Mr Reginald Robinson Lee

Mr Reginald Robinson Lee (Lookout) was born in Bensington (Benson), Oxfordshire, England on 19 May 1870, later being baptised at the church of St. Helen, Bensington on 19 June that same year.

He was the eldest child of William Lee (1848-1887) and his wife Jane Sarah née Jackson (1849-1920), both school teachers and natives of London and Leicestershire respectively who had married in 1869.

He had six surviving siblings: Agnes Beatrice (b. 1872), Herbert William (b. 1875), Irene Daisy (b. 1877), Leonie Rosamond (b. 1879) and Marion Eveline (b. 1881).

Reginald first appears on the 1871 census living at the School House in Bensington with his parents. The family later settled in Hampshire around 1875, initially in Whitchurch before moving soon after to Southsea where they were shown on the 1881 census living at the School House of St Jude's School. His father passed away on 23 October 1887 and the remaining family appear on the 1891 census living at 43 Worthing Road, Portsea. Reginald is described as a clerk in the Royal Navy and his mother is still working as a school mistress. She would remain for a time in Portsmouth before moving to London and living at 12 Leinster Square by the time of the 1911 census. She died in Surrey on 23 November 1920.

Reginald was married in Portsea in 1897 to Emily Selina Hannah Hill (b. 1870), a native of Alverstoke, Hampshire, but they had no children. The 1911 census shows Reginald boarding at 26 Richmond Street, Southampton and he described himself as a stevedore. He had continued to work in the Royal Navy as assistant paymaster before he was retired in 1900.

When he signed-on to the Titanic in Southampton on 6 April 1912, Reginald Lee gave his address as 62 Threefold Lane, (Southampton). He had transferred from the Olympic and as a lookout he received monthly wages of £5.

On the night of the sinking, Lee and Frederick Fleet relieved lookouts Symonds and Jewell and took over for the 10pm to 12 am shift, Lee taking up position on the starboard side as was his custom.

Whilst Lee described the night as freezing, calm, very clear with a star-filled, moonless sky, he reported that a haze developed closer to the time of impact. At 11.40 pm the iceberg was spotted and Lee reported that:

"Three bells were struck by Fleet, warning "Right ahead," and immediately he rung the telephone up to the bridge, "Iceberg right ahead." The reply came back from the bridge, "Thank you."

Following the warning, Lee reported that the ship started to turn to port and he was certain that they would clear the berg. After the collision at 12 am Lee descended from the crow's nest and went to the seamen's quarters (presumably those on E-deck but identified in the inquiry as the seamen's mess which was on C-deck) and he reported water coming into the compartment through a tarpaulin (seemingly the cover of E-deck number 2 hatch, though identified as number 1 hatch in inquiry by examiner). He soon saw firemen and greasers coming up from their bow quarters carrying their kits, driven from their quarters by the rising water.

Lee soon ascended to the boat deck after orders were given to get the lifeboats ready for lowering. He remained on the starboard side where he was assigned to lifeboat 11 but assisted in getting the forward boats cleared before moving aft. Several of the aft starboard boats were loaded from A-deck promenade, as Lee reported. When he returned to the aft boats, his assigned boat (11) was full so he moved to lifeboat 13. Finding scarcely anybody in it, he climbed in and assisted an officer (Moody?) in loading the boat. Filled with what Lee estimated as 64 persons, predominantly third class, the lifeboat was lowered and he reported lifeboat 15 nearly landing on top of them after they reached the water.

Lee was stood at the helm of the lifeboat as Titanic sank but said he did not see her final plunge although reported that he heard some underwater explosions.

Lee subsequently testified before the board of trade inquiry and was examined on 8 May 1912. He was questioned about the lack of binoculars in the crow's next.

Reginald later returned to Southampton and continued a career at sea. Ultimately serving aboard the Kenilworth Castle, he returned to living at the Sailors' Home in Southampton on 31 July 1913 but was unwell and breathing heavily. He endured without any complaint on his part but by 5 August his state had deteriorated and he was advised to see a doctor. He was found dead on 6 August 1913, lying face down and partially dressed. A post-mortem revealed that he had an enlarged heart and died of heart failure following pneumonia and pleurisy. He was aged 43 and was later buried in High Road Cemetery in Portsmouth.

His widow Emily never remarried and spent her last days living at 242 Coombe Lane, Wimbledon, Surrey. She died on 22 January 1921.

 

Pictures

Reginald Robinson Lee
REGINALD ROBINSON LEE
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2009) 
Titanica! (2003) 
THE ROLE OF THE LOOKOUTS ON THE TITANIC FROM THE EYE OF AN EXPERIENCED SEAMAN.
Chicago Tribune (1913) 
Hampshire Advertiser (1913) 
Southern Daily Echo (1913) 
New York Times (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. lindsay gordon lee said:

    was my Grandfather's brother we have a photo of him when he was in his uniform as a paymaster in the Royal Navy,probably as a teenager.I will find the original & work out how to post it for those interested.I live in Fremantle Western Australia & would like to know is the house Reginald lived in in Southampton still standing & for my family tree are there any of his descendants around.

  2. Christine Geyer said:

    Hello Lindsay and welcome aboard! It's great that you want to share the photograph with us and I'm looking forward to it. Also to your further postings, maybe you have some recollections of your grandfather's brother that you'd also like to share with us. He certainly is a very interesting man in the Titanic story. And his biography on ET is not too detailed yet. As to your question regarding his Southampton house and the family I there'll certainly be some Board Members who'll be able to answer your questions. Many regards Christine

  3. Christine Geyer said:

    Lindsay this is such a GREAT photo. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!! Very interesting seeing him a little younger than on the known photo from the Daily Sketch, at the inquiry. And what a charisma. Phil you're faster than the wind. Many regards Christine

  4. avatar

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    Lindsay, Morning - Reginald Lee lived at 52 Threefield Lane, St Marys, Southampton - sadly this house no longer exists the whole area was decimated by German Bombs in 1940-44 and only a few building were left and in the subsequent tidying up the rest were demolished - today it is a business and apartment block area. Is the photograph the same as the one in the The Times, Bull Creek, Fremantle, Australia, January 19th 1993? Best regards Brian J. Ticehurst - Southampton UK.

  5. Andrew Williams said:

    Lindsay, Greetings and welcome to the board. There are some details I would like to share with you. If you would to contact me privately, hopefully we could resolve this inquisitive problem I have discovered with The Minutes. Andrew W.

  6. Gordon Lee said:

    Brian.Yes that was the pic & story written by Jack Lee nephew of R.R.Lee.I now have the original pic & will send it in when I work out how.Thanks for the info.Andrew have forwarded you my address.Gordon Lee

  7. Gordon Lee said:

    Attached is copy of original R.R.Lee pic.Gordon Lee

    attachment
  8. Brian Meister said:

    Gordon, I have found some interesting pieces about RR Lee several years ago which will appear on this site shortly. I hope it adds a little to your search and I hope you will contact me to let me know what you think about it. . Best Regards, Brian Meister

  9. Gordon Lee said:

    Sobering reading Brian I have'nt digested it all it will take me quite awhile.R.R.Lee's brother died at age 45 in 1921 in Fremantle Australia.He had fought in the Boer War & WW1.The circumstances I would think were similar to his brothers.H.W.Lee's widow was left with 5 boys to raise aged between 16 & 8 years old.2 of them dying recently in their 90s.Brian's posting explains why the widow in Aus.received no support from her brother in law in the U.K.Gordon

  10. Gordon Lee said:

    Attached is a pic of Jane Sarah Quilter Lee.She was born in 1849,widowed in 1887.Reginald Robinson Lee was her son & was 17 years old at the time of his fathers death.He was the oldest of 7 children.When Reginald died in 1913 at 43 years of age,his mother was 64,her only other son was in Western Australia,& she was a widow.I imagine Reginald gave his mother some support & when he died tragically what sources were there to support her & if Reginald had family to support them also?

  11. Gordon Lee said:

    Jane Lee,s Pic

    attachment
  12. avatar

    Inger Sheil said:

    Many thanks for sharing that, Gordon! Lee was such a major player in the events that unfolded that night and afterwards at the BoT inquiry, and yet so little background material concerning him has been made accesible in the public domain. I appreciate your generousity in sharing the photos and the family data - it has added a new dimension of poignancy to his story. Cheers also to Brian for sharing more information with us as well - it all pares back those obscuring layers of time.

  13. Gordon Lee said:

    I have found here in Australia pictures of 2 of Reginald R.Lee's sister's.They may be of interest.The first is Irene,the other is Leonie or Beatrice,

    attachment
  14. avatar

    Inger Sheil said:

    They're of great interest, Gordon - many thanks for your generosity in sharing them. What an intriguing face Leonie/Beatrice has - not 'conventionally beautiful' as the phrase has it, perhaps, but there's a certain piquant liveliness to her...an almost gamin charm, that's only accentuated by the choker and ostrich feathers.

  15. Gordon Lee said:

    Thanks Inger I guess an overseas place such as Australia could be a source of info such as pictures,because in those timesfamilies kept in touch via the writtenword.Photos were also sent to relatives to show those in faraway places what brothers & sisters looked like.I will keep digging.

  16. avatar

    Inger Sheil said:

    That's a very good point, Gordon - emigration was very strong in those years, and letters and photos could be treasured by extended families. A similar point could be applied to the families of seamen - when loved ones travelled so far, particularly in the days of sail when voyages could last over a year in duration, communication such as that was a vital link to home, society and family. Those extended links are one advantage we antipodeans have, even with the notorious 'tyranny of distance'! I'd love to know what the colour scheme is in the costume Irene is wearing!

  17. Gordon Lee said:

    The portraits are sepia so we can only guess the colours.They were probably taken especially to send to their brother who was 5 years younger than Reginald Robinson.He migrated to Western Australia with his wife in 1901 aged 26 & was a Sergeant Major in the Mounted Rifles 1/28th Battalion,seeing service in the Boer War & The Great War.He probably never saw his parents or siblings after leaving.I will try & find a good pic of R.R.Lee's brother

  18. Barry L Clarke said:

    There was an interesting article in "The News" (Portsmouth)last september. At the Portsmouth premiere, in 1958, of A Night To Remember". The guest of honour was a local man, Henry Reginald Lee. He claimed to be a survivor of the Titanic. His family, up to last year, believed him to be "The" Reg Lee who was the lookout.At the premiere he said he was a cook not a lookout and his age was 77 which would have made him 31 at the sinking. A member of the family researching the history said his great uncle was a Walter Mitty character who may been a crew member but not on the maiden voyage.The family... Read full post

  19. Gordon Lee said:

    Interesting story Barry & I am fascinated by these bits that unfold.It makes better reading than a best seller.I feel the Reginald Robinson Lee we have is the right one & maybe there is a closer relative than myself that can shed some more light on his story. The piece that I read that his son was a keen amateur photographer & has archived some film is one bit I would like to know more about.The fact that R.R.Lee died approx. 12 months after the sinking is sobering,but the facts are there.

  20. Gordon Lee said:

    Arne,in answer to your questions,I believe there are some answers on R.R.Lee's profile on this site.I have his date of death as 6th August 1913,so he died as a young man having been born in 1870.I think it was Brian who posted the obituary which stated he died in the Southhampton Sailors Home,after arriving from the Kenilworth Castle,which I guess was a ship,on which he was working.My father told me R.R.Lees mother applied for assistance from the Titanic Committee but was declined.She was a widow at the time.I don,t know if he had any children & his only brother was living in Western... Read full post

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Andrew Williams

References and Sources

Birth Certificate
British Census 1871
British Census 1881
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Parish Records of St. Helen's, Benson
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
Death Certificates
Highland Road Cemetery
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2016) Reginald Robinson Lee (ref: #1348, last updated: 16th March 2016, accessed 29th September 2020 10:04:25 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/reginald-robinson-lee.html