Title - Hubert Conway Rees

Hubert Conway Rees was born on 26th March 1882, the only son of Canon Henry Rees of Shanklin. After being educated at Charterhouse, he entered the Army, gaining the Queen's medal (4 clasps) during service in South Africa (1901-2). Rees married Katharine Adelaide Loring in 1914.

Hubert Conway Rees, 27k

Above: Brig.-Gen. Hubert Conway Rees.
Photograph courtesy of Diana Stockford.

When war was declared on 4th August 1914, Rees was a company commander with the 2nd Bn. Welch Regiment (3rd Bde., 1st Div.). The battalion saw early action during the Battle of the Aisne before being moved to Ypres where, within a matter of days, it was brought into the front line at Langemarck. It was for his conduct during fighting to repel severe German attacks on 23rd October that Rees was later awarded the D.S.O. Just 8 days later, in Rees' own words, "the 2nd Battalion of the Welch Regiment was annihilated" in defending the village of Gheluveld. At the end of a day in which the battalion lost nearly 600 men, with 16 officers killed, wounded or missing, Rees found himself in command not just of the remnants of the 2nd Welch but also of the 1st Queens. In January 1915, Rees relinquished command of his battalion and returned to Britain, where he eventually joined the General Staff of the 43rd (later 38th) Welsh Division. The Division moved to France in November, where it took over the line first at Neuve Chapelle and later at Festubert and Ginchy.

In June 1916, Rees was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and given temporary command of 94th Bde. (31st Div.) in place of Brig.-Gen. Carter-Campbell who had been given sick leave. On 2nd July, after the failure of the Brigade's attack at Serre on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, Carter-Campbell returned from leave and Rees was re-assigned to command 11th Bde. (4th Div.). The loss of the command of 94th Bde. came as a bitter blow. In a letter to Rees dated 3rd July, Maj. E. L. Reiss, A/O.C. 11th Bn. East Lancashire Regt. (Accrington Pals) wrote:

"I am writing you a line to try & convey to you on behalf of myself & what remains of the battalion currently under my command the very deep feeling of regret at your transfer to another Brigade. I can assure you that although you were only a short time at the helm you held the complete confidence & respect of every officer, N.C.O. and man in the battalion & I can only add that we all wish you all possible good luck in your new command."

PointerRees' account of the attack on Serre, 1st July 1916

Rees took over his new command on 4th July and remained with 11th Bde. for the next 4 months, taking part in the diversionary manoeuvres at Dunkirk in September and in the later phase of the Battle of the Somme, during which attacks were mounted near Lesboeufs on 18th and 23rd October.

After a brief period at Home in command of 13th Reserve Bde., Rees returned to France to take command of 149th Bde. (50th Div.) on 8th March 1917, seeing action at Arras during the following month.

At the end of July, Rees was taken ill and lost command of 149th Bde. a month later when he was hospitalized. Following his recovery, he returned to 50th Div. in France to take command of 150th Bde. on 27th February 1918. 50th Div. was heavily involved in the German Michael and Georgette offensives of March and April, and was sent to the supposedly-quiet Chemin des Dames sector to recuperate. On 27th May, Rees was captured when 150th Bde. was surrounded on the opening day of the third great German offensive of 1918 (Blücher-Yorck).

Rees interviewed by the Kaiser on the Craonne Plateau, 29k
Above: Brig.-Gen. Rees interviewed by the Kaiser on the Craonne Plateau, 28th May 1918 (photograph courtesy of Dr. F. L. Constable). "About 11am we three were ordered to get into a car and drove to Craone. Here, we were ordered to get out and walk up the plateau. I was furious as I imagined that we were being taken to see some corps commander and thought it was deliberately humiliating. I made a remark to Laverack to this effect. The German staff officer with us overheard it and said, "When you reach the top, you will see H.I.M. The Kaiser, who wishes to speak with you."" (H. C. Rees)

Brig.-Gen. Rees was held in several prisoner of war camps, before he was able to return to the United Kingdom in December 1918. He retired from the Army in 1922, and died on 3rd January 1948.

© Andrew C Jackson 2000
Email: andrew.jackson@btinternet.com

Compiled from "Who Was Who 1941-1950" and the papers of Brigadier-General H. C. Rees held at the Imperial War Museum Department of Documents (IWM 77/179/1). Extracts from the latter are by kind courtesy of Diana Stockford.

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