Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to war hero born in Northern Ireland after RAF steps in to give him a fitting funeral

Harold ‘Lee’ Tracey in his RAF days
Harold ‘Lee’ Tracey in his RAF days
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Members of the public have been urged to attend the funeral of a lonely World War Two spy from Northern Ireland who has been spared a pauper's funeral.

Harold 'Lee' Tracey passed away on May 16 at the age of 93 after failing to recover from a debilitating stroke, but there was no next-of-kin to plan or pay for his funeral costs.

However, the RAF Association has stepped in to ensure Lee is given a proper military send-off tomorrow morning, prompting an outpouring of tributes on social media.

"Hope he gets a great send off," one Facebook user wrote as they saluted Lee's bravery.

"I hope he gets the turnout he deserves," another wrote.

Many others expressed regret that they only learned about Lee's tragic circumstances after his passing.

"Hope the military 'family' do you proud," one user added.

Born in Northern Ireland in 1926, Mr Tracey spent most of his childhood in an English orphanage after being given up for adoption within two years of his RAF officer father's death. He was just five years old.

Lee, who got a job with Kodak when he left, later described the place his mother sent him and his sisters as "terrible".

After joining the Air Training Corps, he joined the RAF in 1943 at the height of the war and quickly moved to work in intelligence, where he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

The cryptography expert served in Egypt, India and Iraq before leaving in 1947, but he continued to work in the field of intelligence for the rest of his life.

Lee, who married singer and actress Maria Wagg in 1961 following a whirlwind romance, went on to invent a number of surveillance systems including the Scanlock Harmonic Receiver.

The electronic device proved so successful that he quit working for the Government to become a freelance consultant before setting up his own company, Audiotel International, in 1978.

The firm, which remains a market leader in surveillance equipment, was sold in 1987.

Lee enjoyed a long and happy life with Maria, but he became lonely and isolated following her death in 2014.

The lifetime member of the RAF Association received support and companionship from the organisation which was able to introduce him to fellow RAF veteran Nick Nicholson.

The pair became pals and met on a regular basis, and the charity continued to provide financial support and short hotel breaks with other veterans.

Personnel from RAF Shawbury will carry his coffin to Emstrey Crematorium before a service at 11.30am tomorrow. Standard Bearers from the RAF Association's Shrewsbury Branch will attend with representatives of the local RAF Air Cadets and the Royal British Legion.

Members of the public have also been invited to pay their respects and express gratitude for Lee's life.

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