4 February 2014

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Group Captain Lionel Rees,
Royal Artillery & 32 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

  • Victoria Cross
  • Officer, Order of the British Empire ( OBE )
  • Military Cross ( MC )
  • Air Force Cross ( AFC )
  • 1914 Star + clasp "5th Aug-22nd Nov 1914"
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ) + MiD Oakleaf
  • 1939-45 Star
  • Africa Star
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )

Image courtesy of the Lord Ashcroft Collection / © IWM

The Victoria Cross, Military Cross, Air Force Cross and campaign medals awarded to Group Captain Lionel Rees, Royal Artillery & 32 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, have been acquired by the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for the Lord Ashcroft VC Collection. The VC group of medals will be displayed in the Imperial War Museum's Lord Ashcroft Gallery.

After retiring from the Royal Air Force in 1931 Lionel Rees donated his Victoria Cross medal group to his old school, Eastborne College, East Sussex.

Almost before Rees had landed after his combat, witness reports were coming in that a single de Havilland Scout had appeared to have completely broken up a raid of 8-10 hostile aircraft. The following day, a recommendation was put forward that Rees be awarded a Distinguished Service Order ( DSO ) for his action. This was passed up the chain of command until eventually reaching the desk of Major General Hugh Trenchard, GOC Royal Flying Corps in France. He amended the recommendation 'I am of the opinion that Major Rees' action is well worthy of a higher reward and he should be granted a VC'. Sir Douglas Haigh concurred and on 7th July 1915 a letter was sent by Major General William Peyton ( Military Secretary to the BEF ) to the HQ Royal Flying Corps.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 5 August 1916 ], Double Crassieurs, France, 1 July 1916, Captain ( Temp Major ) Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, Royal Regiment of Artillery & No. 32 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty Double Crassieurs, France.

Whilst on flying duties, Major Rees sighted what he thought to be a bombing party of our own machines returning home. He went up to escort them, but on getting nearer discovered they were a party of enemy machines, about ten in all. Major Rees was immediately attacked by one of the machines, and after a short encounter it disappeared behind the enemy lines, damaged. Five others then attacked him at long range, but these he dispersed on coming to close quarters, after seriously damaging two of the machines. Seeing two others going westwards, he gave chase to them, but on coming nearer he was wounded in the thigh, causing him to lose temporary control of his machine. He soon righted it, and immediately closed with the enemy, firing at a close-contact range of only a few yards, until all his ammunition was used up. He then returned home, landing his machine safely in our lines.

Lionel Rees was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 16th December 1916.

[ London Gazette, 29 October 1915 ], For the award of the Military Cross, Captain Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, No. 11 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and skill on several occasions, notably the following:

On 21st September 1915, when flying a machine with one machine gun, accompanied by a Flight Sergeant Hargreaves, he sighted a large German biplane with two machine guns 2,000 feet below him. He spiralled down and dived at the enemy, who having the faster machine, manoeuvred to get him broadside on and then opened fire. In spite of this Captain Rees pressed his attack and apparently succeeded in hitting the enemy's engine, for the machine made a quick turn, glided some distance and finally fell just inside the German lines near Herbecourt.

On 28th July 1915, he attacked and drove down a hostile monoplane in spite of the fact that the main spar of his machine had been shot through and the rear spar shattered.

On 31st August 1915, accompanied by Flight Sergeant Hargreaves, he fought a German maachine more powerful than his own for three-quarters of an hour, then returned for more ammunition and went out to attack again, finally bringing the enemy's machine down apparently wrecked.

[ London Gazette, 2 November 1918 ], For the award of the Air Force Cross, Lieutenant Colonel Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, No. 1 School of Aerial Flying, Ayr, Scotland

For duties as a flying instructor

Lionel Rees died at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Nassau, Bahamas, on the 28 September 1955 and was buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Nassau.


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Iain Stewart, 4 February 2014