THE PLUCK OF MAJOR BRABAZON REES
 THE 'wasp' hummed through the air, and the goggled pilot, engaged on work which ought to go through
without interruption, scanned the surrounding space for signs of possible foes. Finding none, he
took in all details that he could of what was going on below. It seemed that the trip was going to
be a fairly comfortable one, a 'joy-ride ' almost, and Major Lionel Wilmot Brabazon Rees, R.A.,
R.F.C., was not at all worried. The calmness, however, was destined to be disturbed suddenly by one
of those terrific events which take place so unexpectedly in the air.
Far off, in the misty distance, driving toward the British lines, there presently appeared a little
bunch of black spots which, to any but a man whose eyes had been trained to see, might have been
taken, perhaps, for the dancing, mocking dots which are to many the
 signs of indigestion; but Major Rees, practised aviator as he was, who had fought and won many an
aerial duel, knew that those black spots were aeroplanes.
Earlier in the day, as the Major knew, a party of British fliers had droned over the German lines to
harass enemy communications, and, as far as he knew, had not returned.
The appearance of the darting black spots in the direction from which the raiders would come on
their return caused Major Rees to believe that they were the homing birds of the Flying Corps, and
as there was little else doing just then, the gallant and courteous pilot let his engine all out and
went up to meet the approaching machines, intending to escort them home, and, if necessary, to fight
off any Germans who ventured to try to intercept them.
Then Major Rees made a startling discovery: the gradually approaching dots resolved themselves into
no fewer than ten machines driving along in good formation, and, to the surprise of the Major, when
they were close enough to be distinguished through his binoculars,
 he saw on their wings, not the tricoloured circle of the Allies, but the sinister black cross of the
And those ten machines, the pilots of which had sighted the lonely patrol, were opening out as they
came in order to surround him from above and below, from front and rear, from left side and right
The gallant Major, when he discovered his mistake, did not bank and go swinging round for home, but
went boldly forward, to join issue with the foremost of the enemy. The machines met, and while the
remainder of the foe were flying like carrion crows to the feast, the two fought out a fight which,
although short, was bitter and fierce. The vicious Lewis gun barked in anger at the Nordenfeldt, and
a hail of shots spattered through the rival machines and made grim music, which each of the aviators
knew might end in the crash of a grande finale.
With a roar, Major Rees' machine swept under the German, followed a sharp wheel, and the Britisher
was mounting to the attack again, to be in turn sprayed by a stream of
 bullets. In this manner for a brief space of time, into which was crowded all the terror of aerial
fighting, the 'scrap' went on, until Major Rees realized that his opponent's fire had slackened,
whereupon, driving into him, he sent the Hun diving to the ground, not mortally wounded, but so
badly mauled that it was impossible for him to continue the fight.
So rapidly had the conflict been waged and ended that it was all over and the German was slipping
down the dizzy heights before his companions could get near enough to give much assistance. As it
was, when they saw the plight of their comrade, five of them, while yet at a long range, opened fire
with their machine-guns, and five hail-storms seemed to break upon the British pilot's machine.
Major Rees, scorning to fly from even such superior numbers, sailed into closer quarters, singled
out a foe, and after another stiff, sharp fight drove him off, then turned upon another and treated
him in a similar way.
Such doughty fighting, whirlwind tactics of a sort that enabled the British pilot to fight
 and conquer and come up again, completely demoralized the other three Germans, who, thinking
discretion the better part of valour, now scattered and made off, bent upon getting out of range of
the British fire-eater.
Major Rees, his machine showing many signs of the mauling it had received, breathed more freely when
he saw his enemies beating their retreat. Not that he was afraid, but the respite gave him a
breathing space in which to see what damage had been done to his machine. He found that it was still
workable and under control, for which he was glad, because" westward he could see a couple of
cross-marked aeroplanes going full out, and being in fighting mood, Major Rees hurried on their
The German aviators swung round the nozzles of their snappy little weapons, to point clear at the
Britisher, who, with his own Lewis unshipped, was rapidly coming up. The two streams of shot
whistled through the air and the Germans' bullets broke upon and through the Major's nacelle and
wings. One of the Germans, when the distance had lessened,
 succeeded in getting into an advantageous position—a momentary advantage, but yet just enough
for what he had in mind: his machine-gun kept up its staccato rat-tat, and some of the bullets
plugged their way into his adversary's thigh. Under the shock of the impact Major Rees temporarily
lost control. His machine slipped in the way that aeroplanes do when the guiding brain no longer
controls them, made a quick dart forward, and then fell sheer down at a terrifying speed.
It seemed that there was nothing but disaster awaiting Major Rees.
In such moments everything depends upon the man, and in this case the man was not found wanting.
Faint from loss of blood, with a sharp stinging pain in his thigh, and with the knowledge that
unless he acted promptly and coolly he would be dashed to death below, Major Rees, while the machine
spun, succeeded by a miraculous effort in getting the plane in hand once more. There was quick work
with the 'joy-stick' and rudder-bar, and suddenly the machine, which a second before seemed doomed,
had righted itself and
 was going on, and, wonder of wonders—its pilot was driving for his foes!
Close in he drove his 'plane, so close that only a few yards separated the combatants, and the Major
could see the begoggled faces of the Germans. At this close range Major Rees expended his
ammunition, drum after drum, until at last not a bullet remained.
"Then," says the report which notified the award of the Victoria Cross to him, "he returned home,
landing his machine safely in our lines."
Already, before this, Major Rees had made for himself a reputation in the service. As early as
September 21st, 1915, he had performed a deed which, among others, won for him the M.C. He was
flying a one-gunned aeroplane, with Flight-Sergeant Hargreaves as companion, when he saw 2000 feet
beneath him a very large German machine, mounting two machine-guns. The Hun plane was sweeping along
at a terrific rate, and Major Rees—or as he was then, Captain Rees—knew that so far as
speed was concerned, the enemy had the advantage of him. Such trifles,
how-  ever, do not worry the men who gained from Sir John French the eulogy that they had won the
supremacy of the air. The Major went down in a fine spiral and then dived at the foe—firing
his gun as he did so and rattling bullets upon the German aeroplane, which, however, being so much
faster was able to evade the down-rushing Britisher. Before the pilot could right his machine, the
German had banked, turned and come up so sharply that he could get his antagonist broadside on.
Instantly the machine-guns opened fire and a hurricane of bullets swept Major Rees' machine. The
British gun was not idle, however, and it answered the enemy in its own way, answered so effectively
that Major Rees, handling his machine with remarkable skill and cool-headedness, suddenly saw the
German make a sharp turn and glide away. One of the nickel pellets had delivered its message
somewhere in the enemy's engine, and the great plane, apparently uncontrollable for fighting
purposes, went gliding down, to land eventually just behind the German lines near Herbecourt.
On another occasion the gallant Major
 attacked a hostile aeroplane and a dramatic, hard-hitting fight took place. The foes were well
matched in courage, and neither would admit defeat for some time. Major Rees, with one main spar of
his machine shot through, fought on with the proverbial courage of the Briton and battered his enemy
unmercifully. Not even when the stream of bullets from the German partly shattered a rear spar did
the Major give up, but, persisting in his attack and drawing in closer than ever, to make sure of
effective firing, he succeeded in driving the enemy down.
A third enemy machine suffered as sadly at the hands of Major Rees and his companion,
Flight-Sergeant Hargreaves. The Hun was no mean antagonist, but a large, speedy fighting machine,
far more powerful than that piloted by the Briton, who, however, sailed into the
'scrap,' driving up, diving, banking, turning, and so on, all the time letting the German have full
benefit of the Lewis gun. For three-quarters of an hour the fight went on, until, the last drum
having been expended, Major Rees flew away.
 The Germans must have felt very pleased that they had succeeded in driving off so stubborn an
adversary, and never doubting but that they had seen the last of him, they climbed aloft, looking
for more victories.
They did not know that Major Rees had gone to his aerodrome, not to take his ease after a brilliant
fight, but to replenish his stock of ammunition. They were soon to learn, however, for back he now
came with all the speed he could get out of his engine. A strenuous encounter followed, and this
time the Major was one too many for his antagonist, for soon the German machine went sliding down
the unseen precipices, to crash into the unyielding ground below.
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