Reginald Robinson Lee was a lookout aboard RMS Titanic. At the time Titanic collided with the iceberg he was on duty in the crow’s nest. He and fellow lookout Frederick Fleet were the first people to see the iceberg.
He was born in Benson, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom on 19th May 1870. His parents were William and Jane Sarah Lee.
He started his career at sea in 1887. He served as an Assistant-Paymaster in the Royal Navy; being placed on the Retired List of that rank on 1st February 1900. Amongst the previous ships he had served aboard were the HMS Cordelia and the Atlantic Transport Line's Minnehaha. Just prior to Titanic he had served aboard Titanic’s near identical sister ship, Olympic.
With Titanic’s other six lookouts it was Reginald Lee’s job to stand in the ship’s crow’s nest high up the mast, to watch out for and report dangers ahead. He shared his watch in the crow’s nest with Frederick Fleet; they had to be on duty there for two hours at a time, with just a four hour break between each watch before doing the same throughout the day. Their time to be on duty was 4 to 6 and 10 to 12, both in the day and the night.
At 10pm on 14th April 1912, Reginald Lee and Frederick Fleet relieved Archie Jewell and George Symons from the crow’s nest. The order was passed on to keep a sharp lookout for ice. Around an hour and 40 minutes into an uneventful watch, suddenly the two men in the crow’s nest noticed an iceberg right in front of the ship. Frederick Fleet rang the warning bell and telephoned the officers on the bridge to warn them. In the crow’s nest, Reginald Lee could do nothing but watch as it was unsuccessfully attempted to avoid hitting the iceberg.
After Reginald Lee and Frederick Fleet had been relieved from the crow’s nest by Alfred Evans and George Hogg at 12am, Reginald Lee went to the starboard side of the Boat Deck to help to get the lifeboats ready to be lowered away from the ship. He was ordered into lifeboat 13, and survived the disaster upon that lifeboat.
After returning home to Britain after the disaster, he was amongst those who gave evidence at the British Titanic Inquiry.
Not that much over a year after the Titanic disaster, Reginald Lee, having completed a voyage aboard the Union-Castle Line’s Kenilworth Castle, arrived at the Sailors’ Home, Southampton. It was noted by the Sailors’ Home’s assistant-steward , Norman Ross, that he was breathing rather heavily, and later noticing he was a “trifle worse” had advised him to see a doctor. Reginald Lee died at the Sailors’ Home, Southampton on 6th August 1913. His death certificate notes his death as being the result of natural causes – heart disease, following pneumonia and pleurisy.
He was buried with his father, later joined by his mother, at Highland Road Cemetery, Southsea, Portsmouth.