HMS Hunter, Sunk During First Battle of Narvik 10 April 1940, Found in One Thousand Feet of Water – Part 4
Captain B.A.W. Warburton-Lee, RN, VC. (known to his friends as “Wash-Lee”)
commander of the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla
“If it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.” Lines from Henry V’s battle speech to his men. Warburton-Lee quoted these in a letter to his wife which was delivered to her after she had been notified of his death.A gallant officer in the finest tradition of the Royal Navy, ‘Wash-Lee’ as he was known to fellow officers, won the first Victoria Cross awarded to a member of the Royal Navy in World War Two. Unfortunately, while he earned great honour, he paid for it with his life.
‘The war is going to start properly soon, and I’m going to start it.’
So wrote Captain Bernard Warburton-Lee, Captain (D) Second British Destroyer Flotilla to his wife on April 5th, 1940. “If it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive.” Warburton-Lee quoted these lines from Henry V’s battle speech to his men in this same letter to his wife.
When she received the letter the war had started indeed, and her husband had earned its first Victoria Cross, posthumously.*
The letter ‘D’ after Warburton-Lee’s name indicates he was Flotilla Commander.
* Captain Roope of HMS Glowworm technically won the first Victoria Cross awarded to a member of Royal Navy in World War Two but his brave action against the German heavy cruiser Hipper on 8 April 1940 was not known until after the war. Roope was posthumously awarded the VC when the crew of the Glowworm were released from their POW camp in May of 1945.
HMS Hardy (H87), flotilla leader of the Royal Navy H class destroyers.
Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:
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