Monday, 12 September 2011

Godfrey Lee 1913-1998

Godfrey Lee was born in August 1913 at Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire. After spending his school years in Essex he went on to study physics and aeronautics at the Royal College of Science in 1931, graduating with a BSc in 1933. Lee subsequently undertook a period of postgraduate studies at Imperial College.
Godfrey Lee’s professional life started with a post in the Instruments Section of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough before quickly moving to the Saunders Roe aircraft Company on the Isle of White. Lee’s long association with Handley Page began in 1937 as a stressman. With the outbreak of the Second World War he was put in charge of the research section due to the interment of the department’s head, Dr Gustav Lachmann, on the Isle of Man. During this period the main project on which Lee worked was the Handley Page H.P.75 Tailless Research Aircraft, nicknamed the Manx, undoubtedly due to the loss felt at Dr Lachmann’s enforced departure.
Involvement with the Manx project led to Godfrey Lee sitting on the Swept Wings Advisory Committee of the Aeronautical Research Council (ARC). With end of the war the ARC invited Lee to go to Germany to investigate German research into this area. A period of enforced period of sick leave followed this and Lee occupied himself with a proposal for a jet engined bomber with swept wings capable of carrying a 10,000lb bomb 5000 miles.
At a similar point Sir Fredrick Handley Page had learnt of English Electric’s projected new bomber, the Canberra, and invited his staff to submit proposals for a replacement for the RAF’s Avro Lincolns. The RAF too was going through a similar process realising a new bomber would be required. With Godfrey Lee’s design study at the centre of Handley page submission the stage was set for the creation of the H.P.80. Promotion followed in 1949 as Chief Aerodynamicist and Assistant Chief Designer in 1952, only to be promoted again a year later as Deputy Chief Designer a year later. During the whole of this period it was the Victor, as the H.P.80 was now christened that was to occupy a large proportion of Godfrey Lee’s time. With the successful introduction of the Victor Lee moved on to other projects including the H.P.115 delta research aircraft and the Jetsteam regional airliner before the company’s collapse. After this a number of years were spent working with British Airways, Airship Industries and lecturing in universities.
While Godfrey Lee never claimed to be the man behind the Victor, was never in charge of the overall project and always himself credited it as a team effort, his peers have always and still maintain that without Godfrey Lee there wouldn’t have been a Handley Page Victor.