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John Rawlings Rees

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John Rawlings Rees (also known as 'Jack') (1890-1969) was a wartime and civilian psychiatrist and became a brigadier in the British Army. He was a member of the group of key figures at the original Tavistock Clinic (more correctly called the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology) and became its medical director from 1934. This group specialised in the new 'dynamic psychologies' of Sigmund Freud and his followers, and in particular the Object relations theory of Ronald Fairbairn and others. Although he became a consultant to the British Army during the second world war, he remained with Tavistock, although this is not made clear on the official Tavistock site. According, to Eric Trist, another key member of the original Tavistock group, who was later to become director of the Tavistock Institute: [1]:

"In 1941 a group of psychiatrists at the Tavistock Clinic saw that the right questions were asked in Parliament in order to secure the means to try new measures. As a result they were asked to join the Directorate of Army Psychiatry, and did so as a group."

After the war, the members of this group went on to found the Tavistock Institute, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. Later, many of them would occupy influential posts in world organisations [2], with Rees himself becoming first President and Director of the World Federation for Mental Health which he founded, now a non-governmental organisation with formal consultative status to the United Nations [3] .

Brigadier John Rawlings Rees and the Rudolph Hess affairEdit

From 1941 Rees, as consultant army psychiatrist, visited Hitler's Deputy Rudolph Hess at the secret prison locations where he was held following his capture after landing in Scotland. Hess's diaries (reproduced by David Irving in Hess the Missing Years), record many meetings with John Rawlings Rees, referred to at this time as Colonal Rees, in which he accused his captors of attempting to poison, drug, and 'mesmorise', him. Rees clearly established a relationship with Rees over the four-year period up to Hess's appearance at the Nuremberg trial. It was at the request of Major Henry Dicks, who was, according to Trist, a fellow member of the Tavistock Clinic group, that Rees first visited Hess in June 1941. In 1945, Rees was a member of the three-man British panel (with Churchill's personal physician Lord Moran, and eminent neurologist Dr George Riddoch (Irving, 'Hess the missing years' p310), which assessed the capability of Rudolph Hess to stand trial for war crimes. Although the trial proceedings [4] refer to a T Rees, they also refer to "the English psychiatrist, Doctor Rees, who had Hess under observation from the first days of his flight to England". In view of the fact that David Irving names this man repeatedly as John Rawlings Rees, and the close Tavistock association with Henry Dicks, it seems certain that this english psychiatrist was indeed John Rawlings Rees, though a T Rees may also have been present at the Nuremberg trials.

Post-War "Operation Phenix"Edit

After the war, according to Trist [5], Rees and five others got together and formed an 'Interim Planning Commitee' (IPC) chaired by Wilfred Bion, meeting twice a week to formulate a new way forward for their work at the Tavistock, based on war-time experience.

Founding President of World Federation for Mental HealthEdit

Post-war, Rees became first president of the World Federation for Mental Health, a fact recorded by Trist [6]. Though the official WFMH website [7] does not list directors, a page on the site refers to the annual Rees lecture, 'in memory of Dr Mary Rees Hemingway, one of the early women psychiatrists in Britain, and among the first staff members at the Tavistock Clinic when it was founded in 1920." It goes on to say, "she was one of the founders of the WFMH, (her husband Dr John R. Rees was the first President and first Director.)" [8]

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • The Social Engagement of Social Science: a Tavistock Anthology Vol 1 (1990), E. L. Trist, Free Association Books, ISBN 185341656

.

  • Fifty Years of the Tavistock Clinic, Henry V Dicks (1970), Routledge, ISBN 710068468
  • The Shaping of Psychiatry by War (1945)
  • The Case of Rudolf Hess; A Problem in diagnosis and forensic psychiatry (1948), by John R. Rees, Henry Victor Dicks
  • Hess, the Missing Years, 1987, by David Irving, Macmillan Press (many references indexed to Rees) ISBN 0-333-45179-1.

External linksEdit

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