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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. R B Lees


Ronald Beresford Lees was born on 27th April 1910 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia.

He was educated at Prince Alfred’s College and the Collegiate School of St Peter’s, Adelaide (where he was a prefect) and Adelaide University. He took private flying lessons at Parafield Airport. A description of him at this time stated that he was, “Tall, cheerful and agile with piercing blue eyes.”

In January 1930 Lees went as an RAAF flight cadet to Point Cook. After completing his flying training he sailed for England in January 1931 and transferred to the RAF on a short service commission, starting on 18th March. A week later he joined 29 Squadron at North Weald.



Lees was posted to 4 FTS Abu Sueir on 10th May 1935 as an instructor. He was given a permanent commission on 1st June 1936. Back in the UK, he took command of 72 Squadron on 8th December 1938.

Over Dunkirk on 2nd June 1940, Lees destroyed a Ju87. He reported firing a two-second burst at approximately 200 yards and then the Ju87, “… stall turned, I did an aileron turn and followed opening fire at approx. 100 yards … swinging in to dead astern. Pieces started to fly off the E/A. … The E/A went into a right hand diving turn. I followed and closed to approx. 75 yards range. … I gave a long burst of approx. 6 secs. During this burst the E/A burst into flames. I followed it down and watched it hit the ground …”

Lees then expended the rest of his ammunition on another Ju 87, already under attack.

He was posted away from 72 Squadron on 25th July to join the Air Staff at HQ 13 Group. He was back with 72 Squadron on 31st August as a supernumerary, when he had a week’s leave. On 2nd September his Spitfire K9840 was severely damaged in combat.

A raid was seen approaching five miles south of Dungeness. The enemy formation consisted of Do17s protected by Me110s and Me109s.  On seeing the Spitfires the Me110s formed a defensive circle. Four Me110s were claimed as damaged in the subsequent engagement.

Lees was wounded in the left arm and thigh and landed wheels up at Hawkinge. He was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital Folkestone. He developed gangrene, but the affected leg was saved.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 22nd October 1940).

On 9th January 1941 Lees became Station Commander at RAF Coltishall, as an Acting Wing Commander.

He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 26th December 1941) and remained at Coltishall until September 1942.

Lees was then posted to command 324 Wing in the Middle East, part of the Allied Forces about to invade North Africa. On 25th November 1942 he shot down a SM79.

In 1st March 1943 Lees was SASO at HQ 242 Group and on 26th May he went to HQ Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force. He was SASO at HQ Desert Air Force from 7th June 1945 and on 1st June 1946 took command of RAF Bassingbourn.

He was made a CBE (gazetted 2nd June 1943), a CB (gazetted 1st January 1946) and Commander of the Legion of Merit (US).

Lees commanded the Metropolitan Sector, Fighter Command. On 8th September 1952 he became AOC of 83 Group, covering Germany’s southern area, as part of the Second Tactical Air Force. From 24th August 1955 he was Assistant CAS Operations. From 6th October 1958 he was SASO, HQ Fighter Command.

On 26th August 1943, Lees was appointed Air ADC to the King, he was later Additional Air ADC to the King. On 26th April 1949 the title of the appointment was changed to ADC to the King. He held this appointment until His Majesty’s death on 6th February 1952. Lees became ADC to the Queen until 1st June 1953.

He was knighted in 1961 and made a KCB (gazetted 10th June 1961). Lees retired from the RAF on 3rd February 1966, as an Air Marshal, and returned to Australia.

After a period as a grazier in the Albury area of New South Wales Lees settled in Adelaide in 1981. He died on 18th May 1991 and was cremated at Centennial Park Crematorium, Adelaide.


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