Rea was educated at Mountpottinger National School, Albertbridge Road, Belfast and later at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI).
It is probable that Rea worked in the East End branch from the start of his career up to his enlistment in the army.
On 10th October 1939 Rea volunteered and enlisted at Clonaver Park, Belfast into the '3 Anti-Aircraft Brigade Company Royal Army Service Corps (RASC)' [Territorial Army] as a Driver with Service Number T103793. On his attestation form, Rea gave his date of birth as 6th February 1919 indicating he was 20 years old, not 19 as he really was. [The family are not sure why he did this as he was over the age permitted to enlist]. On that day, Rea was 5' 5.5" tall and weighed 116 lbs.
As a soldier, Rea served at 'home' from 10th October 1939 to 24th November 1939 before being posted 'overseas' to France until 19th June 1940. His time overseas lasted until 19th June 1940 when he was returned 'home'.
Rea was promoted to Lance Corporal on 9th August 1941 and back to Driver on 27th December 1942 when he was transferred to 202 Officer Cadet Training Unit, RASC to train as an officer.
On 19th March 1943 Rea was 'discharged' as a soldier having been appointed to a Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant with Service Number 268452.
The Army 'Record of Service - Officers' form records Rea's 'Actual DOB' as 6th February 1920 against a 'Declared DOB' of 6th February 1919. His civilian occupation is recorded as an Accountant, Belfast Banking Company.
As an officer, his training record during war included a Waterproofing Course of Vehicles at Salop (Shropshire), 1943; weapon training course at Altcar (Merseyside), 1943 and a 3" Mortar Course at East Africa, 1944.
Rea was transferred to the Royal Ulster Rifles from the RASC on 14th June 1944 following his promotion to Lieutenant. He embarked overseas to East Africa and was posted to the 2nd Battalion North Rhodesia Regiment.
Rea's overseas service is recorded on another army document as:
France - 6th December 1939 to 18th June 1940
East Africa - 16th July 1944
S.E.A.C. - 8th June 1945 (possibly the South East African Command)
East Africa - 17th January 1946
Rea records his army service in pencil in his 'Officers Record of Service Army Book 439' in this picture:
Rea was discharged from the Royal Ulster Rifles on 12th April 1946 to his home address, 17 Cyprus Gardens, Belfast.
Following the war, Rea was awarded the Defence Medal, the War Medal, the 1939-45 Star and the Burma Star.
After demobilisation in 1946, he returned to work for the Belfast Banking Company but also continued his army career in the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC), Territorial Army (TA).
Based on his wartime and TA service, Rea was later awarded the Territorial Decoration (TD) and Bar.
Rea worked in the following branches; East End (1946), Bangor (1947), Warrenpoint (1950), Markets (1952), North End (1953), Castle Place (1955) and Upper Newtownards Road (1960). Whilst based in this last branch, Rea also worked as a Pro-Manager in the small sub-branch at Dundonald.
Rea married Edith Malcomson on 7th September 1953 at Bloomfield Presbyterian Church, Belfast. They had 3 children, Paul (1954), Gavin (1956) & Linda (1961).
Rea died on 28th December 1961 and was buried in Roselawn Cemetery. He is remembered on a Roll of Honour in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church.
Service in the Territorial Army
Having been discharged from the army after the war, Rea wanted to continue as an officer in the Territorial Army. He applied for an 'Appointment to a Commission in the Territorial Army' on 15th March 1947.
The Interview Board recommended Rea for a TA commission at the rank of Lieutenant and to be posted to 931 (Ulster) Company RASC (TA).
The Army 'Record of Service - Officers' form records Rea's TA career as follows:
1st September 1947 - Lieutenant
1st April 1948 - Captain
1st November 1952 - Acting Major
6th February 1954 - Major
Rea attended his final Annual Camp from 20th May to 5th June 1961. He died on 28th December 1961.
[Front row, 4th from left, with possibly 931 (U) Company RASC (V)]