Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.
The August issue of the magazine has a two-page write-up on the life and bravery of Group Captain Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, who was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for courage during the Great War.
Rees, who was born in Carnarvon, Wales, was initially commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Royal Garrison Artillery where he established himself as a superb shot. However, he showed a talent for flying and, shortly after the outbreak of war, he transferred into the recently-formed Royal Flying Corps in August 1914.
Rees, who was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in 1915, was awarded the VC for bravery on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when, while acting as an escort on a bombing mission, he approached around ten aircraft thinking they were British planes. Instead, they were enemy aircraft and so he attacked them, hitting three and giving chase to two more.
However, one of the enemy aircraft closed in and hit Rees’s fighter plane, also hitting him in the thigh. Rees shot at the enemy pilot with his revolver before heading for home and making a successful landing.
Rees’ VC was announced on August 5 1916. He was in hospital for six months after the incident and thereafter walked with a limp, but he survived the war, eventually being awarded the Air Force Cross and an OBE. He died in the Bahamas in September 1955, aged 71.
Lord Ashcroft’s articles for Britain at War over the past four years have been largely based on excerpts from four of his books on gallantry: Victoria Cross Heroes, Special Forces Heroes, George Cross Heroes and Heroes of the Skies. His fifth bravery book, Special Ops Heroes, was published in November 2014.
For the foreseeable future, Lord Ashcroft’s “hero of the month” articles will concentrate on men who were awarded the VC during the First World War. Lord Ashcroft is a military historian who has lectured extensively on courage and his various medal collections.
Lord Ashcroft’s latest article appears in the August issue of Britain at War which is on sale now.