportion less conspicuous. The war may last for a considerable time yet, and, unless a reform is quickly made in the treatment of men, whether on active service or home on furlough, there is likely to be a distinct falling off in recruiting. The men of the Royal Reserve, who were up for training at Pembroke Dock last year, had very serious complaints to make, and, now that they have returned to their different places of abode, it is not probable that they will remain silent.

A Telegraph representative endeavoured to secure an interview with Private J. Rees, on Monday. He eventually succeeded in finding Mr Rees, but he signally failed as far as the interview was concerned. Mr Rees declined to say anything about his experiences. He corroborated, however, all that is said above as to his treatment by the authorities. His treatment, he said, was disgraceful since his arrival in England. From Southampton he was sent to the depot at Cardiff, and from Cardiff to his unit at Haverfordwest. In Cardiff he was led to believe he would get a new uniform, boots, etc., at Haverfordwest. In Haverfordwest he found nothing could be done for him, as he was no longer a volunteer proper, but a regular. He showed our representative the boots, in which he had been sent home on his six weeks' leave of absence. The backs had fallen completely out of them, and very little provocation indeed would have been necessary to knock the soles off. Having tried his best both in Cardiff and Haverfordwest to get a decent outfit and having failed, he determined to go in mufti and chance being arrested as a deserter. When he came to town in that style on Monday, a policeman was about to arrest him, but on matters being explained, he did not proceed to that extremity. Private Bushell, we learn, was actually arrested in Letterston under similar circumstances, and was only released on satisfying the emissary of the law that he had no alternative between civilian clothes and a suit of rags, which were as full of holes as a sieve. Everyone must sympathise with gallant volunteers, who, after months of hardship and sickness in South Africa, are sent home in a style that leaves them subject to these indignities. Private Rees was exceptionally reticent on the point, and was absolutely so on others, but we think it a patriotic duty to expose this scandal and call for a remedy. We trust that our humble protest against this neglect of our volunteers will be supported in influential quarters, and that by the time the rest of our men return sufficient pressure will be brought to bear on the military authorities to prevent a recurrence of the scandal. If the regulations of the service forbid the decent clothing of our fighting men on their return home, it is time they were changed; if they do not, it is time some one in authority was dismissed.

Under the circumstances outlined above, we are not surprised at Mr Rees declining to be interviewed. He seemed to be under the impression, but we believe mistakenly, that Private Jack John had been censured because of some opinions expressed in letters published from him. He mentioned, however, he had been invalided home with malaria, that he had seen fighting at Belfast, near Pretoria, and at Watervalonder, and that he had been attached to a company detailed to chase rebels across the Great Karoo desert. He expressed great admiration of the gallantry of Captain Picton Evans, of Cardigan, and of Captain Goldsmith, the latter of whom he saw coolly scanning the enemy's position while the bullets pattered about him like hail.

Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, Wednesday 9th January 1901
_____________________________________________________________

RETURN OF LOCAL VOLUNTERS FROM THE FRONT.
Scandalous Neglect by the War Office.
A SERIOUS COMPLAINT.
In the height of the patriotic outburst over a year ago a large number of men from Haverfordwest, as well as from other towns in the United Kingdom, volunteered for service at the front. They had enthusiastic send-offs, and were liberally treated by the general public so long as they were in the British Isles, but apparently the Government did not extend that treatment when they reached South Africa. It is, of course, inevitable that war should be attended with privations and hardships, but the experiences of the men who bore the burden and brunt of the battle, as we are now gradually getting to know them, have been bitterly hard. The men would not complain so much if the hard work were equally distributed, along with the pay, but they point out that whilst Colonial troops get 5s. a day and the easiest possible work, they only get "a bob a day and all the hard graft." But worst of all is the treatment that is accorded to men who are invalided home. The system - or rather lack of system - in South Africa seems to have been all upset. Men from different regiments are sent to any hospital that happens to have a bed, and when they are convalescent they are packed off home on sick leave on whatever boat happens to have room for them. The result is that when men arrive at Southampton they simply leave the vessel, and unless they are so ill that they have to be taken to a hospital, they are pretty well thrown on their own resources. There is no one apparently in authority to provide them with fresh outfits, to tell them where to apply for arrears of pay &c., or as to where they will get their further orders.

An example has been furnished in Haverfordwest this week. Last Saturday night Private Jack Rees, who formerly belonging to the local volunteers, and was an old soldier who volunteered for the front, arrived unexpectedly in the evening mail train. Nobody expected him, but he was promptly taken in hand by some of his old colleagues in the corps. It was then seen that he was in a frightfully disreputable state. His khaki uniform was a mass of rags, and the boots he was wearing would simply have disgraced a beggar. The uppers were falling in pieces, and the soles were in an advanced state of disintegration. When he told his story of the bungling incompetency of the authorities it made his friends wish they could have hold of the War Office for a short time. It appeared that whewn Rees landed at Southampton he was sent on to Gosport. The authorities there did'nt want him as he was convalescent, so they sent him to the regimental depĂ´t of the Welsh Regiment at Cardiff. He was equally a burden there, so he was coolly informed that he could take six weeks' leave and go home. A hint was given to him that he might get a new rig-out at the Haverfordwest Volunteer stores, but when he arrived here he found that that was impossible as he is not now a volunteer at all. A gentleman in the town, however, an officer in the volunteers, gave him the money to buy a pair of boots with, and he had had perforce to be content with that on Saturday night he went home to Merlin's Bridge, and a representative of the Herald saw him there.

Ashamed of the condition of his uniform, Prvt. Rees simply donned a civilian suit. He bore the marks of the privations he had suffered in his worn and emaciated condition, whilst the cold weather that prevailed was not favourable to him after his experience in South Africa. He had very little to say as to his actual doings on the fighting line, in fact, the subject had been already so well worn, that there is little that is new to be gathered on that point. He mentioned, however, that one of the most trying experiences he had had was when he was included with a column under Sir Leslie Rundle that was chasing the enemy up and down the Karoo desert for seven weeks. Food was scarce during that time, and he was glad when he was able to re-join his regiment again just before they went to Pretoria. Rees' adoption of civilian clothing was, however, doomed to get him into trouble in spite of the incentive that was furnished by the ragged state of his uniform. On Monday he was in the town and was promptly tackled by a police officer, who threatened to lock him up as a deserter. But what is a man to do under such circumstances?

Private James Bushell, of Narberth, who is also home from the front, has had a very similar experience. It will be remembered that some time ago when he was invalided home with a wound in his shoulder he was interviewed by a Herald man. He recovered from his injury and reported himself at the Cardiff depot as fit for duty, but he was not wanted, and all they could do with him there was to tell him that if he liked he could take another six weeks' leave. Of course, he did so, and is now at home again. He is in the same position as Rees with regard to uniform, and he was actually arrested at Letterston, and only allowed to go free after a long explanation for appearing in civilian clothes. These may be isolated cases, in fact we have seen men come from the front who have been fully equipped with serviceable, suitable clothing after landing here, but at the same time it is an eloquent commentary upon the inefficiency of our military system that even a couple of men should apparently be entirely lost sight of. It is sincerely to be hoped that someone will take the matter in hand, and not rest satisfied till a proper explanation has been given.

The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, Friday 11th January 1901
_____________________________________________________________


When Sergeant T. C. White, and Privates Morgan Mathias and Jack John returned to Haverfordwest, on Saturday 4th May, 1901, and were welcomed home, they were joined by Jack Rees. All four were then entertained to dinner by the 1st Company V.B. Welsh Regiment.

The menu cards, distributed amongst those present, contained photographs of the four Volunteers with the inscription, "Left for South Africa, February 2, 1900, returned May 4th, 1901.".......Private Rees, who served her late Majesty for 12 years and knew the hardships of a campaign, volunteered as soon as the bugle sounded and also went out.

Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, Monday 8th May 1901

_____________________________________________________________


The death took place on Monday morning of John Rees, of Merlin's Bridge, Haverfordwest, from quinsy. The deceased was a soldier in the Welsh Regiment, having served in India and South Africa. Rees was in the march to Candahar under General (now Lord) Roberts. He was a member of the Haverfordwest Volunteers, and was one who volunteered for the front, where he saw over twelve months' service, when he was invalided home.

The County Echo Thursday 16th January 1902

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Private John Rees, Haverfordwest Volunteers & Welsh Regiment; 1 week 19 hours ago #55087

  • Brett Hendey
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Berenice
I have not followed your recent contributions, but a chance reading of this post proved to be most interesting and surprising. In the midst of the upheavals at that time, it is probably inevitable that such situations should arise, but the 'passing of the buck' by the military units involved is inexcusable. I wonder if any disciplinary actions followed?
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Brett

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Private John Rees, Haverfordwest Volunteers & Welsh Regiment; 1 week 19 hours ago #55088

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Hello Brett,
If there were disciplinary measures taken, I don't suppose they would have been reported in the press. All kept "in house."

I just found a report of John Rees' funeral.

VOLUNTEER FUNERAL. - There was a large attendance yesterday at the funeral of Private Jno. Rees, of the Merlin's Bridge, who died at his home on Monday morning from quinsy and other complaints. Rees was one of the local volunteers who, at the beginning of the war, went to South Africa, but he had poor health there, and was invalided home. He was the man who was sent home almost in rags, and about whom some considerable discussion took place at the time. He never quite recovered from the privations he had undergone. A large number of Volunteers were present at the funeral which took place in St. Thomas' Churchyard, in charge of Quartermaster T. L. James, including the band, and a firing party in charge of Sergt. T. C. White, who was a comrade of the deceased in S. Africa.

The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, Friday 17th January 1902

St. Thomas' has closed, and is up for sale. However, the churchyard seems to be kept in good condition, so, hopefully, John Rees' grave and headstone are still extant. www.churchinwales.org.uk/structure/repre...hurch-haverfordwest/

Edit - It's been sold. Quite a few memorial tablets, including what looks like a war memorial tablet, in the interior photos, so I hope they all get removed before any alteration begins. rklucas.co.uk/properties/church-lane-st-...green-haverfordwest/

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Private John Rees, Haverfordwest Volunteers & Welsh Regiment; 1 week 7 hours ago #55089

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In complex bureaucracies (e.g. the military , local government in towns etc), minions who behave stupidly, or with indifference to the people that are employed to serve, are often protected by their immediate superiors in order to avoid getting themselves drawn into an indefensible mess. Those people who hope for justice, or simply the naming of the fools responsible for their annoyance or discomfort, are invariably disappointed.

At least John Rees was respected and honoured by his peers at his funeral, but he was still dead and those who had ill-treated him were not.

It is sad to read about the sale of St Thomas'. Such closures also happen in the ex-Colonies. In another recent clean-out of the detritus of my life, I found a prayer book presented to me by the local vicar (of a St Matthews in Natal in this case) at my confirmation in 1953. When I last saw this church it had long been closed and its cemetery was very neglected.

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Brett
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