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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. M A W Lee


Maurice Alexander William Lee was born at Maymyo, Upper Burma, on 22nd December 1919, the son of Lt.-Col. Alexander Henry Lee and Kathleen Theresa Lee, of Ridgeway, Somerset.

His father was CO of the 1st/7th Gurkha Rifles which had been attached to the Burma Military Police to assist in putting down uprisings by Kachin natives in 1914/15.



In 1920 the family moved to Ireland, where they may have had a home, then returned to the East in 1921 and remained there till Lt. Col. Lee retired in 1923. They then returned to Ireland for the next four years before moving to Dorsetshire in 1927. Maurice and his brother were enrolled at Prior Park Catholic School in Bath, arriving on 14th September that year. Maurice, not yet eight years old, was the youngest boy in the Junior School.

He was a competent scholar and in his final year passed the Oxford School Certificate with exemption from London Matriculation. This went with being top in Billiards in Junior School, runner-up in the High Jump and a member of his house rugby team.

When he left school he went as an Apprentice Aircraft Engineer to Messrs. Vickers at Weybridge and in January 1939 he joined the RAFVR as a Sergeant. He had commenced training and attended one summer camp before being called up on 1st September 1939.

He carried out his elementary flying training at 7 EFTS Desford and went on to 10 FTS Ternhill for No. 19 Course, which ran from 11th April to 24th July 1940. With his training completed, Lee arrived at 5 OTU Aston Down on 3rd August.

After converting to Spitfires, he joined 64 Squadron at Leconfield on 19th August and flew operational sorties with it on 8th and 9th September.

Lee was posted to 72 Squadron at Croydon on 15th September 1940.

He claimed a He111 destroyed on the 27th. He was posted to 421 Flight on 3rd October, then forming at Hawkinge. On the 15th Lee claimed a Me109 south of Maidstone but then his Spitfire, P7444, was damaged by Me109s and he was wounded. He crashed attempting a forced-landing at Blackham Farm, Broadoak and was admitted to hospital.

On 12th December Lee's aircraft was again damaged in combat and he made a forced-landing. Later the same day the weather deteriorated and, being unable to return to Hawkinge, he wrecked his Spitfire trying to make an emergency landing at Lingfield.

Despite these incidents Lee was highly regarded as a bad-weather pilot and was sent out in thick morning mist on the 22nd looking for some Wellingtons that were lost. He found two and escorted them in over the Sussex coast. One crashed, killing the crew, and the other made a forced-landing. Lee's own fuel was by then exhausted and he had to glide down through dense cloud to make a belly-landing near Pevensey.

On 31st December 1940 Lee was killed when he crashed near Biggin Hill attempting to land in extremely bad weather. His Spitfire, P7497, was burned out.

He was 21 years old and is buried in St Mary Cray Cemetery, Orpington, Kent.




Additional research and image courtesy of Prior Park College.

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