|Lieut. Vivian T. T. Rea|
Interred in Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy
Remembered on family memorial in Bangor Cemetery
Vivian Trevor Tighe Rea, was born in Mendoza, Argentina in 1891, the only son of Henry Tighe Rea and Clara Small and eldest of their five children. His parents were married in St. John's Anglican Church, Buenos Aires in June 1890.
The family returned to Ireland and were living on the Sandown Road, Belfast, in 1901, where his father is listed as working as an accountant in a shipyard office. Vivian went on to study at Campbell College, Belfast, from 1905 to1908, before going to Queens University were, in 1910, he gained a B.A. with honours in logic, metaphysics, history of philosophy, and jurisprudence.
In 1906 his father was appointed a Vice-Consul for the Argentine Republic. He later became an honorary Vice-Consul of the Netherlands being decorated for his services in 1932.
Vivian was very active in the Scout movement becoming honorary secretary for the Ulster Provisional Council of Baden-Powell Scouts and was the Scoutmaster of the 1st Bangor troop. He was also an member of the Queen's University OTC and, in 1912, he joined the 4th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles being gazetted a second-lieutenant on probation on 10th February, which was confirmed in June 1912. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 20th February 1913.
Vivian felt called to the ministry of the Church of Ireland and so after Queen's went to the Divinity School in Trinity College Dublin. He was also active in the Trinity College Theological Society were he laterly became secretary.
On the outbreak of war he volunteered for service and left for the front on the 25th September 1914 to help fill vacancies in the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.
On the 16th November 1914, the Belfast Newsletter gave the following report of his death:
Death of Lieutenant Vivian Rea.
TRIBUTES TO A GALLANT OFFICER.
Subsequent to the retreat at Mons, the 7th Brigade, in which were included the Wiltshires, Manchesters, South Lancashires, and Irish Rifles, took part in the forward movement towards Lille, via La Bassee. They occupied Richebourg, and proceeded thence to Neuve Chapelle, about twelve miles south-west of Lille, and thence to Herlies and Aubers, both of which were taken. The Irish Regiment got too far ahead, and was ordered to retire towards Neuve Chapelle, where trenches had been prepared by the villagers. The 2nd Rifles were under fire here for thirteen days, during which time the majority of their officers were either killed or wounded. October 24th and 2Sth were two of the most terrible days experienced. The Rifles had for some time been kept in the trenches continuously day and night, and on these days several determined attempts were made to rush the British trenches. None of these were successful until the evening of the 26th, when the trenches and the adjoining village were partly occupied by the Germans. The enemy's success was short-lived, for the whole of the lost ground was retaken by the Rifles, then sadly diminished in numbers, aided by the Indian troops, who had been hurriedly sent to reinforce them.
It was on the 25th October that Lieutenant Vivian T. T Rea received a fatal wound in the tranches. His company commander, Captain H. A. Kennedy, had previously been severely wounded, but was still alive, and a part of this officer's duties had presumably devolved upon Lieutenant Rea. (Captain Kennedy has since died of his wounds). The ambulance party attended, notwithstanding the rain of shrapnel and rifle bullets, and Lieutenant Rea was taken to a chateau at the end of the village of Neuve Chapelle, about 300 yards behind the trenches. The medical officer saw that the wound was fatal, and that the wounded officer was rapidly sinking. Lieut. Rea spoke to the doctor, and on learning his condition charged him with a reassuring message to those at home. Shortly afterwards he lapsed into unconsciousness, and died almost without suffering. After nightfall his body was interred, together with that of Captain Reynolds, in the grounds of the chateau. Shortly after Lieutenant Rea had been brought into the chateau wounded, another severe casualty occurred to an officer. Two stretcher-bearers were sent out to bring the wounded officer in, and both these men were shot dead by the enemy. At three o’clock on the following morning, the 26th ult., the chateau, which had been used as a base by the staff, and the cellars of which were utilised as a hospital for the wounded, was shelled and set on fire by the enemy. It was necessary to hurriedly remove the wounded, and shortly afterwards the building was reduced to ruins.
Of Lieutenant Rea, it may be added that the night before he was fatally wounded, on hearing the cries of wounded men in front of "B" Company's trench during a lull in the firing at nightfall, he took one or two of the men of his company and brought the wounded men into safety. They were attended by the base medical officer, who, however, expostulated with the gallant officer on ground that there waa insufficient room in the cellars of the chateau for the British wounded soldiers. A brother officer states:— Lieutenant Rea died like a gallant gentleman; his men were devoted to him, and said that he put heart into them in the desperate fighting. Another officer says of him: Lieutenant Rea was not only extremely popular with all who came in contact with him, both officers and men, but he was also a very plucky and diligent officer. He rendered valuable assistance as an interpreter when not in the trenches owing to his fluent knowledge of the French language. The medical officer who was in charge of the base hospital at Neuve Chapelle, and who has been invalided home suffering from concussion, states that he buried twenty officers of the Royal Irish Riflas, and that the experience was one never to be forgotten.
|Vivian is recorded on a number of memorials including those of St. Comgall's Church in Bangor |
and Trinity College Dublin
Private William Leckey, of B Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, returning home to 16, Memel Street, Bridge End, having been wounded in the right hand and left thigh, reported in an interview with the Belfast Newsletter:
"After Captain Kennedy had fallen, Lieutenant Vivian T. T. Rea, 'a fine gentleman and a brave officer,' took command of his company, displaying in the highest degree those noble qualities which have characterised the officers during the terrible fighting in which the Rifles were engaged. Lieutenant Rea was principally concerned with the welfare of the men under his control, and he fell on 25th October while crossing open ground between the trenches, the hail of shrapnel and rifle fire being of the most deadly character. He had had a long conversation with Private Leckey some time before he was killed, his popularity with the men being based on his evident concern for their well-being, his plucky conduct in the face of great danger, and his coolness and nerve under the most trying circumstances."
On 20 November 1915 a stained glass memorial window was unveiled in Bangor Parish Church in his memory. The ceremony was attended by ten officers and 100 men of the 4th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles who had travelled from Carrickfergus.
REA – October 25, killed in action in Belgium, Vivian T. Tighe Rea, B.A., Lieutenant, Royal Irish Rifles, only son of Henry Tighe Rea, of 1, Glandore Park, Belfast, and grandson of the late Hugh Rea, of Clifton Lodge, Belfast, and Northern Bank, Derry.
Belfast Newsletter, 30th October 1914.