The Airmen's Stories - F/O B V Rees
Brian Victor Rees was born in March 1919 in Caernavonshire. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial training course on 16th May 1938.
After completing his training he joined ‘Y’ Flight of No. 1 Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Unit at Manorbier in Pembrokeshire on 18th December 1939.
Above; Brian Rees standing far left, Ken Rees standing far right.
He was detached to RAF Locking on 30th December for a parachute course.
Rees arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge from No. 1 AACU on 28th May 1940 and after converting to Spitfires he joined 610 Squadron at Gravesend on 16th June. He probably destroyed a Me109 on 12th August, probably destroyed a Ju87 on the 14th and destroyed a Me109 and a Do17 on the 18th.
His subsequent service is currently undocumented and his name does not appear on the Air Force List after January 1944. Presumably he left the RAF, cause unknown.
Brian Rees died in 1979.
His brother Ken Rees was the captain of a Wellington bomber shot down over Norway during a mine-laying operation in October 1942, he was captured and ended up in Stalag Luft III.
Rees caused trouble at every opportunity and was often in the 'cooler', he attributed his antagonism to anger at his brother-in-law, S/Ldr. HM Starr (commemorated on this website) being machine-gunned in the air by German fighters after he had bailed out of his Hurricane during the Battle of Britain.
When the film 'The Great Escape' was released many friends drew parallels between Rees and the character the 'Cooler King' played by Steve McQueen. 'It’s always said that he was based on me' said Rees 'apart from him being a 6ft. tall American and me a Welshman of about 4 foot 3 inches who can’t ride a motorbike'.
When Roger Bushell, the head of the escape committee, was making plans for a mass breakout by tunnels, Rees was chosen to be a member of the digging team. He believed he was chosen because he was a Welshman and it was assumed that he must have some experience of mining, which was not the case.
Rees spent long hours digging the tunnel 'Harry' and was one of those still making their way to the exit when the escape was discovered. His close friend, F/Lt. Lester Bull DFC, was amongst those shot by the Gestapo.
In late January 1945 Rees and his fellow prisoners were marched westwards ahead of the Soviets in bitter winter weather before being liberated by British troops on 2nd May.
He rejoined the postwar RAF and later commanded a Valiant V-bomber squadron. He retired as a Wing Commander.
Ken Rees died on 30th August 2014 aged 93.
Above image and majority of research courtesy of Noel Beauchamp (www.swindonheritage.com).