Tom Rees had the unenviable distinction of being the Red Baron’s first aerial kill when, as an observer his aircraft, piloted by Lt. Lionel B. F. Morris, was shot down. Von Richthofen landed his plane alongside the wreck and helped extricate the airmen only for both to be pronounced dead at the crash site. Tom's promotion to captain came through on the day of his death.
Tom's family were initially informed that he was missing and received this telegram on the morning of the funeral of Tom's brother David John who had tragically died at home, on the same day that Tom was shot down, in accident involving lightning and a falling tree. Tom is with his brother David in the photograph.
Lionel Morris and Tom Rees were recommended posthumously for a Mention in Despatches in October 1916. Tom's recommendation read ‘for gallantry, ability and devotion to duty in his work as an observer. Has taken part in many aerial combats. Period 19th July, 1916 to 17th August, 1916. Missing whilst engaged on bombing escort on 17th August, 1916.’
Captain Tom Rees is also commemorated on the Aberystwyth University War Memorial.
Brychan was born in 1884 to Thomas, a plasterer, and Elizabeth Mary, of 5, Stone Street, Maescar. He attended Defynnog School before moving on to Brecon County Intermediate School. He served an apprenticeship as a pupil teacher at Defynnog, before going to Carmarthen Training College to qualify as a teacher. Before the war he taught in Caegarw School, Mountain Ash, where he was well known in the area.
Brychan enlisted in March 1916 and went to France in June of that year. His brother Thomas also an ex pupil of Brecon County school, was a lieutenant in the Royal Garrison artillery winning the Military Cross in 1918.
Private Brychan Thomas
London Regiment, 2nd/20th Battalion, service no. 7648.
Killed in Action at High Mametz Wood October 16th, 1916
Buried at Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St. Eloi, France