For Valour

Great War pilot Lionel Rees was awarded the VC after he single-handedly drove off a German bomber formation. Graham Pitchfork reflects on his courageous actions


Born in 1884, Welshman Lionel Rees followed a family tradition by joining the British Army and was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery.

After spending two years serving with the West African Fro ntier Force he paid for flying lessons and obtained his Royal Aero Club Certificate in January 1913. He transferred to the recently formed Royal Flying Corps in August 1914. After a brief spell as an instructor he was assigned to the newly formed No.11 Squadron to fly the Vickers FB.5 Gunbus and moved to France in July 1915. His aggressive flying soon brought success and he and his observer/gunner, Flt Sgt J M Hargreaves, accounted for at least six enemy aircraft. He was awarded the Military Cross and Hargreaves received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

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