Tributes paid to 'national hero'

TRIBUTES have been paid to a Second World War veteran who has been described as a “national hero”.

Naomi Gornall

TRIBUTES have been paid to a Second World War veteran who has been described as a “national hero”.

Lieutenant Commander Edgar Lee, from Woodbridge, was one of just a handful of pilots to leave the English Channel alive after surviving a seemingly hopeless mission which would become a turning point in the allied war effort.

He died at his home at the age of 89, surrounded by his family on October 20, after a short battle with cancer.

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Lt Cdr Lee was among 18 Fleet Air Arm crewmen who fearlessly flew six dilapidated Swordfish bi-planes from Manston towards the largest German battle fleet ever assembled.

No aircraft returned from the battle and, of the five survivors rescued from the Channel, 20-year-old Lt Cdr Lee was the only one to emerge unhurt.

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Captain David Ingham, Lt Cdr Lee's friend and president of the Felixstowe Master Mariners Club, said: “He was a national hero. He was also the perfect gentlemen. You would never think he had been through something like that. He was so unassuming and would not talk about his exploits.

“He was someone everyone would aspire to and will be missed by a huge amount of people.”

The son of an Air Ministry electrical engineer, Lt Cdr Lee moved with his family to Suffolk from Egypt and later became head boy at Northgate Grammar School in Ipswich.

He joined the Navy just after his 18th birthday and was instantly thrown into the fray, surviving a torpedo attack on the Ark Royal as his Swordfish landed in the Mediterranean.

Following the Channel Dash, Lt Cdr Lee received the Distinguished Service Order before being sent as an instructor to Canada and returned to England at the end of 1944 to qualify as a signals officer.

He was demobilised in 1947, but rejoined the naval reserve in 1956, serving until retirement as a commander in May 1981.

He became a teacher and worked at various schools, including Brandon Primary School where he was deputy headteacher.

He leaves behind his wife, Carol, daughters June and Liz, and four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

His wife, Mrs Lee, said: “I am honoured to have known and been a part of Edgar's life for the past 34 years. He had a great range of interests, and I, and many others have learned from his knowledge.

“Edgar was a loving, thoughtful and caring husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and we will all miss him dearly.”

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