Dennis Marescaux Lees DSO, RN

Born  28 Jan 1900

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1 Jan 1916 Mid.
15 Mar 1918 A/S.Lt.
15 Sep 1918 S.Lt.
15 Apr 1920 Lt.
15 Apr 1928 Lt.Cdr.
31 Dec 1933 Cdr.
31 Dec 1939 Capt.
8 Jan 1949 Rear-Admiral

Retired: 14 Feb 1953


19 Jul 1940 DSO
11 Nov 1941 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
11 Jul 1944 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
28 Nov 1944 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
1 Jan 1951 CB

Warship Commands listed for Dennis Marescaux Lees, RN

HMS Calcutta (D 82)Capt.Light cruiser18 Mar 19401 Jun 1941
HMS Black Prince (81)Capt.Light cruiser21 Aug 194329 Apr 1945

Career information

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Events related to this officer

Light cruiser HMS Calcutta (D 82)

25 Jun 1940
HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN, Rear-Admiral A.T.B. Curteis, CB, RN) assisted in evacuations in the Bayonne area and St. Jean de Luz. On 25th June, an Armistice having been signed between France and Germany, the Calcutta left St. Jean de Luz at night with the Canadian destroyers HMCS Fraser (Cdr. W.B. Creery, RCN) and HMCS Restigouche (Lt.Cdr. H.N. Lay, RCN) to help in the rescue of an estimated four thousand refugees trapped in the Bordeaux area by the German military. In rough seas and poor visibility, the captain of the Canadian Destroyer, HMCS Fraser, decided that the three ships should move closer together and ordered a turn to port in order to bring his ship behind HMS Calcutta. In doing so, the two ships collided, the bow of the heavier Calcutta sliced into the side of the Fraser with such force that the lighter vessel was cut into three pieces. Forty-five crew members were killed and nineteen men from the Calcutta lost their lives. Despite the darkness and a rising swell, 16 officers and 134 men were rescued. After her return to Plymouth the Calcutta was under refit until the end of July 1940. (1)

15 Sep 1940

Operation MBD 1.

Attack on Benghazi during the night of 17/18 September 1940.

15 September 1940.

Around 1500 hours, HMS Valiant (Capt. H.B. Rawlings, OBE, RN), HMS Illustrious (Capt. D.W. Boyd, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral A.L.St.G. Lyster, CVO, DSO, RN), HMS Orion (Capt. G.R.B. Back, RN), HMS Hyperion (Cdr. H.St.L. Nicolson, DSO and Bar, RN), HMS Hasty (Lt.Cdr. L.R.K. Tyrwhitt, RN), HMS Hero (Cdr. H.W. Biggs, DSO, RN),HMS Nubian (Cdr. R.W. Ravenhill, RN), HMS Mohawk (Cdr. J.W.M. Eaton, RN), HMS Decoy (Cdr. E.G. McGregor, DSO, RN) and HMAS Waterhen (Lt.Cdr. J.H. Swain, RN) departed Alexandria for operations.

These warships were divided into two forces;
‘Force A’ was made up of HMS Illustrious, HMS Orion, HMS Nubian, HMS Mohawk, HMS Hasty and HMS Hero.

’Force B’ was made up of HMS Valiant escorted by HMS Hyperion, HMS Decoy and HMAS Waterhen.

16 September 1940.

’Force C’, made up of HMS Kent (Capt. D. Young-Jamieson, RN, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral E. de F. Renouf, CVO, RN), light cruisers HMS Liverpool (Capt. P.A. Read, RN), HMS Gloucester (Capt. H.A. Rowley, RN), HMS Jervis (Capt. P.J. Mack, DSO, RN) and HMS Hereward (Lt.Cdr. C.W. Greening, RN), and coming from operations in the Aegean, made rendez-vous at 1430 hours to the west of Crete.

After dark ‘Force B’ parted company and proceeded to a cover position to the eastward.

The other two forces proceeded as to proceed through position 33°45’N, 20°00’E at 2100 hours in order to deliver a moonlight aircraft attack on Benghazi and then to return to Alexandria.

Shortly before midnight, HMS Illustrious, commenced launching nine Swordfish from No. 815 Squadron armed with bombs and torpedoes to attack shipping in Benghazi harbour and six Swordfish from No. 819 Squadron armed with mines to be laid off Benghazi harbour.

17 September 1940.

The aircraft attacked the harbour and laid their mines. During the attack on the harbour itself the merchants Gloriastella (5490 GRT, built 1922) and Maria Eugenia (4702 GRT, built 1928) as well as the destroyer Borea were sunk. Several other vessels were damaged.

When the destroyers Turbine and Aquilone later on the day left the harbour to proceed to Tripoli, Aquilone was mined and sunk.

A little over four hours after they had been launched all aircraft had returned safely to HMS Illustrious.

Also on the 17th, around 0215C/17, the destroyers HMS Juno (Cdr. W.E. Wilson, RN) and HMS Janus (Cdr. J.A.W. Tothill, RN) departed Alexandria to bombard Sidi Barrani which they did for 25 minutes commencing around 2300C/17.

Towards nightfall, HMS Kent, escorted by HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk, were detached to carry out a bombardment of Bardia after 0001/18 and keeping outside the 100 fathom line.

Shortly before midnight however, HMS Kent was hit aft by a torpedo from an Italian aircraft and badly damaged. She was taken in tow by HMS Nubian.

18 September 1940.

HMS Orion, HMS Calcutta (Capt. D.M. Lees, DSO, RN), HMS Jervis, HMS Janus, HMS Juno and HMAS Vendetta (Lt.Cdr. R. Rhoades, RAN) went to the assistance of HMS Kent while HMS Nubian and HMS Mohawk were still with her.

The other ships, HMS Valiant, HMS Illustrious, HMS Liverpool, HMS Gloucester, HMS Hyperion, HMS Hasty, HMS Hero, HMS Decoy and HMAS Waterhen remained in the area to provide cover but were detached to Alexandria at nightfall. They arrived at Alexandria around 0930/19.

19 September 1940.

HMS Kent had by now also been joined by HMS Protector (Cdr. R.J. Gardner, RN) and the tug HMS St. Issey.

The damaged cruiser arrived in Alexandria harbour shortly after noon this day. (2)


  1. Personal communication
  2. ADM 199/387

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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