The great British actor Sir Christopher Lee has died in London aged 93.
Lee has been referred to in some circles as the most prolific actor of his generation, racking up 281 film and TV credits. But he is best known, to a generation of British film fans, for playing Dracula, in a slew of Hammer Horror films in the 1960’s and 70’s.
But what many people do not know, is that Christopher Lee was a real war hero and genuine bad ass. He was a member of the precursor to the SAS and commanded the Gurkhas.
Forces.tv reports his military and other massive achievements…
Today it was announced the most prolific actor in motion picture history, the on-screen legend that was Sir Christopher Lee, passed away in hospital after a lengthy battle with heart problems.
Known and forever remembered as an icon of the silver screen, his past achievements in front of the camera cement his place in Hollywood and British film industry folklore. Some of his greatest accomplishments, however, were collected not on stage, but on the battlefield during World War II.
Christopher served with distinction throughout WWII
Little known facts about Sir Lee’s service for the Army and RAF will escape many major news broadcasters and tabloids around the world today, but his distinguished career in the British military and the Special Air Service, will be recognized.
“I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like.”
Christopher Lee first enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940, where he worked as an intelligence officer specializing in decoding German ciphers. He was then posted to North Africa where he was based with the precursor of the SAS, the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). While leapfrogging from Egypt across Tobruk to Benghazi, Lee moved behind enemy lines from base to base sabotaging Luftwaffe planes and airfields along the way. After the Axis surrender in 1943, Lee was seconded to the Army during an officer swap scheme, where he officiated the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Infantry Division during The Battle of Monte Cassino.
When pressed by an eager interviewer on his SAS past, he leaned forward and whispered:
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Yes!” the interviewer replied, breathless with excitement.
“So can I.” replied a smiling Lee, sitting back in his chair.
After working with the LRDG, Lee was assigned to the Special Operations Executive, conducting espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers. For the final few months of his service, Lee, fluent in several languages including French and German, was tasked with tracking down Nazi war criminals alongside the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects. Of his time within the organisation, Lee said “We were given dossiers of what they’d done and told to find them, interrogate them as much as we could and hand them over to the appropriate authority.” Lee then retired from the RAF in 1946 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.
“I’ve seen many men die right in front of me – so many in fact that I’ve become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise we would never have won.”
Although his service records remain classified and Lee himself was reluctant to discuss anything about his service, after his retirement he’d been individually decorated for battlefield bravery by the Czech, Yugoslav, British, and Polish governments. He was also on personal terms with Josip Broz Tito, presumably after their mutual involvement with the Partisan resistance movement (widely cited as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe).
Tall and talented: 10 reasons why Sir Christopher Lee is a legend:
• Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming’s cousin, serving alongside him during the war.
• At 6’5” tall, Sir Christopher’s imposing stature made him one of the tallest actors in the world.
• He was introduced to Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the assassins of Grigori Rasputin, whom Lee was to play many years later.
• Fluent in six languages including French and German.
• Participated in more on-screen sword fights than any actor in history
• He was a descendent of Charlemagne
• Christopher Lee released a heavy metal hardcore symphonic power metal concept album about Charlemagne when he was 88 years old.
• He volunteered to fight for Finland in the Winter War prior to WW2.
• Saw the Nazi concentration camps first-hand
• He was an opera singer.
Sir Christopher Lee continued working almost up until his death, featuring in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies which was released last year and he still has two films in the can, waiting to be released.
Rest in peace Christopher Lee, you deserve it, if that’s what you are really doing.