Rees, Thomas, 1790—1820
by Benjamin Colbert
Thomas Rees was born on 7 October 1790, the son of Richard Rees (d.1808), parish-clerk at St. Peter’s Church, Carmarthen, Wales, and Charlotte Rees. At the age of 15, he was apprenticed to a tailor, but, at 17, pursued a military career, joining the Carmarthen fusiliers before enlisting with the Plymouth division of the marines (April 1808).
From his embarkation aboard HMS Temeraire on 22 April 1809, Rees began the journal that would form the basis of his posthumously published travelogue. On the Temeraire, he saw action in the Baltics, and later in Cadiz, returning to England on 2 February 1812. After leaving the Temeraire, he was promoted to corporal and with a three-months leave visited his family in Carmarthen, after which time he was promoted again to sergeant. He then joined the Woolwich division, and while stationed there married Mary Holmes of Chelmsford, Essex.
The following three years he lived in barracks or was employed in recruiting (including 15 months in Blackburn, Lancashire). At sea again, in 1815, he completed a voyage to and from the United States (2 January-15 March) before departing for India, by which time he had sent his wife to Carmarthen where she remained with their family. In July 1815, she gave birth to a daughter, their only child to survive her father (one other child died a few weeks before Rees’s own death). Rees learned of her birth only two years later at the outset of his voyage home, after having travelled with his ship to India and overland to Persia and Bagdad. He returned to England on 21 June 1817.
His remaining years were spent in slow decline after suffering a heart ailment. He returned to his family home in Carmarthen, was discharged soon after, ‘employ[ing] himself, during his tedious confinement, sometimes in teaching his child to read, at others in various little works of ingenuity’ (xv-xvi), according to his anonymous editor and biographer. Rees supported himself and his family by selling off his collections of shells and other mementoes of his travels, before becoming dependant on ‘parochial relief’, and a small pension of £10 per annum. He died on 13 April 1820.
Rees, Thomas. A Journal of Voyages and Travels, by the Late Thomas Rees, Serjeant of Marines. Published for the Benefit of the Author’s Orphan Daughter. London: Printed and Sold by Harvey and Darton, Gracechurch-Street. 1822. Print.
|A Journal of Voyages and Travels||1822|