blank
Connect with us

Armed Forces

Welsh pilot who dug tunnel in the ‘Great Escape’ has train named in his honour by GWR

Published

on

A Second World War pilot who played a vital part in the ‘Great Escape’ from a German prisoner-of-war camp has had a train named in his honour by Great Western Railway.

Wing Commander Ken Rees, from Wales, was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III and helped to dig the tunnel from which a daring escape was made in March 1944.

Among those present at a train-naming ceremony at Swansea station were RAF Air Officer for Wales, Air Commodore Dai Williams, the RAF Queen’s Colour Squadron, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies.

Second World War veteran, Wing Commander Ken Rees has had a train named after him by Great western Railway. (Image: GWR)

GWR set out to mark last year’s 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two by naming seven of its Intercity Express Trains after remarkable people involved in the conflict.

Highly-decorated spy Odette Hallowes, D-Day veteran Harry Billinge MBE and ‘Cockleshell Hero’ Cpl George Sheard were added to its list of #greatwesterners but the Covid-19 pandemic prevented any further ceremonies from taking place.

Now the train operator is fulfilling its pledge to honour four more war heroes and Wing Commander Rees’ name will feature on Intercity Express Train 800310, forming the 1122 service from Swansea to London Paddington following the ceremony.

A pilot with Bomber Command, Ken was shot down over Norway in October 1942 just two weeks after getting married. He was taken to Stalag Luft III, a prisoner camp designed for captured airmen and the scene of the ‘Great Escape’.

Advertisement

Ken was a digger on the Tunnel ‘Harry’, the longest of all the tunnels and the one used in the escape. In the 1963 film of the famous feat, Steve McQueen’s character is said to be based on Ken due to his antagonistic attitude towards his captors, a result of his brother-in-law, Sqn Ldr Harold Starr, being shot under his parachute during the Battle of Britain.

Ken, who died in 2014 aged 93, always maintained he had nothing to do with the story that McQueen’s character was loosely based on him.

“He is taller than I am, I’m heavier than he is, he’s American and I’m a Welshman – the only things we’ve got in common is that we both annoyed the Germans and ended up doing stretches in the cooler.

“I didn’t get out and if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to ride a motorbike anyway.”

RAF Air Officer for Wales, Air Commodore Dai Williams, said: “I welcome the opportunity to join GWR to commemorate Wing Commander Ken Rees of Wrexham, RAF Pilot of World War II and part of the ‘Great Escape’.  It will be a privilege to acknowledge the service of this remarkable RAF Officer.”

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies MP, said:  “It’s only fitting that Wing Commander Ken Rees’ memory is being honoured in this way by Great Western Railway. He was a proud Welshman whose exceptional bravery and painstaking efforts helped 76 men escape from captivity. His heroics have rightly gone down in the annals of history and his significant wartime contribution continues to be remembered.” 

Advertisement

GWR Engineering Director, Simon Green, said: “We are honoured to be naming one of our Intercity Express Trains after Wing Commander Ken Rees, who played such a critical role as a member of the digging team in the ‘Great Escape’.

“We at Great Western Railway have a long history of naming trains after Great Westerners, the past and present heroes from across our network.

“It is right that we honour some of those heroes of the war effort, remembering the sacrifice, bravery and tenacity that later generations owe so much to.”

GWR is commemorating seven remarkable individuals involved in the Second World War.

Last year it marked 75 years since VE Day by honouring Odette Hallowes, a French citizen who lived in London and on the Devon/Somerset border. Odette became a Special Operations Executive (SOE) and is the most highly-decorated spy of the war.

D-Day veteran Harry Billinge was honoured at an emotional ceremony at Penzance station in October. The 95-year-old from St Austell said having a train named after him would remind people of the fine men who fought on 6 June 1944, some of whom never returned home.

Advertisement

A week later the family of Cpl George Sheard were present as the ‘Cockleshell Hero’ was honoured at Plymouth station. Cpl Sheard was among a group of young Royal Marines who volunteered for hazardous service planting mines on enemy ships off southwestern France. He drowned in the daring mission, aged 27.

Other Second World War heroes who will have an Intercity Express Train named after them in the coming months are:

  • Wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill, widely considered one of the 20th century’s most influential figures
  • Alan Turing from London, who led Hut 8 at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, responsible for the breaking of German ciphers
  • Tul Bahadur Pun VC of the 3rd Battalion of the Gurkha Rifles, one of only 13 Gurkha’s to receive the Victoria Cross

(All images: GWR)


Advertisement
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Armed Forces

Armed Forces to support vaccination programme in Wales

Published

on

By

98 personnel have been made available to support the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme in Wales.

Armed Forces will be working to support the Department of Health and Welsh Government to accelerate the vaccine rollout amid a wave of Omicron infections.

The personnel will make up 14 teams of vaccinators who will provide surge support to increase capacity.

Those deploying are a mixture of health care professionals and general duties personnel who will be working in support of NHS Wales staff and volunteers, administering vaccines and providing planning expertise.

Personnel will deploy to all seven Health Boards in Wales, with two teams assigned to each board.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We are now supporting this national priority Covid-19 vaccination programme in Wales, Scotland and England.

“Our Armed Forces are supporting our world class health services to accelerate the vaccine rollout and provide essential protection for people and communities. I urge anyone eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine.

Advertisement

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “It is critical that as many people as possible receive the vaccine in our fight against Covid-19 and I’m hugely grateful to the UK’s Armed Forces for supporting this effort in Wales as well as continuing to support the work of the Welsh Ambulance Service.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the military has stepped up to support health services across Wales with the distribution of PPE, construction of a temporary hospital in Cardiff and assisting community testing in the South Wales valleys, demonstrating the UK Government’s commitment to meet the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Personnel on task come from units across the three services – Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. Some personnel have been active on other tasks in Wales since the pandemic began including community testing and PPE delivery.

There are now 227 personnel available to support on Operation Rescript tasks in Wales, the operational name given to Defence’s work to support the pandemic response across the UK.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Business

Cross Hands print company celebrates 5th anniversary with investment and charitable donation

Published

on

By

The business, based in Cross Hands, Carmarthenshire, has invested in new, state-of-the-art, specialist Tajima embroidery machinery as it gears up to manage a spike in demand in the past 12 months driven by a mixture of its core markets and a number of new contracts servicing the armed forces.

Advertisement

The company, formed in 2016 by serial entrepreneur Angela Windsor, has also increased its workforce by 50% on the back of this demand and is seeking two new employees as it eyes further expansion and new business opportunities. It is already working with clients across the UK and Europe and wants to expand this footprint further.

Windsor has also been recognised for her efforts in going the extra mile for the armed forces by being awarded the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) Silver Award for 2021.

Print Inc. is a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant, a commitment by a business to honour and support the armed forces, while Windsor has completed a number of charity fundraising efforts for the armed forces – including climbing Snowdon blindfolded.

She ascended the Rhydd Ddu route of Snowdon supporting Captain (retired) Colin Jones MBE in memory of Captain Stephen Healy and to raise money for Blind Veterans UK. The team eventually raised more than £4,000 for the charity, a remarkable achievement.

The prestigious Defence Silver ERS Award recognises employers who have actively demonstrated their support for the Armed Forces community through implementing practical policies in the workplace.

Advertisement

To achieve Silver, organisations must proactively demonstrate that the Armed Forces community are not unfairly disadvantaged as part of their recruitment policies. They must also actively ensure their workforce is aware of their positive policies towards Defence people issues for Reservists, Veterans, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers, and spouses and partners of those serving in the Armed Forces.

Windsor has a long track record in printing and embroidery. She was previously the owner and manager of the award-winning AVA Dancewear, a company that pioneered improvements in the service and quality of the products offered to customers in that industry.

Angela Windsor, Founder and Director of Print Inc., said: “As we moved into our fifth year of trading, we were seeing some very positive growth. I needed to make an investment in the business but wanted to complement that by also enhancing and enriching our already established commitment to helping the armed forces.

“The investment marks the start of a new chapter for the business as we move to add new products and skillsets to our already very successful offering. In the past 12 months, we have widened our range of services to include workwear, PPE, signs & paper print, branding and clothing embroidery & print. This has led to more demand; this new machinery will allow us to keep pace with customer demand while always guaranteeing the quality matches our reputation and high standards.

“But I am a big believer that successful businesses should also give back. As a company and employer, we have proactively demonstrated our commitment and forces-friendly approach and credentials as part of our recruitment and daily activity. I am very proud of this and our efforts raising money for some very special charities.”

Advertisement

Lead image: Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Awards at Cardiff City Stadium (Image: Nick Treharne)

Continue Reading

Armed Forces

Cawdor Barracks extension welcomed

Published

on

By

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader Cllr David Simpson has welcomed the announcement that the planned closure of Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy, will be delayed until 2028.

The Barracks, home to 14 Signal Regiment, had originally been due to close in 2024.

Advertisement

The extension announcement was made by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Thursday, November 25.

Cllr Simpson said: “Pembrokeshire and Pembrokeshire County Council is rightly proud of its long and close working relationship with the Armed Forces and especially proud to be home to 14 Signal Regiment at Cawdor Barracks.

“The soldiers of 14 Signal Regiment are very much part of the local community – many soldiers’ families have made Pembrokeshire their home – and the Barracks has an important role in the local economy.

“It is good news that Cawdor Barracks will remain open until at least 2028 and we remain hopeful that the Barracks could still continue beyond that date, further extending the close ties between 14 Signal Regiment, Pembrokeshire and this Authority.”

The news was also welcomed by local MP, Stephen Crabb who said the extension provided clarity for the soldiers and their families based in Pembrokeshire, as well as being good news for the local community.

Advertisement

Mr Crabb said: “There is no question that Cawdor Barracks is an important strategic asset for the MOD and to the Pembrokeshire economy.

“A deep bond of affection and respect has developed between our community and the 14 Signal Regiment during the time they have been based at Brawdy.

“Local people will welcome the fact that the soldiers and their families will continue to be a valued part of Pembrokeshire life for some years to come.

“Following my parliamentary debate on the future of Cawdor Barracks in February 2020, I was pleased to welcome the Defence Minister, Jeremey Quinn MP, to Pembrokeshire to see the base for himself and to meet with local soldiers.

“This is very positive news today, but I will continue to make the case for the Barracks to remain in Pembrokeshire permanently and will be seeking longer-term clarity from the MOD about its future.”

Advertisement

(Lead image: MOD)

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Swansea Bay News