Pilot Officer M. A. Ap Rhys Pryce
Featured on the formal 103 Sqn Officer Group photo taken in April 1940 in France is an officer by the name of P/O M Rhys-Pryce ( Pictured right ). He is shown as "Servicing Unit." Iain has done some work on this man and tells me his full name is actually Mervyn Aleck ap Rhys Pryce B.A. Hons (Cantab.), M.A.S.M.E., A.M.Inst. P.T. and he was very gifted and outstanding chap who came from a distinguished Welsh family.
A short obituary appeared in the Times on the 23rd July 1940.Briefly it reads Pilot Officer Mervyn Aleck ap Rhys Pryce, of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, younger son of General Sir Henry and Lady ap Rhys Pryce, was killed in an air raid in France. He was 35 years old. Mervyn was educated at Marlborough College and Caius College, Cambridge and became a very highly qualified engineer. He was also an exceptionally good sportsman. He traveled widely in the course of his work in the oil industry and was a very prominent in this specialist field. He joined the RAFVR at the start of the war and is remembered as a man of fearless character, a fine officer and a good friend
P/O Ap Rhys Pryce was killed on the 6th June 1940 is buried at Orleans Main Cemetery. It is thought that he stayed at Betheniville for several days with some of his unit after 103 Sqn withdrew to Rheges in late May. During this time they managed to save several 501 Sqn Hurricanes by taking spares from wrecks and fixing unserviceable and damaged aircraft. One of these Hurricanes was unofficially on the strength of 103 Sqn for a week or two before they were told to give it back.
There was an airfield at Villa Coublay, which is 9 miles SW of Paris, and 60 miles NNE of Orlean. He was probably killed or badly wounded in bombing there and possibly evacuated to Orleans where he died.
His father, General Sir Henry Edward Ap Rhys Pryce, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., had a distinguished career in the Indian Army and on the Western Front in WW1.
Mervyn's uncle Caryl was an extraordinary fellow, a professional soldier, adventurer and soldier of fortune.
Caryl Ap Rhys Pryce served in the British Army and was one of Cecil Rhode's Rhodesia Horse, who fought in both the Matabele Rebellion and the 2nd Boer War where he distinguished himself as an outstanding marksman, regularly stalking and engaging Boer positions
In 1911, he was a mounted policeman in Western Canada when he heard of the fighting in Mexico. He joined the junta that was fighting in Baja, Lower California and was elected commander of a group of Mexicans and soldiers of fortune - Magonistas.
There is a suggestion that he was an agent for the British at this time acting for British interests in hindering US influence in Central America. He and other leaders were indicted for violating U.S. neutrality laws, and the Mexican government charged him with murder and arson in connection with the Battle of Tia Juana. He was released on bail.
In 1912, he had the leading role in a silent movie which recreated the important battles of the Baja revolution. In 1913, the charge against him was dismissed. He was described as a "The man could shoot blind and still hit the mark, courteous, a real English gent, he could also handle himself in a brawl."
He returned to Canada and served in that country's army in WWI. He later transferred to the British army and was awarded a DSO.
After WW1 it is said he served as an Intelligence Agent in the Irish War of Independence 1919-21 and later commanded the Black and Tan Detachment of the Palestine Police based at Nazareth. He corresponded with the British army records office until 1925. After that, nothing is known of him.
There is a book about him which is available – Gringo Revolutionary: The Amazing Adventures of Caryl Ap Rhys Pryce by John Humphries.
A tragic postscript for the family in recent years was the death of Tom Ap Rhys Pryce who was murdered in 2006. A prominent corporate lawyer he was stabbed near Kensal Green Station in London. Made headline news at the time.
Written by David Fell with thanks to Iain T for the input.