A Collection of Awards to the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force

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Date of Auction: 10th December 2014

Sold for £2,600

Estimate: £800 - £1,000

The Great War campaign group of three awarded to 2nd Lieutenant D. C. Rees, Royal Air Force, late South African Infantry and Royal Flying Corps, who died of wounds while serving as a pilot in No. 84 Squadron in September 1918 - having claimed three kite balloons and shared in the destruction of at least one enemy aircraft

1914-15 Star (Pte. D. C. Rees, 8th Infantry); British War and Victory Medals (2 Lieut. D. C. Rees, R.A.F.), together with the recipient’s Memorial Plaque 1914-18 (Dudley Carruthers Rees), good very fine (4) £800-1000

Footnote

Dudley Carruthers Rees was born in Truro, Cornwall, in November 1894, the son of George Arthur Rees, afterwards Controller for the G.P.O. in Johannesburg. Himself employed by the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company Ltd. prior to the Great War, Dudley enlisted in the Transvaal Scottish on the outbreak of hostilities, and served in German South-West Africa.

Having also served briefly in the S.A.M.C., he re-enlisted in the South African Overseas Expeditionary Force in August 1915, and was attached to a signalling company, R.E. Arriving in France in April 1916, he was evacuated to England on being wounded in the ribs that October, but he rejoined his unit in the Field March 1917.

Transferring to the Royal Flying Corps toward the year’s end, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in January 1918 and, on graduating as a Flying Officer in July, was posted to No. 84 Squadron, an S.E. 5a unit, in the following month. Over the coming weeks he saw extensive action, his fellow pilots including Captain A. F. W. Beauchamp-Proctor, M.C. D.F.C., who would shortly add the V.C. and D.S.O. to his accolades, the former in respect of operations in the very period Rees was on the unit’s books.

On 14 September, Rees ‘cut-adrift’ a balloon, his combat report stating:

‘When, near Bantouzelle my Flight Commander dived on three balloons. I myself dived on one, opening fire from 200 yards. When about 100 yards away and before I had time to fire my Lewis, I was surprised to see the balloon start to rise very rapidly, far faster than I could climb. It soon reached 10,000 feet and I concluded I must have cut the cable. It was last seen drifting at 15,000 feet.’

As reported in the Squadron’s war diary, Rees next drove down a balloon on the morning of 18 September and then made a valuable reconnaissance along the St. Quentin-Fresnoy Road at 300 feet - ‘He returned with his machine badly shot about.’

21 September, he shared in the destruction of a Fokker DVIII, his combat report stating:

‘At 5.45 p.m. when N.N.E. of St. Quentin, my patrol leader sighted four Fokker Biplanes following a flight of no. 24 Squadron. He worked around into the sun and from a height of 15,000 feet, leapt down upon them: they were at a height of 12,000 feet. My leader dived down to the nearest Fokker’s nose, while I dived down on his tail. We were firing all the time. The Fokker noticed my patrol leader, and turned East, putting his nose down. This enabled me to get right on his tail and fire right into him. He zoomed up out of his dive, crossing my path, and I again followed him round, getting a good burst from both guns into him at very close range. He then dived straight down to earth and crashed N.E. of St. Quentin.’

On 24 September, Rees took out another enemy kite balloon N.E. of Gouy, his combat report stating:

‘While flying with ‘C’ Flight, my leader signalled to the flight to attack a number of balloons. I dived down on one and opened fire at a long range with my Vickers. Thereupon the Observer jumped out. At a range of 75 yards, I opened fire with my Lewis gun. The balloon commenced to smoulder and as I pulled out of my dive I observed it burst into flames. I was then at 800 feet, so contour-chased home.’

This balloon victory was confirmed in Beauchamp-Proctor’s own combat report, who stated ‘within minutes I saw two other balloons go down in flames, having been shot down by 2nd Lieutenants Rees and Highwood.’

On 29 September, however, Rees’ promising career came to an end when he was reported missing on an offensive patrol in the Bellicourt-St. Quentin area - but not before he had claimed another balloon over Beaurevoir - as witnessed by fellow pilot 2nd Lieutenant S. W. Highwood. Probably a victim of Viefeldwebel Oskar Hennrich of
Jasta 46, Rees was reported to have died of wounds by the Germans on the same date. He was buried in Le Cateau Military Cemetery.

Rees is also commemorated on the War Memorial of the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company Ltd.

Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including the recipient’s Baptism certificate, issued at St. Paul’s, Penzance, Cornwall, on 20 August 1895; his Confirmation and First Communion certificate, dated at St. Saviour’s, Bristol, 12 December 1909; a newspaper cutting relating to the marriage of his sister; an Imperial War Graves Commission letter addressed t
o his mother, dated 30 March 1921; a letter from the Local Secretary of the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company regarding the information for a memorial for the company’s Great War fallen; and two original letters written by his father in 1925 and reporting on visits to the recipient’s grave in France, and the War Memorial of the Victoria Falls and Transvaal Power Company Ltd.; together with extensive research, including copied service records and combat reports.