Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation

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 Air Vice Marshal A S G Lee

Arthur Stanley Gould LeeArthur Stanley Gould                b: 31 Aug 1894    r: 21 Jan 1946           d: 21 May 1975

MC – xx xxx 1917, MiD - 8 Jun 1944, GI(s)C - 29 Dec 1942, 2nd Prize, 'Gordon-Shepherd' Competition – 1924, Special Prize, 'R M Groves' Competition – 1924, 2nd Prize, ‘R M Groves' Competition – 1925, 2nd Prize, 'R M Groves' Competition – 1926.

For a list of foreign decoration abbreviations, click here

(Army):- (T) 2 Lt: xx Feb 1915, (T) Lt: xx xxx xxxx, (T) Capt: 20 Nov 1917.

(RAF):- (T) Capt [Lt]: 1 Apr 1918, Flt Lt: 1 Aug 1919 [1 Apr 1918] Sqn Ldr: 1 Jul 1927, Wg Cdr: 1 Jul 1934, Gp Capt: 1 Nov 1938, Act A/Cdre: xx xxx 1941?, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Nov 1942, Act AVM: 19 Feb 1945 - 13 Jul 1945, AVM: Retained.

Arthur Stanley Gould Lee

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, November 1945
NPG x164375

© National Portrait Gallery, London

xx xxx xxxx:          Officer, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment

xx Aug 1916:           U/T Pilot, No 24 Reserve Sqn RFC.

xx xxx xxxx:             U/T Pilot, No 66 Sqn RFC.

xx xxx xxxx:             U/T Pilot, No 40 Sqn RFC.

10 Jan 1917:            Flying  Officer, RFC.

18 May 1917:          Pilot's Pool, No 1 Aircraft Depot - St Omer.

22 May 1917:          Pilot, No 46 Sqn RFC.

20 Nov 1917:           'B' Flight Commander, No 46 Sqn RFC.

xx Apr 1918:           Flight Commander, No 63 Training Sqn.

?                              Staff, RAF Depot.

24 Oct 1919:          Awarded Short Service Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant (Aeroplane).

30 Apr 1920:          QFI, No 6 FTS.

18 May 1920:          QFI, No 2 FTS.

 9 Oct 1920:             Attended School of Physical Training and Drill

 7 Feb 1921:            Instructor, School of Technical Training (Men).

19 Mar 1924:           Granted a Permanent Commission in the rank of Flight Lieutenant

15 Jul 1924:             Air Staff, HQ No 1 Group

 4 Nov 1925:           Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

16 Feb 1926:           Personnel Staff, HQ Iraq Command.

19 Sep 1927:           Attended RAF Staff College

17 Dec 1928:          'B' Flight Commander, No 10 Sqn.

 5 Feb 1929:           Officer Commanding (Temporary), No 10 Sqn.

 4 Feb 1931:           Supernumerary, HQ Coastal Area.

 4 Jan 1932:            Air Staff, Deputy Directorate of Staff Duties.

 3 Apr 1934:           Air Staff, Directorate of Organisation.

15 Jan 1935:           Attended Imperial Defence College

22 Dec 1935:          Officer Commanding, RAF Hornchurch.

15 Oct 1937:          Chief Instructor, Turkish Air Staff College.

15 Mar 1941:          SOA, British Air Forces Greece.

 2 May 1941:          Group Captain - Operations, HQ RAF Middle East

29 Dec 1941:          Group Captain - Operations, Middle East Command

xx xxx 1941:            Deputy SASO, Desert Air Force.

18 Nov 1942:          SASO, No 12 Group

xx Sep 1944:           Deputy Chief/Chief of Air Section, British Control Commission - Rumania.

xx Feb 1945:           Chief, British Military-Air Mission to Marshal Tito.

Arthur Gould Lee had held a desire to fly from an early age, but the death of his father had resulted in the absence of sufficient money for him to undertake flying lessons.   Therefore when war came in August 1914, he immediately applied to join the RFC.  Being informed that only those holding a RAeC Certificate would be considered, he attempted to join as a mechanic. Once again his attempt was blocked as the RFC at that time would only accept qualified tradesmen.  Having failed to gain direct entry to the RFC he joined an OTC, being commissioned into the 13th Sherwood Foresters early in 1915.  Within a month, he requested a transfer to the RFC, which was promptly refused by his adjutant.  Told to prepare for service in Dardanelles, he 'fortunately' injured in a motor cycle accident which left him unfit for overseas service for some time, so reapplying for the RFC, he was refused yet again.

With casualties mounting in France, the need for aircrew was growing and at last his application was authorised by his regiment and following ground training at Reading University, he reported for training as a pilot at No 24 Training Squadron at Netheravon.  Following his basic training on Farmans he moved to No 66 Sqn at Filton to fly Avro 504's and BE2's.  However, during training he suffered a stall on take off in an Avro caused by an inlet valve breaking at the critical moment.  This accident resulted in delaying the completion of his course and the accumulation of more the average flying hours.  This would prove to be to his benefit later, when it meant he missed the 'bloody April' of 1917.  Selected as a scout pilot, he next attended an Aerial Gunnery Course at Hythe before reporting to No 40 Sqn at Portmeadow to convert to the Sopwith Pup.

Posted to No 46 Sqn, commanded by Major P Babington, the squadron had only recently converted to the scout role from an observation role, but he was fortunately allocated to 'C' Flight. Shortly afterwards this flight received a new flight commander, Capt Scott, who was the only senior member of the squadron with experience as a scout pilot.  With 46, he took part in escort missions, offensive patrols, deep penetration patrols as well as trench strafing.  For six weeks in July/August 1917, the squadron was posted back to the UK to take part in the Air Defence of London.  It was in the latter role that he took part in the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917, which saw the first large-scale use of tanks.  By the time he left No 46 in December 1917, the squadron was flying Sopwith Camels and Arthur Lee had become a flight commander.  Lee was actually taken off flying when he was diagnosed as suffering from appendicitis, by which time he had spent over 220 hours over the lines and had been credited with the destruction of 11 enemy aircraft.

Posted back to the UK as 'A' Flight Commander, No 63 Training Sqn at Dartford, he was now involved in teaching trainee pilots combat skills before they proceeded overseas.  In September, he was informed that he would be joining a new squadron to be equipped with the Sopwith Salamander 'ground attack' aircraft.  However prior to undertaking a course at the School of Aerial Fighting in preparation, he suffered an attack of appendicitis and by the time he was fit again, the war was just about over.   Following the Armistice, he was given a number of (T) appointments in the London area as the RAF began the post-war rundown.  His final posting before the end of 1918 was to attend the South-Eastern Area Flying Instructor's Course where he qualified as an A1 category flying instructor.   At this time he became a campaigner for the adoption of parachutes.  The official line was that if pilots were issued with parachutes, they would use them instead of pressing home attacks, however Lee felt strongly that given the knowledge that escape was ultimately possibly, pilots would press on, a point adequately proved in the Second World War.

Awarded a permanent commission, he spent the next ten years as an instructor or staff officer prior to attending the RAF Staff College in 1927/28.  He returned to operational flying, this time bombers, as a flight commander (later squadron commander) with No 10 Squadron at Upper Heyford equipped with Handley Page Hyderabads.  Further staff appointments led to attendance at the Imperial Defence College in 1935.  Assuming command of RAF Hornchurch, he returned to the fighter arena where he spent almost two years.  In 1937 he was selected for a ‘special duties’ appointment as the Chief Instructor at the Turkish Air Staff College.  Unlike the Army and Navy Colleges, which employed German officers and ran on German lines, the Turks had decided to follow the RAF pattern with it’s Air Staff College, hence the employment of RAF officers.  Whilst employed in this post, he effectively was under contract to the Turkish government requiring him to wear civilian clothing.  As well as his colleague at the Staff College, the RAF were also providing staff to set up a flying school in Turkey, although Lee had no official connection with the work of this school.

Originally planned to leave Turkey in February 1941, the Italian attack on Greece brought him an early release and after arriving in Egypt, he found himself posted back across the Mediterranean as SOA to AVM J H D’Albiac commanding British Air Forces in Greece.  Early successes against the Italians were turned by the arrival of the Germans and the failure of the Greeks to provide adequate airfield sites for the RAF.  Lee’s tasks became more and more involved in the organisation of the evacuation of RAF personnel, with he himself being in the last boatload of air force staff to escape.  Eventually arriving in Crete, he was not to remain there long being flown to Alexandria by BOAC flying boat.  His next post was in the Air Operations Room in Cairo, one of the operations in which he became involved at this time being support to the Battle of Habbaniya in Iraq.  He also undertook a fact-finding trip to Teheran in Persia with the Director General of the Ministry of Information to ascertain the possibility of routing transport aircraft to Russia through the country.

Promoted to Air Commodore he next assumed the role of Deputy SASO to AVM Peter Drummond.  He eventually returned to Britain in 1942 and was initially to have been appointed Assistant Commandant of the Staff College.  Pointing out that he had only recently completed three years of such duties in Turkey, he was given leave until appointed SASO of No 12 Group in Fighter Command.  At 12 Group he served under three different AOCs and was, for three months of the twelve in post, Act AOC.

His stay in England was not last long, when he was chosen as the Head of the Air Section for the British Element of the Control Commission in Rumania.  This country had recently come over to the allied side and although all three major allies had mission in it, the American and British were to prove almost ineffective as the territorial plans of the Soviets began to be put into operation.  Although he enjoyed his time in Belgrade, he realised that to have both an AVM and an Air Commodore in the Mission (the Head of the British Mission was AVM D Stevenson) was a waste of resources and he suggested that he be moved to another post.  As a result he found himself promoted to Air Vice Marshal and appointed Head of No 37 Military Mission to Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia.  This Mission was tasked with assisting Marshal Tito as well as establishing and training a new Yugoslav Air Force.  Once again the overwhelming influence of the Russians largely negated the effectiveness of both American and British Missions in the country and shortly after VE day, Lee was recalled and in early 1946 he finally retired from the RAF.  Following retirement he had a successful career as a writer of both historical and fictional books.

Recommendation for the award of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Reduced to a Mention in Despatches)

LEE, Arthur Stanley Gould., A/C, MC  (Royal Air Force) - Allied Expeditionary Air Force, No.12 Group Headquarters 

"This officer has been Senior Air Staff Officer of the Group since November 1942.  In 1943 the operations of the Group were more intense than during 1942 and resulted in the destruction of 106 enemy aircraft.  The command of the Group has been changed four times since 1942 and Air Commodore Lee acted as Air Officer Commanding over one period of two months and over three periods totalling 1 ˝ months.  He is an excellent Staff Officer, being hard working and industrious and possessing a thorough grasp of air staff work."

(Source - Air 2/9003)

This page was last updated on 30/01/23

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