The son of an army officer, Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees attended Eastbourne College before entering the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Obtaining a commission in 1903, he entered the Royal Garrison Artillery where he earned a reputation as a superb marksman. In 1912, he learned to fly at his own expense, receiving his Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 392 on 7 January 1913. After serving with the West African Frontier Force, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in August 1914, becoming an instructor at Upavon. Flying the Vickers F.B.5 in 1915, he saw action with 11 Squadron before assuming command of 32 Squadron in January 1916. On 1 July 1916, Rees encountered ten enemy bombers while on patrol in an Airco D.H.2. Attacking alone, he drove down two of the enemy aircraft. While attacking another, his Lewis gun ran dry. Before mounting a fresh drum of ammunition, he pulled a revolver only to lose it somewhere in the cockpit. Badly wounded in the leg, Rees turned away as the two-seater retreated back across the lines. For his actions that day, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Rees retired from the Royal Air Force as a Group Captain in 1931. He returned to Caernarfon and joined the Royal Welsh Yacht Club. On 2 July 1933, he set sail from Porth yr Aur for the Bahamas aboard May, his 8 ton ketch. Sailing alone, he arrived in Nassau on 21 October 1933 and was awarded a much coveted prize, the Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America. Rees settled in the Bahamas, married a local girl and died there on September 28. 1955. In his honor, a plaque was mounted to the outer wall of the Royal Welsh Yatch Club where Rees' Blue Water Medal has a place of honor.
Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators' Certificates, 1910-1950
Plaque on the outer wall of the Royal Welsh Yacht Club, Porth yr Aur
Imperial War Museum, Q 68027
Military Cross (MC)
Captain Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, Royal Artillery and 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 Flight-Serjeant 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 heavy 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 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, accompanied by Flight-Serjeant Hargreaves, he fought a German machine more powerful than his own for three-quarters of an hour, then returned for more ammunition and went out to the attack again, finally bringing the enemy's machine down apparently wrecked.
Capt. (temp. Maj.) Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, R.A. and R.F.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
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.