A CAERNARFON man who was one of Britain’s earliest fighter aces was honoured at RAF Valley today (Friday) with rare a aircraft dedication and flypast over his home town.

An RAF aircraft was named after Group Captain Lionel Rees from Caernarfon, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the air during the First World War.

Following the ceremony at RAF Valley the newly-named aircraft made a special flypast over his home town.

The dedication recognises the achievements and valour of Gp Capt Rees during both the First and Second World Wars.

It is the first time that a Royal Air Force aircraft has been named after an individual since the late 1960s.

Rees joined 11 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in early 1915 and rapidly went on to become the first Officer Commanding (OC) of 32 Squadron.

He received the Victoria Cross for his actions on the 1st of June 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, after single-handedly taking on 10 enemy aircraft.

Both squadrons, which retained their numbers when the RFC became part of the newly-formed RAF in 1918, were represented during the ceremony. A BAe 146 from 32 Squadron now bears his name and a Typhoon from 11 Sqn joined the flypast.

Guests included the current Officer Commanding 32 Squadron, Wing Commander Caroline Viles and the senior RAF officer in Wales Air Commodore Adrian Williams.

Air Commodore Williams said: “The Royal Air Force is proud to be able to remember the valour and service of Welshman Group Captain Lionel Rees VC.

"Naming a current RAF aircraft after him, not only recognises his many achievements, but also serves to inspire those of us who serve in the RAF today.

"It is particularly special to carry out this event in North Wales and I know that watching the Group Captain Rees VC aircraft flying over Caernarfon, the town of his birth, will be extremely poignant for everyone.

"The event also serves to emphasise the very strong connection that the RAF has had with Wales since its very earliest years and I am sure he [Lionel Rees] would be happy to know that the vital training of all of today’s fighter pilots is carried out here in North Wales at RAF Valley.”

The event is a special occasion for all of the personnel involved, but particularly for Rees’ relatives who are travelling from the Bahamas and the USA to be at the ceremony.

His son Olvin Rees said “We have three generations of our family attending the RAF event, travelling from the Bahamas and the USA, and we are all extremely honoured and excited that my father is being recognised in this way.

"We know that naming an RAF aircraft after a person is something that happens rarely, so this makes this really special.

"My father was always a proud Welshman, so it’s amazing that all this is happening in North Wales.

"As a family, going around Caernarfon, where he was born, and looking at places connected to our family is incredible and we are very grateful to the RAF for what they have done.”

The event was supported by the Air Historical Branch which is putting on a special display of Lionel Rees’ life in Caernarfon.

The exhibition is already proving popular and Councillor W Tudor Owen, Mayor of Caernarfon said: “It’s an honour to be part of the celebrations.

"Lionel Brabazon Rees was born in Caernarfon and it’s not every day one of your fellow townsfolk gets an aircraft named after them.

"The people of Caernarfon are extremely proud to see one of their own being honoured in this way”.

Today 32 (The Royal) Squadron provides VIP air transport in support RAF operations around the world. Officer Commanding, Wing Commander Caroline Viles said “As our founding OC, Gp Cpt Rees made a huge and lasting contribution, and as a squadron we celebrate his service and achievements today.

"He remains an inspiration. Although the role may have changed from that of our fighter squadron roots of 1916 and 1940, or the bomber role of the 1960s, those of us who have the honour to work on the Squadron today, carry out our duties with the same spirit and tremendous pride as our predecessors."