Mr Reginald Robinson Lee

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.

Credits
Gavin Bell
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

Pictures

Reginald Robinson Lee

REGINALD ROBINSON LEE

 

Articles and Stories

LINK WITH TITANIC - DEATH OF THE LOOK-OUT MAN AT SOUTHAMPTON

Hampshire Advertiser  (1913) 

LINK WITH TITANIC - DEATH OF THE LOOK-OUT MAN AT SOUTHAMPTON

 
Defending Fleet and Lee

Titanica!  (2009) 

DEFENDING FLEET AND LEE

 
ALARM FROM LOOKOUT IGNORED, SAILOR SAYS

New York Times  (1912) 

ALARM FROM LOOKOUT IGNORED, SAILOR SAYS

 
Sailor, Titanic Survivor, Dies

Chicago Tribune  (1913) 

SAILOR, TITANIC SURVIVOR, DIES

 
Link with the Titanic: Death of Look-Out Man at Southampton

Southern Daily Echo  (1913) 

LINK WITH THE TITANIC: DEATH OF LOOK-OUT MAN AT SOUTHAMPTON

 
Titanic Lookout Reginal Lee Death Certificate

(1913) 

TITANIC LOOKOUT REGINAL LEE DEATH CERTIFICATE

 
Lookouts : The Human Perspective

Titanica!  (2003) 

LOOKOUTS : THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE

 
  • Link and cite this biography

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