Reece Cale James
Great Great Uncle
15 Feb 1886
February 1886 - 19 October 1968
The following story
and information was kindly provided by Graham Clive James the grandson
of Reece Cale James.
My grandfather Reece
was born at Tregare in the County of Monmouthshire. His parents
were farming at West Farm and he was the youngest of six children,
one sister and four brothers. In 1901, aged fifteen, he decided
to join the army. This was with some encouragement from two of his
brothers who were already in the Grenadier Guards. At this time
the South African, or Boer War, was still raging and he wanted to
play his part in this. However, there was one small snag, his age,
so he decided to add on three years!
the 12th March 1901 Reece found himself in Cardiff at the Barracks
of the Welch Regiment, where he was passed fit for service. Fourteen
years later found him at Devenport, joining the 1st Battalion of
the Welch Regiment, where he received his training over the next
fourteen months. On the 27th May 1902 he was posted to South Africa,
and set sail aboard the S.S. Britannia on the 28th May. Whether
Private 6759 James saw active service against the Boers is not known.
He was then transferred to North India on the 23rd December 1902,
why this took place seems to be rather futile, as officers and men
of the 2nd Battalion were being sent from India to South Africa
to join the 1st Battalion still on active service. The 31st January
1903 saw his arrival at Umballa, then Subathu two months later,
only to be sent to the Fort at Quetta. During his transfer to India
he was in the 2nd Battalion, under the command of Lieut. Colonel
W.V. Dickenson (William Vieris). The Fort at Quetta was an important
site on the borders of Baluchistan and Afganistan, from which rebellious
Afghan Tribes could be dealt with. During his stay in India he collected
many photographs of the local tribes people and their environment
and also various verse and poems written by soldiers.
In October 1905 Reece
sat, and achieved, his E.R.I. Second Class Certificate of Education
by the authority of the Director of Military Education in India.
March 1906 was a great occasion for the Regiment who were visited
by the Prince (later to become King George V) and Princess of Wales.
For this visit all troops were given the words to the tune 'God
Bless the Prince of Wales', which was sung during the Prince's parade
On the 5th October 1906
Reece was on board R.I.M.S. Dufferin, with the Battalion bound for
South Africa. He was stationed at Bloenifontein in the Orange Free
State. The same year he was made Lance Corporal (unpaid), which
was confirmed with pay on 2nd November 1906. September 1907 found
him in Kopjes. September 1908 saw him promoted to full Corporal.
The only blot on his career in the army was in 1905, when he was
charged with 'Gross Neglect of Duty', whilst Mess Waiter in the
Officers Mess. This 'crime' remains a mystery, but cost him 10 days
C.B, dispensing with trial, and the forfeit of one 'Good Conduct
Badge' (which was restored one year later). At this stage in his
career he had served in the Officer's Mess for five and a half years,
obtained his crossed rifles as a 'First Class Shot', was 39th from
top of Rolls of N.C. Officers. He was described as a 'very good
character' and given the descriptive marks of a 'snake round back'
and R.J. on his left forearm in the form of tattoos.
Reece was discharged
on 1st March 1909, receiving a letter of reference from Major Span
to help him gain employment at home. A Book entitled 'The 2nd Batt.
The Welch Regiment', published in 1905, shows Reece in 'G' Company
seated far left on the second row with a small dog to his right.
He was transferred to the Army Reserve on the 11th March 1909 for
four years. Final discharge was Gosport on 11th March 1909.
a period of three months, during which we assume Reece was taking
a well earned rest after eight years in the army, he joined the
Police Force. With his yearn to be back in uniform and the need
to find the nearest thing to army life, he joined the Monmouthshire
Constabulary on 1st June 1909. For whatever reason this was short
lived as he resigned in September of that year, a career of only
122 days. His police record gives his age as being 26 years old,
upon joining, when infact he was only 23 years old. This concurs
the extra three years added to his age when he joined the army.
His army records show that he was a miner before he entered the
army, so with the opening of Oakdale Colliery in 1908 (first shaft
sank) he went to work for the Tredegar Iron and Coal Co. in 1909
On 17th April 1911 Reece
married Charlotte Lena Francombe at the Parish Church, St John the
Baptist, at Miskin in Glamorganshire, his wife's home town. Reece
was now living in Blackwood, Mon, as opposed to his discharge address
of Berthllanderry, NR Raglan, Mon. It was whilst living at this
address that he received a re-directed postcard from the Recruiting
Officer of the 24th Regimental District, asking if he wished his
name to be left on the recruiting register, dated December 1911.
The card itself was very interesting, as it listed a soldiers pay
on joining as 6/8d, after all stoppages, per week. He decided to
leave his name on the register.
On February 25th 1912
Charlotte and Reece had their first child, a son, Trevor Cale James.
One year on (12.3.13) he was back in his old regiment in the rank
of Corporal. His regiment remaining at home. Whilst still stationed
in this country he was promoted to C.Q.M.S. on the 14th September
1914. A letter card (dated 27.2.15) to his wife and son shows he
was in Southerndown, South Wales, a march of 22 miles from his barracks.
Some three weeks later he had a daughter Ivy (born 12.3.15).
In December 1915 he
was transferred to the British West Indies Regiment. He was sent
to Egypt on 9th February 1916 and disembarked at Alexandria on 21st
February. He was appointed to C.S.M. in the field in January 1917,
which was confirmed on the 29th April 1917. The last two days of
1917 enabled Reece to visit Jerusalem whilst on leave. This was
the world's most holy and historical city. He was the only person
in his Battalion, below the Rank of Commissioned Officer to do so.
A separate hand written account of this, by Reece, is another story
in itself. Having arrived in Jerusalem he found that only Commissioned
Officers were allowed into the city with written authority. The
newly appointed British Governor, who had served in the Welch Regiment,
authorised his Deputy to issue Reece with the special passes required
under the heading to 'Enter on Special Duty'. This was required
as all places of Historical Importance in the Old City were under
Reece was due for demobilisation
in 1918 but was 'Retained in the Service' under the Military Service
Act of 1916. The 4th March 1918 saw him on board H.T. Kashgar at
Port Said, bound for home, until his final discharge on 17th March
1919. He had by this time served the Regiment for 18 years and 6
days, including his time on the 1st Class Army Reserve. The 03.12.1919
saw the birth of his second daughter Vivien. After his service in
the army, his career was wide and varied.
All statements, dates,
etc., mentioned beforehand can be authenticated by various letters
and army records.
account of Reece Cale James' Career after he finished in the Army
Miner, working fir the Tredegar Iron and Coal Co. Letter of reference
from above to attest this.
Steward for the Association Conservative Clubs. When he left the
club, he was presented with a Gold Watch and Chain and a 'Steward's
Pendant' for his services.
Licensee at the Butcher's Arms, High Street, Blackwood.
Worked for L.M.S Railways, not necessarily for the full duration.
Reece was now back in the same Conservative Club in Blackwood. On
leaving he was once more presented with a 'Steward's Pendant with
'Bar' for five years service.
1954 For a time
Reece worked for his daughter-in law's father (Gibbs Distribution)
at Pontllanfraith and Pontypridd, before finally retiring.
Reece's army background
and upbringing remained with him for the rest of his life. Personal
appearance, health. hygiene and orderliness were all important to
him. Some examples of this were: chewing his food for a set number
of times before swallowing; brushing his hair for five minutes each
morning; cleaning his shoes with polish and the customary army spit;
hanging up his labelled garden and maintenance tools in his garage.
More than a thought should be given to his wife Charlotte, who must
have found it difficult during his army career.
Reece died at the age
of eighty two years, his ashes were interred at St. Margaret's Church,
at which Reece Lived:
West Farm, Tregare,
near Raglan. Bethelanderry Cottage
13 Woodville Terrace, Argoed
Butchers Arms, High Street, Blackwood
Willow Cottage, High Street, Blackwood
2005 Gerald Majumdar