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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

31 July 1917, Sergeant Rees Actions Won Him The Victoria Cross

On 31 July 1917, Sergeant Ivor Rees of the 38th Welsh Division, South Wales Borderers, stormed an enemy machine-gun position. His action won him the highest military award for gallantry in the face of the enemy – the Victoria Cross.

The citation that was published in the London Gazette on 14 September, read:
“At Pilckem, Belgium, on 31 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.”

Ivor Rees was born in Felinfoel, Llanelli, in 1893. He joined up in 1914, leaving his job as a steelworker, and quickly rose up to the rank of sergeant. He survived the war and returned home to Llanelli, but was unemployed for some time. Eventually he found work with the local council, where he once again rose through the ranks and became a head of department.

In the Second World War he joined the Home Guard, serving as a Company Sergeant-Major.
Rees was a fairly common surname in the district, and the locals used to refer to Rees the Postman, Rees the Baker, and Rees the VC.

He died at Tyisha, Llanelli, on 12 March 1967, and was buried at Morriston Cemetery. He has memorials at Havard Chapel, Llanelli Town Hall, Brecon Cathedral, and there is now a garden, dedicated to his memory, in his home town.

His Victoria Cross is proudly on display at the The Regimental Museum of The Royal Welsh, Brecon (South Wales Borderers Collection).

By Medwyn Parry

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