Search

Langley Park School teacher turned spy to be celebrated in Imperial War Museum exhibition

15:52 10 July 2013

Harry Rée

Harry Rée

Archant

Now a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum opening later this month is uncovering the secret work of spies like him.

Teachers and students with items of Harry Ree- l to r, Rachel Allan, Mathew Downes 13, George Sweeney, 13, Robert Jones, 13, and Jackie Ellison. Front row, Adina Pintilie, 17,Samantha Richards, 17, and Jacob Billington 13.Teachers and students with items of Harry Ree- l to r, Rachel Allan, Mathew Downes 13, George Sweeney, 13, Robert Jones, 13, and Jackie Ellison. Front row, Adina Pintilie, 17,Samantha Richards, 17, and Jacob Billington 13.

Born in Manchester in 1914, Rée began his teaching career after graduating from Cambridge University.

He started working at Langley Park – then Beckenham and Penge County School for Boys – in 1937, and taught French and German there until 1940, when the war effort began in earnest.

Langley Park’s history society recently held an exhibition delving into the school’s past, and teacher Rachel Allan said Rée was one of the first names that cropped up, along with his colleague there and during the war, Francis Cammaerts.

Rée’s leftwing political leanings developed while at Cambridge led to his original intention to conscientiously object to the war.

However, as he learned more about the ideology of Nazi Germany, he decided it was worth him fighting.

It was while looking after wireless operators that he decided an active role in the Special Operations Executive – SOE – was for him.

In April 1943 he was posted to France, specialising in sabotage operations with the codename ‘César’ as part of his work to support existing Resistance groups in Montbéliard, close to the German border.

It was a member of one of these groups that led him to perform perhaps his best-known wartime feat – the blowing-up of the Sochaux Peugeot factory, which was being used to make German tanks, to demonstrate to the RAF the efficiency of such inside jobs over Allied bombing.

This was undertaken at great personal cost to all involved through Rée’s connection, via aforementioned group member, to Robert Peugeot.

After being injured at the end of 1943, and with the Germans trying to capture him, Rée returned to the UK.

The Imperial War Museum’s new exhibition, Horrible Histories: Spies, is based on Terry Deary’s popular book of the same name from the bestselling series.

Exhibition curator and historian Amanda Mason says much of the work undertaken by spies like Rée is still coming to light now: “Even after the war, they were often reluctant to talk about it, as the nature of secrecy becomes very ingrained. We’re still finding out new things even now, and people are fascinated by it.”

Amanda details how after departing with his first baby due, the Allies used the BBC’s French service to transmit a code message to Rée, letting him know whether he had fathered a boy or a girl.

After the war, Rée resumed teaching, his leftwing ideals seeing him advocate passionately for comprehensive education and oppose the Conservative reforms of the 1980s.

His impact at Langley Park is evidently still felt, and Rachel reflects after the exhibition: “It’s been really exciting to find out about him, and just goes to show how talented teachers can be.”

A former pupil of his, Peter Pickering, reminisces about the help Rée gave him at school and after.

“He was a wonderful teacher; inspirational. Being taught by him was life-changing; we really clicked. As a self-pitying adolescent stuck in a job I hated after I finished school, I would write to him, and he replied, and got me my first job in the film industry while he was working for the SOE!”

Through his extraordinary actions, Rée became an extraordinary man, and his death in 1991 meant he enjoyed only 11 years of retirement, at the end of a lifetime disregarding personal risk in order to do what he felt was right.

Horrible Histories: Spies is on at the Imperial War Museum from July 29 until January 4, 2015.

To book tickets call 020 7416 5439 or visit www.iwm.org.uk

0 comments

Latest news

13:35
MP Bob Neill said he was 'very disappointed' with the referendum result

A local MP gives his view on the consequences of Brexit

10:25
Gold Certificate winners from Bromley at the Healthy Schools London celebration event at City Hall

They have been recognised by the mayor’s Healthy Schools London event

10:20
Bromley’s Mayor with standard bearers at Bromley’s annual flag raising ceremony to mark Armed Forces Day.

Bromley council held its annual flag raising ceremony last week

Shepherd Neame's empire is growing

Brings total number of pubs to 335. An additional pub as part of the deal with Enterprise Inns is expected to be concluded soon

Yesterday, 16:35
The new service centre will provide greater flexibility for Biggin Hill customers

Sadiq Khan called the new service centre ‘a significant coup for London’

Yesterday, 14:39
St Christopher's staff celebrate the Pride in London Parade

St Christopher’s Hospice joined with other London hospices

Most read

Competitions

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Win a BMW 1 series

There are fewer cars currently on the market more stylish and exciting than the BMW. Known all over the world as one of the best car manufacturers, the BMW is renowned for sleek designs and fantastic high quality workmanship.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Bromley Times e-edition today E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder