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The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. R H A Lee


Richard Hugh Antony Lee was born at the Curzon Hotel, Mayfair, London on 12th May 1917, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Frederick Lee CMG AFC (1887-1919) and Alice Esme Gertrude Lee (nee Unwin 1891-1956).


His father (photo above) had joined the RFC on 1st March 1914 at the invitation of Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Trenchard to assist in the build-up of the Corps. Lee became Trenchard’s adjutant, received a Mention in Despatches and was awarded the AFC and the US Aero Club Medal before retiring as a Brigadier-General in March 1919.

He then went to work with the AV Roe Aeroplane Company but was killed aged 36 on 1st September 1919 when Avro 536 G-EAGM, a new 5-seat design, went into a spin and crashed on a golf course at Weston-super-Mare. Lt. AJ Andrews and RW Smith were both injured.

His widow married, in 1921, George Cosby Selby-Lowndes. They had a son, David George William, in 1922 but it is not recorded if RHA Lee met his half-brother.

This seems likely however as David also joined the RAF.

Sgt. DGW Selby-Lowndes was killed on 9th September 1941 aged 19 whilst flying in Blenheim I L8693 of 5 Air Observer School which dived into the ground near Bute on the Isle of Man. He is buried in Jurby (St. Patrick) Churchyard.

Also lost were;

Sgt. EE Frisby
AC2 D Flint


RHA Lee was educated at Charterhouse School and entered RAF College, Cranwell in September 1935 as a Flight Cadet.

He graduated in July 1937. On 1st June 1938 he joined 85 Squadron, then reforming at Debden. Lee went to France with the squadron at the outbreak of war.

He destroyed a He111 over Boulogne on 21st November 1939, 85 Squadron's first victory.

Lee was awarded the DFC (gazetted 8th March 1940). On 10th May 1940 he claimed a Hs126 destroyed, shared a Ju86 and damaged a Ju88.

On the 11th, after shooting down two enemy aircraft, he was himself shot down by flak in Hurricane N2388 but obtained civilian clothes and evaded capture, eventually making his way back to his squadron.



On 22nd May 85 Squadron withdrew to Debden.

Flying with 56 Squadron over Dunkirk on the 27th, Lee was shot down into the sea in Hurricane P 3311 and was picked up after an hour in the water.

He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 31st May 1940) he is shown below being presented with the DFC and DSO by the King.



Back with 85 Squadron in August 1940, Lee was last seen in pursuit of an enemy formation thirty miles off the east coast on the 18th. Lee was not heard of again and is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 6. He was 23 years old.

At the time of his death Lee was an Acting Flight Lieutenant. He is believed to have destroyed at least nine enemy aircraft. His portrait was made by Cuthbert Orde (below left).





Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner.

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