Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



John (Taff Boyo) Rees, 17th Nov 1942 - 4th Jun 2009


John passed away on 4th June 2009. John served with 9 Indep Para Sqn during the mid 60’s with 2 Troop. A great character and a stalwart rugby player, who could often be found in the company of Toots Ridgway - what a great combination! We’ll miss his infectious smile and sense of humour.

Obituary by Geordie (Toots) Ridgway

John died in hospital of kidney failure after being admitted for an infected knee? The antibiotic used to treat his knee affected his kidneys. His kidneys did not kick back in, so he had to have dialysis 3 times a week. His body could not cope because his blood pressure was dropping too low. So, he died. He went in with an infected knee and died of kidney failure! No wonder his family is so upset. He leaves 3 children, Sharon, Tracy, and Martin, and his soul mate for the past 12 years, Kim. A wonderful woman who I had the pleasure of meeting when John and Kim visited my wife and I when we lived in England.

In 50 years of working life (1955-2005) including Army, Merchant Navy, oil rigs and support vessels, deep sea fishing, and operating my own business, the only names I can remember are those of my old mates in the Sqn, one of whom happened to be John (Boyo) Rees.

John was a staunch member of the Sqn. rugby team until his discharge in 1967, and continued to avidly follow that head bangers game until his untimely demise.

After I joined the Sqn in 1963, I was placed in 2 Tp. and after the usual Coventry treatment, which all newcomers are subjected to, I endeavoured to make friends with other members of the troop. Bearing in mind that I was the smallest and puniest member in the whole sqn. (I had to have a full Bergen, bladder, and bottles of Newcastle ‘broon’ ale to stop me drifting over the horizon when I jumped) So I had to have big mates to protect me. The biggest sappers in the troop were Alan (Taff) Brice and John (Taff) Rees. Whether it was a case of opposites attract, great minds think alike, or more probably fools seldom differ we three clicked, (at the end of our individual services in the Sqn. we must have totalled about 20 years and not a stripe between us, (if that tells you anything)

To differentiate between the two Taffs, I started calling John ‘Boyo’ because he was always taking the mickey out of my Geordie accent, “wat yi deein” or “where yi gannin ya wee runt?” (The last word is spelt correctly) to which I would reply “ doon thi NAAFI yiwannacum Boyo?”

In the next few years till Boyo got discharged and Taff Brice joined the SAS. we got up to many escapades and Taff and Boyo saved my ass many times (usually from bars scattered around the world) and from more pubs in the U.K. than I can remember. But one incident comes to mind that is closer to home. The Chinese restaurant near the old NAAFI club in Aldershot.

We used to booze in the NAAFI then often finish with a meal in the Chinese, (not too often, the reason will become apparent) One night, Taff, Boyo, Ken Turk and myself staggered from the NAAFI to the Chinese and took a table near the door. We ordered and ate the starters and main course, and when the waiter asked if we wanted anything else, we ordered sweets or coffee. While we waited, I said I needed to go to the toilet, which was upstairs at the rear of the restaurant. Now here is where my memory fails me. I went to the toilet and had a blackout for a few seconds, and when I came to, I was standing on a narrow ledge outside the toilet window, and edging my way to the main street. Now it couldn’t have been the booze (I made it a rule never to exceed my own body weight in alcohol, in any working day) so it must have been the shock of coming out of my temporary amnesia. I fell backwards through the roof of the kitchen. Fortunately, my fall was broken by the skylight window, so I landed amid a shower of glass, wood, tiles and plaster cascading into the pots and pans and with a bunch of cooks and waiters staring boggle eyed down at me, with the tools of their trade in their hands, i.e. meat cleavers and knives. I leapt up before they came to their senses and barged through the kitchen door into the restaurant and hopefully into the main street. Unfortunately, there was a doorman standing in front of the door, (where else, I asked myself) presumably to greet new customers or stop guests leaving without paying (surely an extreme precaution in the sleepy hamlet of Aldershot?) To make matters worse, I realised that the door opened inwards, so the options were, with a pack of mad armed chefs behind me: -

1) Head for the big plate glass window and dive through it.
2) Head for the doorman and the door and try to dive through them both.

The third option presented itself when I was halfway to the door. Obviously there had been a hell of a racket in the kitchen and all the customers were looking that way, including Boyo. At the sight of me he broke into a broad grin as if to say ‘here we go again’ then barged the doorman out of the way, rushed out and held the door open for me. With inches to spare I got out the door but the doorman managed to grab hold of my jumper. (Evening dress code in those days were jumper, jeans and boots DMS) So then it was a tug of war between the doorman and Boyo with me in the middle. Viz. Boyo had my hand pulling me towards him, the doorman had my jumper pulling me back, and I was trying to run but my feet weren’t touching the ground.

Anyway, it was a no contest. With a mighty heave which sent the doorman sprawling and my jumper to the size of a bell tent, Boyo and I went trotting off in the direction of the station taxi rank, when who should pull up- a land rover with 2 MPs the restaurant had obviously rung the local MPs. The ‘Rover pulled up to the curb, passenger window open, and the nearest MP said in a belligerent tone, “O.K. what have you two been up to?” Boyo stuck his head into his face (I can’t swear to this, but I think he took his top teeth out, which was enough to scare the crap out of anyone.) and said, “ None of your * !*!*!* business, just take us to Haig Lines”.

With that I distinctly heard “S-t, they’re 9 Sqn. call the RPs” and the passenger window slammed shut and the Land Rover shot off.
A few minutes later, a Regimental Police Land Rover pulled up and the conversation went like this “ We hear you guys want a lift to Haig Lines, Oh it’s you Taff, jump in" They took us to the corporals mess in Haig Lines where they spent the next hour talking rugby with Boyo.
I left the Sqn and army in late 1968, and lost touch with both Taffs until the journal came out and we were able to re-establish contact with each other. Although Boyo was a tough character, (he did not suffer fools gladly and pity help those that got on the wrong side of him), there was another side to him that few sqn lads got to know. When he left the army, he ran a ready-mix lorry company, and he was only known as John Concrete locally. If I can quote from a letter that Kim sent me:

’’John then started his own haulage business and at one time employed a number of men. He caught one guy stealing diesel and selling it back to him. But John being John did not sack him, but kept him on with a warning. He had a soft heart and the guy had kids that needed food on the table.

So that was John (Boyo) Rees. Tough, hard, but compassionate. No finer epitaph for a man.

Finally, I would like to say to Kim, Sharon, Tracy and Martin, that I am deeply saddened by John’s untimely death, but I will forever remember him as one of the truly great characters that I have had the privilege to serve alongside and call one of my mates.




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