Cecil Harcourt Folder Lees

lees shot

irish times lees shooting

John Lees, from Cumnock, Ayr, was a soldier, then a civil servant (Irish Post Office, Usher to Black Rod etc) and became 1st baronet in 1804. His son, Harcourt Lees, born 1776, became a clergyman, was Rector of Kilany, Ireland, married 1812 Sophia dau of Col Thos Lyster of Grange, Roscommon; inherited the title in 1811; had four sons and 4 daughters (3 d. unm). Died 1852 The eldest son, Sir John 1816-92 married 1839 Maria Charlotte Sullivan and had 3 sons, 4 daus. His eldest son was named after his grandfather.

This second Sir Harcourt James Lees (1840-1917) was a bit of a lad. A Major in the Dorset Imperial Yeomanry., formerly Lieut. 60th Rifles. Married

lees divorce

1873 Jun 20. Born in France. Cecil Lees was son of the second marriage of his father, and is the baby that arrived 7 months after his fathers first divorce.

baptism C H F Lees

1874 Jan 31. Baptised the son of Harcourt James Lees and Harriet Ellen Constance Lees at Parish of St Mark, Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea

1900 Mar 1. In the Montmorency Scouts. He is on the nominal roll in Boer War "Lees, Cecil F. Tpr." He joined Montmorency's Scouts as a Trooper on the 1st March 1900

1900 May 10 he was discharged to a commission as Lieutenant in 1st Brabant Horse in the Orange Free State (Ficksburg district), 17 km north of Ficksburg. In late May 1900, the country between Hammonia and Ficksburg was patrolled by Brig-Gen E.Y. Brabant's Colonial Division which frequently clashed with burghers led by Cmdt C.J. de Villiers. On 2 June 1900 Lt-Gen Sir H.M.L. Rundle's 8th infantry division reached Hammonia from Ficksburg without opposition. And must have been taken prisoner within a few days

capture by boers

1900 May 28. Prisoner of Boers - Released on this date near Hammonia  in the Orange Free State, 17 km north of Ficksburg. In late May 1900, the country between Hammonia and Ficksburg was patrolled by Brig-Gen E.Y. Brabant's Colonial Division which frequently clashed with burghers led by Cmdt C.J. de Villiers. On 2 June 1900 Lt-Gen Sir H.M.L. Rundle's 8th infantry division reached Hammonia from Ficksburg without opposition. One assumes this was when and why he was released.

1900 Jun 3. He resigned from Brabant's Horse. The Medal Roll shows him entitled to South Africa Medal (Orange Free State)

This corps, strength 600 at it's height, was raised by Captain the Honourable R De Montmorency, VC, 21st Lancers, in December 1899.  The corps lost their gallant leader in a skirmish near Stormberg on 23rd February 1900. It is said that he fired eleven shots after being mortally wounded.  Captain M'Neill, of the Seaforth Highlanders, who had been aide-de-camp to General Gatacre, succeeded to the command of the scouts on Montmorency's death.  After the British had crossed the Orange River in March, Captain Turner along with Captain Hennessy of the Police carried out a most gallant and fruitful piece of work When the Boers had been driven from the neighbourhood of the Orange, the corps took part in the operations for the relief of Wepener.  They were in the advance to the Transvaal, and were among the first troops to gallop into Pretoria. After Pretoria was occupied, Montmorency's Scouts were split up. 

1900 His first marriage was to Nellie Hayes (who was b1877 in France)

1904. After the Boer War he served in the South African Civil Service. The evidence points to him working in fingerprinting in Foreign Labour Dept. A Foreign Labour Department was established in 1904 to regulate the importation of Chinese mine labourers, as well as to monitor the treatment and implementation of conditions on the mines and in the compounds.

Extract from a report by Mr. W. Evans, Superintendent of the Foreign Labour Department, Johannesburg, on the arrival at Durban of Chinese labourers by the s.s. "Tweeddale." in June 1904. On the arrival of the ship she was boarded at the outer anchorage by the port health officer and my boarding officer .. During the three days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the 1,049 men were checked, their contracts were registered, their passports were issued to them, their marks of identification including finger prints, were taken and they were each photographed. The Foreign Labour Dept seems to have operated from 1904 to 1910

Some three years after the “Cape Chinese Exclusion Act”, similar discriminatory legislation was drafted in the Transvaal Colony. Although this was ostensibly framed for the “Asiatics”, its main concern was the ex-indentured and free Indian influx from Natal. It provided for the compulsory registration of all Asians, including fingerprints for the purposes of identification . This was followed by the 1907 Immigrants Restriction Act, the combined effect of which excluded all Indians who had not obtained domiciliary rights. This resulted in the passive resistance movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, and the separate but equally committed resistance by the Chinese led by Leung Quinn.

marriage cert C H F Lees

1904 Dec 16 married in Natal, South Africa to Frances Louisa Wegg (she died 1913 in South Africa). He describes himself as a widower, implying the earlier marriage. He was working as a civil servant at Jacob's Camp, the former British concentration camp outside Durban which was turned into a receiving depot for the Chinese. They were checked over by doctors before being sent by train direct to the mines on which they would be working. The huts at Jacobs Camp had originally been built as a concentration camp for Boer prisoners during the Boer War.

1908 Eldest child Kathleen Phyllis is born

1908 Sep 29. Daughter Stella born at Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa (she died 1984) (He appears to have had 3 children by his first wife)

1909 Third and last child Esme Francis is born

1913 his wife, Louisa Weggs Lees, died in South Africa

marriage cert Lees

1917 Jan 1. Marries for a second time to 28 year old spinster. Jeannie King Paterson in Pietermaritzburg. He is given as working as a Compound Manager. Correspondence over his joining the Chinese Labour Corps says "previously in Foreign Labour Dept, Finger Print Branch and believed in employment as compound manager"

1917-1919 Chinese Labour Corps. By the end of 1917 there were 54,000 Chinese labourers with the Commonwealth forces in France and Belgium. In March the Admiralty declared itself no longer able to supply the ships for transport and the British government were obliged to bring recruitment to an end. The men already serving in France completed their contracts. By the time of the Armistice, the Chinese Labour Corps numbered nearly 96,000. In May 1919, 80,000 Chinese Labour Corps were still at work.


The workers were tasked with carrying out essential work to support the frontline troops, such as building dugouts, repairing roads and railways, digging trenches and filling sandbags. Throughout the war, trade union pressure prevented the introduction of Chinese labourers to the British Isles. Sidney and Beatrice Webb suggested that the Chinese Labour Corps were restricted to carrying out menial unskilled labour due to pressure from British trade unions

1917 Feb 12. General List. C. F. Lees to be temp. Capt. Gazette (on this date he put himself "at the disposal of the War Office")

1917 Feb 25. Reports to Cape Town Dock for transport to England on "Miltiades"

1917 Apr 17 Joins Chinese Labour Corps in the field. An NCO who worked for him says that he was the "Identification Officer". He appears to have had previous experience in South Africa on finger-printing. And finger printing was used extensively as a means of identifying labourers in Chinese Labour Corps.

1917 Sep On leave in Paris

1917 Oct 6. Rejoins regiment from leave

1918 Feb 6. On leave in Paris

1918 Feb 21. rejoins regiment

1918 July 23 On leave in Paris

1918 Aug 8. Rejoins regiment

1919 Jan 6. On leave in Paris

1919 Jan 28. Rejoins regiment

1919 Jun 10. On leave in UK

1919 Jul 6. Rejoins regiment

1920 Mar 11 Demobilised in France at Noyelles Depot.

1920 Mar 11 Temp. Capt. C. F. Lees (Chinese Lab.) relinquishes his commission on completion of service, and retains the rank of Capt. Gazette . His Protection Certificate describes him as "Widower" on this date!

specially employed

1920 Jun 23. South African government tries to trace him as he has "left his children unprovided for"

1920 Jul 15. Commissiond into General List, specially employed

1920 Jul 26 LG gives him as specially employed and to be a temp Capt while so employed. He reported to Hill-Dillon,

1920 Nov 29 Army List, General List. Lees C H F (Capt. ret) (Spec Empld) 16 July 20

1921 Mar 29. Shot by Collins Squad, said to have been brought in from Asia. The Straits Times reporting his death observes that he was formerly of the Chinese Labour Corps. He does not have a CWGC grave.

He appears in at least 3 Witness Statements, but as often with Witness Statements, it is difficult to be sure who carried out the operation.

WS 0486 from Daniel McDonnell

We did a number of trailing and "following-up" jobs on various people and also did other work some which failed and some that did not, fail. One particular individual I was after was a Captain Cecil B. Leedes (Sic). Before he came to Dublin he was, apparently, a Chinese Labour Corps Commander, and he was taken over here for the one purpose of inflicting his methods of getting information on our people, which were primarily diabolical.. I don't know exactly what they were, but I believe they were pretty terrible, i.e. the removal of finger nails, etc. I discovered him and where he lived through a contact of ours, as we had a lot of contacts with hotel waiters, boots, etc. This famous genius, contrary to his kind, lived in a Temperance hotel, St. Andrew's Hotel, Exchequer Street Dublin. I soon learned that his general habit of going out was between 9 and 9.30 every morning. I also learned from our own Headquarters that his methods were getting, cruder and cruder, within and they would have to be stopped.

It was a difficult thing to plan in the first instance because of the proximity to Dublin Castle and of the proximity to "F" Company and the Auxiliaries. The chief of the Squad came along with me, saw the layout of the place where this man was. He saw the man himself he was about 6'3" in height. All the members of the Squad came in not once or twice but at least four or five times before they decided on the method to be adopted in disposing of this individual. Two members were detailed for the actual disposal of Leedes. Four members covered him off from the rear in case anybody should interfere with him and four more covered him off at Drury Street and four more at South William Street. I mention this because it gives a general idea of how any particular job was carried out. We dispersed along Drury Street, William Street, Stephen's Green, back down Merrion Square, Holles Street, down the Quays, eventually across the ferry to the north side of the city. This again gives a general description of the dispersals of this kind

WS 0631 from Bernard C Byrne

Captain Cecil Lees shot on 29th March, 1921. It was believed that Captain Lees had been on Intelligence work out East and the British Government felt that he would be an excellent man for Intelligence work in Ireland. He came here with a very high reputation, being regarded, I believe, as an ace Intelligence Officer. Because of his reputation our Headquarters were very anxious that he should be dealt with as soon as possible, and the Intelligence staff had some hectic days and nights endeavouring to locate him. Several times they thought they had him, bat, in fact, they had lost him completely for a period of about a fortnight prior to his actual execution. Wherever Lees is now, he is probably aware of the fact that he was most unfortunate. On the Sunday night before he was shot, Tom Keogh and I were in the dress circle of the Scala picture- house, and just prior to the commencement of, the programme a lady and gentleman proceeding to their seats were caught in the beam of the projector. Keogh nudged me and said, "I think that is Lees". We decided we would keep a watch on this gentleman, and, whether he was Lees. or not, find out where he was living. After the show was over we followed him and found that he was staying in St. Andrew's Temperance Hotel in Wicklow Street. Without discussing the matter with Intelligence or with any other members of our own Squad, we decided that we would take up our positions on the following morning at about half- past nine, because we were aware that that was the usual time for Lees to report to the Castle. Keogh succeeded in rounding up Bolster and Mick O'Reilly, and the four of us met at the appointed time. Bolster and myself were detailed to do the actual shooting. Lees appeared without any undue delay, and, as he was already known to me, there was no need for any further identification. He was accompanied by a lady, but we had no interest in her.

We opened fire on Lees immediately, and he fell mortally wounded. The Intelligence people were slightly alarmed when they heard of the shooting in the city. It was only around mid-day when Keogh reported back and told them who the victim was that their peace of mind was restored. Up to that time there had been much speculation lest perhaps some of our people from the country had been fired upon. As I have already said, Lees was unfortunate, because roughly about three weeks before his actual execution our Intelligence people had given him up as lost as far as they were concerned. They firmly believed that lie had left the country, and were it not for our visit to the Scala picture- house he would have escaped. Lees knew that we were on his track, as the following incident will show. In our earlier efforts to get in touch with Lees we had made several fruitless visits to the vicinity of St. Andrew's Hotel, and it is possible that some suspicion would explain why Lees had disappeared for the period already mentioned. An incident which would support this belief occurred one morning when Keogh and myself were giving the hotel just a casual once-over in the hope that we might find Lees there. Because of the fact that members of the Squad had been on the scene in comparatively large numbers for more times than was normal, only Keogh and myself were there on this occasion. We had taken up our observation point in the International Bar, and Keogh, by virtue of his tall figure, was in a position to observe what was happening in the street without any undue craning of neck or other activities which might have attracted attention to us in the a public-house.

We had been there for some considerable time, and in fact had almost forgotten Lees and our mission, when suddenly without any preliminary notice or indication of his intentions, Keogh exclaimed, "Come on quick", and without any further ado he disappeared like the proverbial greyhound through a side door leading into St. Andrew Street. I did not wait to argue, but followed as quickly as I could My progress was anything but dignified, because Keogh's long legs left me at a very serious disadvantage. We made our way through Commercial Buildings, over the Metal Bridge and back to base, 100 Seville Place, without any further incident. It was only then that Keogh condescended to explain to me the reason for our hurried departure. He told me that the military had surrounded the area enclosing the St. Andrew's Hotel, but fortunately excluding the International Bar, where we were.

WS 0434 from Charles Dalton

Arising out of a letter which had been intercepted in the course of post by one of Collins's sorters, the location of the writer, Captain Cecil Lees, was discovered. Captain Lees had not been in Dublin very long when he wrote the letter (reproduced in facsimile in Piaras Beaslai's "Michael Collins") to a friend of his in the War Office, indicating that he had been in touch with Major S.S. Hill Dillon, District G.S.0., Intelligence Branch, Dublin District, Royal Barracks. From the nature of the text it was clear that Captain Lees was a British Secret Service Agent engaged in the preliminary surveying of prospects for the murder of Irish leaders. This communication was sent to the Director of Intelligence for his instructions and was returned with the Comment: '"oggs" him'. This was the code word for the immediate execution of Captain Lees. I and other Intelligence officers, with members of the squad, took up positions each morning endeavouring to intercept Lees leaving his hotel, and on one such morning when he left at an early hour, I think about nine o'clock, he was shot on his way to the Castle.

1921 Mar 30. An army court of inquiry in Dublin found that he had been murdered, but adds nothing to our knowledge of what Cecil Lees was actually doing

Thornton's Witness statement says he was on Hill Dillon's staff and was active in Intelligence in the Dublin area.

There is a reference to his death in "Last Days of Dublin Castle "Tues 29 March One of O's (note - this is Ormonde Winter, chief of Intelligence) people a Capt Lease (note - sic, but obviously is Lees, and notes to the book say Lees), was murdered this morning in Wicklow St. It seems too ghastly to be even thinking of peace making with this sort of thing going on" Clearing indicating that Lees was "secret service" if he worked for Winter.

1921 Apr 2. His coffin arrives at Euston Station.

1921 Apr 4. buried at Streatham Park Cemetery in London. There are a number of CWGC graves there South London Crematorium and Streatham Park Cemetery, Rowan Road, London SW16 5JG. His grave is 10057 Square 5 which is a private grave owned by Captain John Ivor Lees. Also buried in the grave is Montague Arthur Fleming Bull aged 39, one wonders at what the connection was between the two men, if any.

No actual original will turned up. There was much correspondence over it. His brother claimed to have an original but said he would not let the War Office see it. In the end the War Office declared that there was no will and that the widow in South Africa should get a pension and any estate of Cecil Lees.

Cecil was engaged to be married to a French woman at the time of his death. A Miss Annette Wolff living in Paris. Things got a little complicated as she claimed that he was divorced and was going to marry her, and furthermore was leaving everything to her. Her letter to War Office.

He still had wife in SA at Government Schools, Maneerton, Natal, later at Luloma, Mtunzini, Zululand. She gets a pension of £140 per year, plus £36 per year for each of the three children. He appears to have told his second wife that he was born in Ireland. The South African High Commission confirmed that there had been no divorce. Jean King Paterson Lees went on to have one child, Brian Austin Lees born in 1923 in South Africa, given the name Lees, even though Cecil Lees could not have been the father, and this man's son, Dave Lees say that his father "was exceptionally cagey about his father whenever questioned, and the only information I ever got from him was the name Cecil Harcourt Lees. " Apparently Brian Austin Lees used the surname Austin as a child because she never acknowledged that she was his mother, he thought she was an aunt.

A letter from his mother was sent to the War Office wanting information

His brother also writes to War Office claiming his effects. The copy will furnished by his brother gave a suitcase to his fiancee a Miss Annette Wolff, 13 Rue Parrott, Paris

He was undoubtedly the heir to the Baronetcy of his father. In fact his younger brother later inherited the title. The Lees Baronetcy, of Blackrock in the County of Dublin, was created in the Baronetcy of the United Kingdom on 30 June 1804 for the soldier and politician John Lees. Lineage

The younger brother was involved in the tussle over the will then became the heir on the death of Cecil Lees.


British Intelligence Dublin Castle

This cannot be Cecil Lees, but another FingerPrint man