Anthony Lee

Further sad news, we regret to announce.  Anthony LEE died on 21/1/17 (aged 95). Below are copies of the tributes.

Tribute from Simon Farr who is married to Tony’s daughter Annie.

It is my impossible task to tell in a few minutes something of the long, varied and
distinguished life of my father in law.

I’m sure we would all agree we have lost a very special man well known around the town
by his sartorial style and courteous manners. He was well read, passionate about
international affairs, and a man of strong faith devoted to this church where he lead the
prayers on a Monday morning for many years.
TONY shone brightly from an early age. At Shrewsbury he was Captain of Rugby and
soccer, vice captain of cricket and head of house, and won a bursary to read classics at
Cambridge. This was cut short when he enlisted in the royal Navy in 1942 at the age of 19.
His naval war service consisted mainly of patrolling the east Anglian coast and the Thames
Estuary, in very fast motor torpedo boats. Based at Felixstowe he was fortunate to meet
the wonderful THELMA Richardson from Norfolk. Thelma was the WREN skipper of the
admirals barge. Their romance blossomed and they married at the end of the war.

After being demobbed from the navy, with the rank of lieutenant, Tony returned to
Cambridge to train for the colonial service and in January 1948 he, Thelma and their baby
Jane sailed on the Langibby Castle to Dar Es Salaam in, what was then, the British colony
of Tanganyika. Two more daughters, Annie and Caroline, were subsequently born there

Tony spent 14 years working in the Colonial Service in Tanganyika with his last posting
being District Commissioner in Morogoro. He loved his time in east Africa and spoke fluent
Swahili. He was an energetic young man and his work took him across vast territories
occupied by many different tribes, often in his own imported Citroen DS.

During his time in East Africa he helped to establish the Maasai Mara National wildlife
reserve; he worked with a team of veterinary specialists and agriculturalists to help people
improve their land management and farming techniques, from building terraces out of
waste, to visiting the local witch doctor to persuade him to arrange a culling of cattle
necessary because of a drought.

With his ever practical approach he set up a brick factory to ensure that a needed hospital
was built.

At 38 TONY left the Colonial Service when Tanzania became independent under Julius
Nyerere in 1962.

For a short period the family lived in Leamington Spa and TONY worked for Joseph Lucas
Engineering as an industrial relations manager. No doubt using (and I quote from his CV of
the time) his “wide experience of dealing with African Political Leaders”.

He did not enjoy working in industry and when he was asked to join a government team to
manage the political turmoil in Aden he jumped at the chance. The rise of Arab nationalism
had produced violent politics and Aden was a dangerous place. There had been some 280
guerrilla attacks in the 12 month period before Tony arrived.

Tony had the very difficult responsibility of security, liaising between the British Army, The
Administration, and the warring local factions of a newly formed government.

Dick Eberly who worked with TONY in both east Africa and Aden describes him in his book
about that time:

“…he was a big fellow, a giant of a man, with a cheerful laid back outlook and a wry grin;
and I had always admired his wife Thelma, given to extravagant gestures, always laughing
and a generous and a cheery hostess”

The British withdrew from Aden in 1967 and TONY was sent off to another hotspot in the
decline of the British empire – the tiny Caribbean island of Anguila.

The island had been administratively linked to St Kitts and when the British government
sought to divest itself of its Caribbean responsibilities the Anguilans did not want to be run
by St Kitts. There was unrest. TONY was appointed Commissioner of the island.

The situation calmed a little, but nevertheless the Harold Wilson Government felt the need
to do some quelling and sent a large invasion force – 2 navy frigates, 300 paratroopers and
50 London policemen.

The tiny Anguilan population offered no resistance. The press had a field day, TONY Lee
was front page news and the event was dubbed the Bay of Piglets.
The New York Times remarked:

“…perhaps the most nonchalant man in Anguilla these days is the man most under
attack….through it all he has remained calm, matter of fact and good humoured…”
In his book Caribbean Life and Culture the W Indian politician Sir Fred Philips wrote of
TONY that the had :

“…..been much impressed by his calm demeanour and obvious sincerity of purpose ….he
came to this most difficult assignment full of hope that he would be able to help guide a
community which was devoid of any orderly government……it is fair to point out that
conditions would have been infinitely more disastrous if Lee had never been sent to

He is still regarded with great affection in Anguilla. One important legacy of his time there
was to safeguard, in perpetuity, the right of beach access for all Anguilans in the face of
luxury tourist developments.

When he visited 8 years ago he was received by the islanders as an old friend.
TONY left The Foreign and Commonwealth office in 1970. The children had grown and he
had more conventional jobs in the City and in Cornwall. In 1983 he was delighted to be
appointed Assistant Secretary General of The Order of St John based at St John’s Gate,
Clerkenwell. He was back in the sort of work he enjoyed and did well.

With the order he was much involved in the support of the St John eye hospitals in Gaza
and Israel. His involvement and understanding of Palestine and the Palestinians led to his
final job as director of the Arab British Centre where he was for 10 years till the year 2000.
He retired at the age of 75.

Sadly Thelma died at this time and TONY moved here to Aldeburgh without her.
He nevertheless went on to make a full life for himself here. Always sociable and involved
with people he was a regular at the golf club and at The Cross Keys. He often gave quite
lavish drinks and dinner parties to his wide circle of friends.

In recent years he bore his increasing deafness with great fortitude; once remarking that
he would rather have lost an arm than lose his hearing. With an arm missing you had a
visible disability and you were understood. Deafness was hidden.

In few years ago TONY wrote to a friend about the Spanish concept of Duende.
Duende is difficult to define.You might call it a spiritual oneness. It is also intimately
connected with death. In his letter TONY said he felt Duende during a communion service
in this church. He wanted jump up and clap his hands.

I hope now he has found Duende once more.

Tribute from John Boyd Brent. Tony was his mother, Catherine’s, older brother and James and are his nephews.

We grew up looking up to Tony. He was always so friendly and engaging and his courteous and
dignified manner always an example. I believe his dignity and friendliness went hand in hand with a big heart which sought out and recognised the dignity, the nobility of spirit in others. And his courtesy was not just a result of acquired manners but a real empathy, a compassion if you like, for the best and finest qualities in us human beings.

And thus it was natural that his interest in and love of people easily crossed over the apparent boundaries of nationality, background or religion. He cared about the world, was loyal and appreciative of friends, and loved his family and grandchildren. More than once in recent years he has said to me, leaning over in that confiding way, “You know, I am very very lucky. I see so much of Jane and Annie and Caroline.” It was a continual source of happiness for him.

Recently he came across a book about the 13th C. Persian love poetry of Jelal udin Rumi. He was so taken with its descriptions of the supreme value of love that sent it to me, and asked me afterwards what I thought. Early on it starts with “Love is the very essence and
purpose of life” and ends with these last lines:

“Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek,
spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or
Western… divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has
no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and
simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is the soul
of fire. The universe turns differently when fire loves

John Boyd Brent
10 Feb 2017


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