Lees was studying Science at
Cambridge University before the war - following in his father's footsteps
who had been a lecturer in Thermodynamics and Fellow of St
John's College, Cambridge. When war was declared,
fellow students studying the arts (such as Raymond
Williams) had to relinquish their studies. However
Ronald, studying Science, was allowed to complete his
After being awarded his
degree Ronald joined the Royal Air Force.
He started work on top secret radar development at the Telecommunications
Research Establishment (TRE) then at Worth Matravers in Dorset. On the March
1942 organisation chart he is recorded as working in Group 25 entitled 'Post
Development Services' alongside, amongst others, Martin Ryall who later
received a Nobel Prize and became Astronomer Royal.
The 'Post Design
Services' (PDS) group helped to introduce new radar equipments into Service use
– particularly new equipments fitted in aircraft. Typically a small number of
hand made models were installed and used operationally to get quick results. The staff
of Post Design Services would go to RAF aerodromes to set up and adjust the equipments before operational sorties.
They would then get reports on how the equipment operated in practice.
These reports were used to determine whether changes in design were needed
before starting to produce the equipment in quantity.
May 1942 Ronald moved to with the establishment to Malvern when it was relocated to
reduce the risk of German attack after the British raid on a German radar
station at Bruneval in France. In November 1943 he was transferred to London HQ in Church House, Westminster.
He appears on the TRE staff list for
August 1944 as an RAF Flying Officer on detached duty.
Ronald met Annette
Hughes on a train from London to Cambridge in 1939. Annette was being
evacuated from London where she was studying at the London School of
Economics. Ronald craftily took a note of the address on Annette's case,
and later contacted her in Cambridge! They were married at Birmingham in
1942 when Ronald was working at TRE in Malvern. Annette moved to
Malvern, and worked part time for a while at ADRDE, the Army HQ for radar
(which had moved to Pale Manor Farm from Christchurch).
Soon after the D-Day landings,
Ronald contracted a serious 'flu. All the available hospitals on the
south coast were cleared for the reception of casualties from France. By
this time Annette had moved back to be with her family in Shrewsbury.
Ronald was therefore sent to Shrewsbury by train from London to
convalesce. He briefly stayed with Annette and her family, but the
Medical officer from the Shrewsbury Barracks then sent him to Shrewsbury Royal
Infirmary. The limited supplies of penicillin (which was fairly new at the time) were
also concentrated in the war zone and therefore not available in Shrewsbury.
Ronald died on 8th August 1944 of acute bronchial pneumonia and cardiac failure.
Full name: Ronald Samuel Mann Lees
Pilot Officer no: 110250
Died: 8th August 1944 (pm) in Shrewsbury Royal Infirmary,
cause of death: Acute bronchial pneumonia, ?toxemia?, and cardiac failure.
Birth certificate: 24th March 1920, 51 Chesterton Road, Chesterton.
Father's profession: University lecturer in thermodynamics and a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge
Parents married: 17th (?19th?) October 1922
Jonathan Penley, January 2010
from papers, photographs and discussion with Annette Lees.