Posted: Tue 28th Jun 2016

Memorial Stone To Be Unveiled For Caernarfon Serviceman /
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 28th, 2016

A memorial paving stone for the only Caernarfon recipient of the Victoria Cross during the First World War will be unveiled at a ceremony in the town on Friday, 1 July. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The ceremony will commemorate Group Captain (Temporary Major) Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, the son of an army officer, who was born in Plas Llanwnda, Caernarfon and awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 1 July 1916 during the First World War – the only Gwynedd recipient during the Great War. The ceremony to unveil the memorial paving stone will be held at his birthplace, Plas Llanwnda at 11:45am on Friday, 1 July followed by a flypast from RAF Valley over Caernarfon Castle at midday. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The ceremony is part of a centenary commemoration scheme by the Westminster Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government to honour the 628 recipients of the Victoria Crosses awarded during the First World War. A paving stone provided by the government is being unveiled at or near each individual’s birthplace 100 years to the day after the action for which they won their medal, continuing all the way to 2018. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Born in 1884, Major Rees attended Eastbourne College before entering the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned in 1903 with the Royal Garrison Artillery. In 1912 he learned to fly at his own expense, receiving his Aviator’s Certificate in January 1913. By 1913-14 he was attached to the West African Frontier Force when he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps in August 1914, initially as an instructor at Upavon. He first saw action flying the Vickers Gunbus with No. 11 Squadron RFC in the summer of 1915, earning a reputation as an aggressive pilot and an above average marksman. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

On 1 July 1916 Lionel Rees – a Temporary Major in No. 32 Squadron RFC at the time – was on flying duties at Double Crassieurs, France, when he sighted what he initially believed to be a British bombing party of machines returning home, but which were in fact enemy aircraft. He was attacked by one of the bombers, but after a short encounter it disappeared, damaged. The other bombers then attacked him at long range, but Major Rees dispersed them, seriously damaging two of the machines. He chased two others but was wounded in the thigh, temporarily losing control of his aircraft. Having secured his aircraft, Major Rees then used up his ammunition firing at the enemy bombers at close range before returning home safely. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Councillor Ioan Thomas, Gwynedd Council Cabinet Member leading on Armed Forces matters said: “Many of Gwynedd’s young men fought during the First World War and it is extremely important that we remember and pay tribute to their sacrifices a century ago. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We are pleased to be arranging this ceremony which commemorates the only Gwynedd serviceman to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Major Rees was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on that day. He was 31 at the time ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Members of the public are welcome to attend the unveiling ceremony at Plas Llanwnda, Castle Street, Caernarfon at 11:45am on Friday, 1 July. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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