Bernard Warburton-Lee

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Bernard Armitage Warburton Warburton-Lee
Born 13 September 1895
Broad Oak, Whitewell, Wrexham, Wales
Died 10 April 1940 (aged 44)
Narvik, Norway
Buried at Ballangen New Cemetery, Norway
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1908-1940 
Rank Captain
Commands held HMS Tuscan (28 Nov 1924 - Jan 1925)
HMS Walpole (30 Mar 1926 - July 1927)
HMS Vanessa (9 Apr 1928 - Apr 1930)
HMS Bryony (7 Apr 1933 - Jan 1934)
HMS Witch (17 Dec 1934 - Feb 1936)
Flag Captain, HMS Effingham & Chief of Staff to Vice-Admiral Commanding Reserve Fleet (14 Feb 1938 Apr 1939)
HMS Hardy (28 Jul 1939 – 10 Apr 1940) & Captain (D) 3rd Destroyer Flotilla (from Aug 1939; 2nd Destroyer Flotilla)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
- Narvik
Awards [1]Mentioned in Despatches (11 Dec 1918)
Victoria Cross (7 Jun 1940 posthumous)
Norwegian War Cross (19 Oct 1942 posthumous)

Captain Bernard Armitage Warburton Warburton-Lee VC (13 September 1895 – 10 April 1940) was a Welsh recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Spanish Civil War[edit]

In 1936 due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and because there was fear of social unrest in the naval station, the Foreign Office in London, organized a ship to repatriate all the remaining British citizens and on 22 July 1936 HMS Witch, captained by B.A. Warburton-Lee, departed from Ferrol in northwestern Spain back to Britain.[2]

World War II[edit]

Warburton-Lee was 44 years old, and a captain in the Royal Navy during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 10 April 1940 in Ofotfjord, Narvik, Norway, in the First Battle of Narvik Captain Warburton-Lee of HMS Hardy commanded the British 2nd Destroyer Flotilla consisting of five destroyers (HMS Hardy, Havock, Hostile, Hotspur and Hunter) in a surprise attack on German destroyers and merchant ships in a blinding snowstorm. This was successful, and was almost immediately followed by an engagement with five more German destroyers, during which Captain Warburton-Lee was mortally wounded by a shell which hit Hardy's bridge. For his exploits in this engagement he was awarded Britain's highest decoration for valour in combat, the Victoria Cross, posthumously. During World War II, only 23 Victoria Crosses were awarded to members of the Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve, and of those only approximately 11 survived. In 1942 he was also awarded the Norwegian War Cross.[3]

VC citation[edit]

Bernard Warburton-Lee's VC citation reads as follows:

For gallantry, enterprise and daring in command of the force engaged in the First Battle of Narvik, on 10th April, 1940. On being ordered to carry out an attack on Narvik, Captain Warburton-Lee learned that the enemy was holding the place in much greater force than had been thought. He signalled to the Admiralty that six German destroyers and one submarine were there, that the channel might be mined, and that he intended to attack at dawn. The Admiralty replied that he alone could judge whether to attack, and that whatever decision he made would have full support. Captain Warburton led his flotilla of five destroyers up the fjord in heavy snow-storms, arriving off Narvik just after daybreak. He took the enemy completely by surprise and made three successful attacks on warships and merchantmen in the harbour. As the flotilla withdrew, five enemy destroyers of superior gunpower were encountered and engaged. The captain was mortally wounded by a shell which hit the bridge of H.M.S. Hardy. His last signal was "Continue to engage the enemy".

This was the first VC to be gazetted in the Second World War. Capt.Warburton-Lee married on 9 October 1924, Elizabeth Campbell Swinton, the daughter of Capt. George Swinton of Kimmerghame (see Clan Swinton).


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