|Rear-Admiral John Lee-Barber, who was one of the most
successful and aggressive
destroyer captains of the Second World War, lived the last 14 years of his
Wivenhoe, on the Quay, in Ferry House.
He was born 16th April, 1905 and joined the Navy as a cadet in 1919.
His first destroyer command came in 1937 with Witch, followed by Ardent.
From 1939 to 1942, he distinguished himself in charge of Griffin in
the Norwegian campaign during which the Griffin captured the German
trawler Polaris, disguised in Dutch colours and carrying much
intelligence material that proved invaluable to later naval efforts.
Later, the Griffin was to evacuate Polish troops from France,
for which Lee-Barber was awarded the the Polish Cross of Valour. He
received the DSO in 1940 for his efforts in anti-invasion patrols along
the English Channel.
In the autumn of 1940, the Griffin was sent to the Mediterranean where
she was involved with much action, including escort duty for convoys going
to Malta in 1941.
When he left the Griffin early in 1942, Lee-Barber was naval
advisor to Southern Command Army Headquarters Home Forces, but in
September he took command of Opportune in the 17th destroyer
flotilla, escorting convoys to and from Russia. On Dec 23rd 1943, Opportune
took part in the high-speed chase of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst
by ships of the Home Fleet in the Arctic. He was mentioned in despatches
for two torpedo hits on the German boat.
From 1944-46, Lee-Barber was executive officer of HMS King Alfred, the
RNVR officers training establishment in Hove. Subsequently he went back
into commanding destroyers, first St James and then Agincourt.
From 1950 to 1952 he was naval attaché in Santiago, Lima, Bogata, and
Quito, and from 1954 to 1957 Commodore Harwich, in command of the inshore
flotilla. His last appointment, in 1957, was as Admiral Superintendent,
Malta, at a time of unrest there, returning in 1959, the year he was
John Lee-Barber disregarded every rule of good health, smoking 40
cigarettes a day and drinking copious glasses of gin. Like all successful
wartime destroyer captains, he had tremendous physical stamina, and was
able to stand on bridge for hours on end and go for days without proper
He married Suzanne Le Gallais in 1939 who died in 1976. He is buried
with her at St. Brelades on the island of Jersey. He died in
In the Old Wivenhoe Quay development, Wivenhoe Town Council named a
road 'Admiral's Walk' after Rear-Admiral John