Medals for Services at Sea from the Collection of the Late Oliver Stirling Lee

Medals for Services at Sea from the Collection of the Late Oliver Stirling Lee

Oliver Stirling Lee (1920 - 2004)

Oliver Stirling Lee, MA, FRICS, was born on 29 October 1920. When he was two years old his parents bought a house in Little Shelford, near Cambridge, where they made a welcoming home for the next 30 years that he loved very deeply.

After school at Cheltenham College, where he excelled in rugby as a member of the first XV, he went up to Gonville and Caius, Cambridge, in 1939 to read Rural Estate Management. He stayed for his first year but, determined to serve the War in the Navy, he volunteered in order to avoid call-up and the probability of being posted anywhere with any service. Even at the age of 20 Oliver was a substantial figure and during his first weeks in the service he suffered the embarrassment of being the only one in his group still to be in civvies while his uniform was made to measure.

His first draft in March 1941 was to HMS Abdiel, a fast minelayer, where he was immediately thrust into action, particularly in the Mediterranean theatre and the horrific relief of Crete. After further training and now ranked Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, he was appointed in 1942 to the destroyer HMS Meteor, one of the escort vessels for the hard-won convoys to and from Russia, PQ-18 and QP-14 He went on to see much action as the Anti-Submarine Officer while assisting at the North African landings, among some Atlantic convoys, but most frequently on the Russian run to and from Murmansk. Although a diffident man by nature, Oliver later set down details of his war service.

Released from the service in 1946, Oliver returned to his studies at Caius where a new Department of Estate Management had been established the previous year. Graduating in 1945, Oliver joined the professional side of the department as a land agent. In 1955 he was appointed agent to the Earl of Ancaster's Grimsthorpe estates in Lincolnshire. Elected a Fellow of the Chartered Land Agents Society, he served on its council until amalgamation with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. In 1960 he married Elizabeth Bennett, just qualified as one of the first female land agents, and after 15 years at Grimsthorpe he and his family moved to Worcestershire where, as a member of the Severn Region of the National Trust, he continued his career until retirement in 1985.
Oliver was a country gentleman in the fullest sense of the term. He took great pleasure in his garden, which he tended right up until his death, on 18 June, with untiring care and attention to detail. Throughout his life he constantly served his church and the wider community in which he Iived. Widely loved for his warm and even-tempered nature, his deep wisdom and his thoroughly researched mastery of a broad range of subjects, his particular interests were antiquarian; his knowledge extended to agricultural history, silver, furniture, stamps and much else. He was a dedicated collector, first of Dr Wall's early blue and white Worcester porcelain, and latterly of naval medals. In both cases he delighted in assembling substantial and ultimately important collections. His war service gave him a wide-ranging interest in all things nautical; his medal collection is based not so much on valour but more with an emphasis on the careers and occupations of individual sailors and their ships, including awards to men who served aboard Abdiel and Meteor.

Always modest and never self-seeking, Oliver is survived by his wife Elizabeth, their three children Gilbert, Guy and Nell and five grandchildren, all of whom gained great benefit and pride from being the primary object of his love and wisdom.

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