Harry Alfred Rée was born on 15 October 1914. An educationalist, he was regarded by historian M.R.D. Foot as one of the best male SOE agents.
The son of Dr. Alfred Rée, a chemist who was from a Danish Jewish family, and Lavinia Elisabeth Dimmick, Harry Rée was a conscientious objector, ordered to work for the National Fire Service. However, in 1941 he re-registered for military service and was called up into the army. Later, he volunteered for the SOE.
In April 1943, as a Captain, and with the code name César, Harry parachuted into France to join the Acrobat Network. He argued against the RAF bombing targets in France because it turned public opinion against the Allies. Instead, he suggested that SOE agents should organise effective sabotage of factories on the ground.
Harry convinced the director of a Peugeot factory at Sochaux to cooperate with the SOE. The director, a member of the Resistance, not only assisted in the sabotage, but also shared tactical information on Wehrmacht projects, including the V1 rocket. Due to this action, the RAF did not bomb the factory, saving many lives.
The Nazis tried to capture Harry. Indeed, he escaped a Feldgendarmerie group after being shot four times, swam across a river and crawled through a forest to reach Switzerland. In May 1944 he returned to Britain.
Shortly after the war, Harry starred alongside fellow agent Jacqueline Nearne in the film Now it Can be Told (aka School for Danger), produced by the RAF Film Unit, which told the story of SOE’s activities in France.
In 1940, Harry married Hetty Vine. They had three children. Harry died in 1991.