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He didn't come home

 

Rees Jones [1881-1918].

The story of one local WWI soldier

 

 

Private Rees Jones
203373 11th Welch A Co 4 Platoon Salonica Forces

The story of one local man who died serving his country in WWI, he was my maternal grandmother's younger brother.
He died on the 6th October 1918 in Salonica, 36 years old.
He was the son of Rees Jones and Elizabeth [Evans], born c 1882 in Llanybyther, Carmarthenshire.

Here is the 1901 census record for his parents, (all the other children shown below are Rees's half brothers and sisters.)
Station Rd Cot., Garnant
Rees Jones, 52, stone mason, (CMN Llanybyther), Welsh
Elizabeth, 40, (CMN Llanelly) both
Rees, 19, mason, (CMN Llanybyther), Welsh
Alice A, 10, dau, (Gorseynon), both
David J, son, 9, (Gorseynon), both
William A, son, 7, (Gorseynon), both
Magt Jane, dau, 5, (Gorseynon), Welsh
Thomas, son, 4, (Llanguicke), Welsh
Hannah M, dau, 2, (CMN Bettws)
James, son,. 1, (CMN Bettws)

 

Three Letters from Rees to 'his sisters' in Cwmgors are preserved.

The original letters are now badly faded, they are displayed in the Picture Gallery, Memorabilia 3.
I have also transcribed these letters below, any words missing or not 100% clear I have put in brackets, I have retained the original spelling.

It is recorded below that British Forces first landed in Salonika in the second half of 1915 but the order of the letters here is arbitrary since two are undated; they are in the same order as the originals shown in the Picture Gallery

 

First letter

Undated

On Active Service
Young Men's Christian Association
With the Salonica Forces
(headed notepaper)
May 22nd
Dear Sisters
Just a line or two hoping you are all in the best (of)
health, you must excuse me for not writing (last week)
ond (Welsh for 'but' - could be 'and') my writing paper is short till we goes out for (rest)
again I might have some then, ond/and I am in the (pink)
although it is very hot here now don't send to
me till I tell you. I am not so bad off now but send
a writing paper inside your letter next time, let me
know how Will is getting on ond/and I don't think the
war will last very long again somehow I am a good
judge you know how do you manage it at home
do you get your coal now let me know and let
me know about the (comeing ? ) out is (Jon Jack ?)
gone yet  how is the garden comeing, has the old man
any onions in it this year, I can see him at night in
that old pan grouting if he is at home now ask him
how are they at Llanybyther now, Private Rees Jones
203373 11th Welch A Co 4 Platoon Salonica Forces

And how is Dai, and Sal and the baby getting on
and how is Maggie and how is Ben and the Family
I am with the Vickers Machine Gun now but I cant
say weather I am Transferred to (?) them or not (yet or but)
keep on with the same address they know where I am
and don't you worry about me I am alright and (will write? - letter torn away)
back by return with all the news I haven't had a (letter torn)
letter from Ben yet I will have them by the (dozen ? - letter torn)
some day again  how did you manage the (gar.... or gan..... - letter torn)
so no more now from
Brother Rees.

 

Second letter

Dated April 4th 1918

Dear Sisters. Just a few lines hopeing that
you are in the best of health the same as
myself at present and how is Father
getting on this winter I hope he is alright and
all at GCG. Well I have just come
out from the trenches I was in a fortnight
and now out for two or three weeks it is
not very bad but Johnny sends some of his
stuff over everyday and of course he
gets it back dont you trouble about me
I am alright so far and we gets plenty of
Company at night, Pilgrims of the night you know
what they are, so we can get a change of
clothing when we get out and a good bath in
a basin if we can find water and it is
getting very warm here now again, there is
one chap from Glanaman here and he told me
George Ashton is here somewhere but I have
not seen him. Private Rees Jones 203373
11th Welsh 4 Platoon A Co BEF Salonica

Let me know if you had some letters from
me, I have not had one from any of you
yet, they will come some day and I have
been on the move all the time so they will
be alright now as I am settle down I think so
dont send me any money you can send
me some Fags and a Handkerchief

(second page)

and some writing paper if you have sent
me some dont send me anymore (?) till
I tell you  How is (Ben?) and Tirbach, Maggie
and all of them. Remember me to them all
and let me know about Will and Dai
how they are getting on in France and send
me Will's address. How is old Grif and
Twm Saer are they in the Army yet its
time for them now, and how is Edith
getting on, Remember me to them all
so no more now from your brother Rees.

Write back by return with all the
news, keep on writing every week
April 4th 1918

 

Third letter

Undated, written in a  jokey style so perhaps he hadn't been there very long.

1st.

A Balkan Idyll

BRIGHT, BRINY, BREEZY !!

BEAUTIFUL BALKANS ! FOR THE HOLIDAYS !

ATTRACTIONS ; -A WAR DAILY

WENSDAY- EARLY CLOSING DAY

AEROPLANE AND ARTILLERY EXHIBITION

NO EXTRA CHARGE FOR NIGHT STUNTS

NO RAILWAYS BUT SHANKS PONYS TO ALL PARTS

BIG  GAME  HUNTING ;- BULGARS, MULES, TURKS,
(FLIES), SNAKES, WILD DOGS, BUCKSHE MULES,
FLIES, ANTS, MOSQUITOS, CREEPERS, CRAWLERS
AND JUMPERS OF ALL SPECIES

(FISHING ?  POUNDS ? OF ? FEVER ? CAUGHT DAILY - this line obscured by crease in paper)

MAIL DELIVERED ONCE A MONTH
[IF NOT OTHERWISE DISPOSED OF].

BATHING MIXED , 6 [?] PERSONS TO ONE BUCKET

MILES & MILES AWAY FROM THE NOISE AND
WORRIES OF CIVILISATION AND FROM THE
INFLUENCE AND FLIRTATIONS OF THE FAIR  SEX.

TEMP ;-BOILING POINT GUARANTEED

(On reverse)

HOTEL [then a name which looks like BIVVY POLE or even PRIVVY HOLE !]

NOT 5 MILES FROM THE FRONT

MENUE ;- BISCUITS OR BREAD [GS MARK IV]

BULLY BEEF OR MEAT FRESH

JAM ISSUE ;-MARMALADE EVERY DAY
SOMETIMES GOLD SHRED, SILVER SHRED,
COPPER SHRED, BUCK SHE   ... (NIL  ?)

CABBAGES. ON (VIEW) ONLY. WATERED AND
FED  6 PM

NOTE ; THE PUBLIC ARE REQUESTED NOT
TO MISTAKE THE CABBAGE PATCH FOR
A FOOTBALL PITCH

WINE LIST...QUININE EVERY NIGHT.

OUT MOTTO - WHAT  'OPES

FROM REES


Background

As a historical fact, the Germans made their final push in April 1918, by June the first US troops went in and in November 1918 the Armistice was signed.

There were 10 million people killed in this war.

It is not now known how he died but malaria and dysentry were the scourge of the Salonika BEF in Macedonia [Northern Greece] ---  Rees very nearly made it.

 

This extract from the 'Soldiers killed in the Gt War ' Cd ;

Copied from the War Graves Commission website

In Memory of R Jones Private   203373

11th Bn., Welsh Regiment attd. 67th Bn., Machine Gun Corps (Inf) who died on Sunday, 6th October 1918.

Commemorative Information

Cemetery: MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, KALAMARIA, Greece

Grave Reference/ Panel Number: 518.

Location:

Mikra British Cemetery is situated approximately 8 kilometres south of Thessalonika on the road to the airport. CWGC signposts have been erected at appropriate points. Within the cemetery will be found the Mikra Memorial, commemorating nurses, officers and men of the forces of the Empire who lost their lives in the Mediterranean and whose only grave is the sea. Their link with the place of the Memorial is, in most instances, the fact that others who went down in the same vessel were washed ashore and identified, and are now buried at Thessalonika.

Historical Information:

Salonika (now Thessalonika) was occupied in October, 1915, at the invitation of M. Venizelos, by three French Divisions and the 10th (Irish) Division from Gallipoli. Other French and British forces landed during the year, and in the summer of 1916 Russian and Italian troops joined them. In August, 1916, a Greek Revolution broke out at Salonika, with the result that the Greek National Army came into the War on the Allied side; and these forces, with the reconstituted Serbian Army, formed the Salonika Army to which the Bulgarians yielded in September, 1918. In the winter of 1919-20, while the town was still in Allied occupation, a White Russian force took refuge in Salonika. The town was the base of the British Salonika Force and it contained, from time to time, eighteen General and Stationary Hospitals. The earliest British burials took place in the local Protestant and Roman Catholic Cemeteries. The Anglo-French Military Cemetery was begun in November, 1915, and closed to British burials in October, 1918. In April, 1917, the British cemetery at Mikra, on the Western outskirts of the town, was opened, and it remained in use until 1920. Mikra British Cemetery contains many graves which were brought in from other cemeteries after the Armistice. There are also unidentified War graves within the cemetery; next to it is a cemetery made by the Greeks for the burial of Greek refugees from Russia.

For more background information see also this site which deals in detail with the British Army's experiences at Salonika.
This brief excerpt gives some idea of what Welshmen endured there in September 1918;

"No feat of arms can ever surpass the glorious bravery of those Welshmen. There was lingering gas in the Jumeaux Ravine ( probably ours!) and some of the men had to fight in respirators. Imagine, if you can, what it means to fight up a hillside under a deadly fire, wearing a hot mask over your face, dimly staring through a pair of clouded goggles, and sucking the end of a rubber nozzle in your mouth. At the same time heat is pouring down on you from a brazen sky. In this plight you are called on to endure the blast of machine-gun fire, the pointed steel or bursting shell of the enemy. Nor are you called on to endure alone ; you must vigorously fire back, and vigorously assail with your own bayonet. It is as much like hell as anything you can think of. Welsh Fusiliers got as far as the Hilt, only half a mile below the central fortress, before being driven back by a fierce Bulgarian charge. Every officer was killed or wounded. Following these came the 11th Welsh, who were also compelled to retire fighting. For a time, however, a few of the enemy's trenches, full of dead or dying men, remained in our possession. A third Welsh battalion was offered up, to perish, on that awful day. The 7th South Wales Borderers nobly stormed up through the haze of battle until they had come near the hills of The Tassel and The Knot, Then, all at once, the haze lifted, and they were left exposed in the open to a sweeping and overwhelming fire. Melting away as they charged, a party of Welshmen ran up the slopes of Grand Couronne itself and fell dead among the rocks. Of the whole battalion, only one officer and eighteen men were alive at the end of the day. All night, unheard in the tumult of a new bombardment, wounded men were crying on the hillsides or down in the long ravines...."

[Gareth Hicks]


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[Last updated  24 Dec 2004]

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