Leading Fireman Alf Rees (front left) with the 1938 Ryde Fire Station, Couldrey Cup winning team.

Alfred Edward Rees was born in Newport on 5 November 1895 to his mother Fanny. Sadly his fathers details remain a mystery and the family have proven untraceable in the 1901 census. Ten years later, 1911, aged 15, he, Fanny, and an elderly boarder were listed as living at St Mary's Road, Cowes. By then Alf (as he was commonly referred) had recently begun an apprenticeship as a blacksmith in the shipbuilding industry. 

In 1922 he married Ethel Mary Crouch. Presumably at some stage over the next few years they relocated to Ryde as Alf began as a probationary fireman in January 1928 and was confirmed in post as a member of the town's fire brigade on 14 August.

Alf was one of those who seemed to have been born to fight fires and soon became a prominent younger member of the brigade. Less than a year after being appointed as a regular fireman he was a member of Ryde's five-man team that won the Couldrey Cup for the best motor-pump drill at the IWFBF competition held at Lake Villa Farm on 20 May 1929.

Fireman Alf Rees (top left) with the five-man team that won the Couldrey Cup, held here by their Chief Officer Henry Jolliffe.

Alf remained a reliable and increasingly capable member of the brigade throughout the 1930's and was one of those who assisted Chief Officer Heller with the instruction of Auxiliary Fire Service recruits in 1938. In the same year he was again, by then as a Leading Fireman, a member of Ryde's Couldrey Cup winning team at the Federation competition held at Shanklin's Big Meade on 14 July and was presented his ten-year National Fire Brigades Association service medal by the Mayor Mr Wright at the conclusion of a brigade parade in Lind Street where the brigade paraded in brass helmets for the last time, having recently been issued black leather helmets in response to the deaths of other firefighters by electrocution. 

Leading Fireman Rees receiving his NFBA medal in 1938, and proudly posing for the camera with the medal in his garden.

For an inexplicable reason, when the 1939 Register was taken shortly after the beginning of the war, Alf and Ethel were located at Doone Villa, Princes Road, Freshwater, but he remained a Ryde fireman as this status is annotated in the side column of the register. 

He remained a brigade regular up until the launch of the National Fire Service when he became a Leading Fireman of Ryde section. As an NFS junior officer he was one of few men whose accounts of the Cowes blitz have survived to be read today. This evidences that at 01:00 on 5 May 1942, he commanded a four-man crew, towing a trailer-pump behind Fireman Jack Fountaine's coal lorry, to East Cowes Town Hall, the dedicated rendezvous point, from where they were directed to Ferry Road, adjacent to the floating bridge ramp. Their primary role was to draw water from the River Medina to create a single-line water relay to supply firefighting parties further into the town. At Alf's initiative they also deployed secondary hose lines and fought fires in their immediate vicinity until 11:30 in the morning - during which time Fireman Fountaine kept the pump running continuously. Twelve hours later, after having an opportunity to go home, clean up, eat and rest, they were back at East Cowes, this time until gone two o'clock in the afternoon of 6 May as the ongoing firefighting effort extended more than 24 hours after the moment that the final Luftwaffe bomber dropped its ordnance.

The nature of Alf's factual and pragmatic report typifies the professionalism of his calling in the fire service, one which he maintained when the County Fire Brigade was formed in 1948 until his last appearance in Ryde's Fire Station watchroom log on 1 October 1953. He may have served after this date, no clear indication of his retirement has been found, however it is noted that under the (usually strict) application of County Fire Brigade rules, Alf should have retired by November 1950, when turning 55. Exemptions were sometimes permissible under the authority of the Chief Fire Officer and we can only assume this to have been the case.

What became of Alf in the years after his service to the brigade is unknown. He passed away at home, 11 Victoria Street, on 22 June 1979.

Rest in peace Leading Fireman Rees.