Christopher Lee Was A WWII RAF Badass – 6 Things You Might Not Have Known
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After 93 years of dominating the planet with his deep voice and commanding 6’5″ stature, Sir Christopher Lee passed away on June 7, 2015. In those 93 years, he made it big as an icon on the silver screen, but he was so much bigger than even that. In fact, his real life was more epic than any role he ever played (274 of them to be exact).
Here’s 6 facts that make him the most interesting man of all time:
6. He Was Briefly (Almost) A Pilot
Hold on, how the heck did a 6’5″ guy even get in a plane? It seems pretty obvious that this wasn’t something that was going to last, but Christopher Lee certainly tried to make it work.
He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940 and trained with de Havilland Tiger Moths. Just before he was to have his first solo flight, he was diagnosed with a failure of his optic nerve that caused him headaches and blurred vision. Devastated, he was told he would never fly again.
5. War (And Swords) In His Blood
Lee. Hmm. That’s a familiar last name. Lee’s father happened to be a distant relative of General Robert E. Lee and had served as Colonel in the 60th King’s Royal Rifle Corps in WWI and the Boer War.
Perhaps this had something to do with why Christopher mastered the art of fencing? His champion fencing skills became quite useful in his film roles, but probably came in handy while serving his country in WWII as well.
4. He Also Volunteered To Fight In The Winter War
Backtracking to before he tried to become a pilot, Lee was still a teenager when he offered himself up to the Finnish Army to fight in the Winter War. He was given winter gear, but he and all the other British volunteers were posted to guard duty far from the frontlines.
The stint was brief and he soon returned home. With WWII on the horizon, that’s when Lee chose the RAF.
3. Intelligence Officer Of The Long Range Desert Group
Since he couldn’t be a pilot, he applied to join the RAF Intelligence to “do something constructive for my keep.” He became an intelligence officer in the Long Range Desert Group, a special forces group that performed up to 5 missions a day.
This was an eventful time for Lee – he helped retake Sicily, prevented a mutiny thanks to his expertise on Russia, got malaria six times, and even climbed Mt. Vesuvius just days before it blew its top off.
2. By 25, He Was A Member Of The Super Secret “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”
Even though he became an actor, Lee knew when to keep his mouth shut. We’ve been dying to know exactly what kind of sabotage, espionage, and reconnaissance Lee was up to against the Axis powers with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), but he took those secrets with him to the grave and his files are still sealed. (The organization was informally called the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare).
“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.”
– Christopher Lee
1. Lee Released A Full Heavy Metal Album At 88 Years Old
When you’re as much of a badass as Christopher Lee , it’s only natural that you would also happen to have an incredible opera-trained voice and make a heavy metal album when you’re 88. Charlamagne: By The Sword and the Cross earned Lee a “Spirit of Metal” award. He followed up with a heavy metal Christmas album.
We could keep going on about how he spoke six languages, did his own stunts, starred in a movie he refused to say any of the script in (he hissed and yelled instead), and got the king of Sweden’s blessing to marry Henriette von Rosen and then decided not to marry her after all…but everything else is quite enough to process. What a guy!