This year’s First World War commemorations and recent Remembrance services have been particularly poignant for Stopsley senior citizen John Lee.
He’s enormously proud that his Uncle Dick – Corporal P L Lee, 26th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Luton) – was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery on the Menin Road in October, 1918.
Like many men of his generation, the old soldier was reticent about his war record.
It was only when Icknield Cycling Club president John, 85, did some research that he uncovered just how courageous his uncle and godfather had been.
A copy of the London Gazette dated 2 December 1919 states: “He took command . . . showing utter disregard of heavy machine-gun fire which was opened on him. When the enemy attack developed in overwhelming numbers . . . he was among the last to leave. Throughout he showed the greatest gallantry.”
John recalls his uncle was “a man of steel. He had a cold bath every morning and used to swim in Wardown Lake. I like to keep fit and a lot of that stems from him.
“He was a strict disciplinarian and I think I have some of that in me. I was a regular soldier for three years, got a couple of stripes and would have stayed but for the fact we had a family business in Wellington Street – Lee’s Cooked Meats.”
Uncle Dick’s medals are among John’s most precious possessions, as is the London Gazette citation.