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Hawkhurst veteran restores grave of Titanic lookout Reginald Robinson Lee

The grave of the man who spotted the iceberg which sank the Titanic has been lovingly restored by an army veteran on a mission.

Reginald Robinson Lee was the lookout on the ill-fated ship’s maiden voyage and telephoned the bridge to warn of the impending disaster.

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912

His resting place in Southampton had fallen into disrepair, leading Hawkhurst resident Steve Davies to restore it.

Mr Lee, who had previously served in the Royal Navy, reportedly warned his superiors "iceberg right ahead" to which the brief response was "thank you".

The Titanic sank early on April 15, 1912, in the north Atlantic, four days into her trip to New York.

Reginald survived but was found dead on August 6 1913 due to an enlarged heart following pneumonia and pleurisy.

Ex-serviceman Mr Davies uses professional cleaning liquids, water and a toothbrush to remove years of dirt and grime so inscriptions are again readable.

Steve Davies has restored over 600 graves over the last five years. Picture: Steve Davies
Steve Davies has restored over 600 graves over the last five years. Picture: Steve Davies

The 65-year-old, who served two tours in Northern Ireland in the 1970s with the third battalion of the Royals Green Jackets, brings back to life lost histories of Britain’s deceased servicemen. So far he’s restored more than 600 gravestones.

The dad-of-three first started five years ago after finding the grave of an 18-year-old rifleman killed during the First World War, just six weeks before the Armistice.

He said: “It makes me angry and upset that all these graves are not looked after and it means a lot to me to bring these stories back to life.

“I try to make them readable and look good again so the history is brought back to life. It’s a labour of love.”

He came across Mr Lee’s resting place by chance.

He explained: “I noticed it as I was walking past and was immediately drawn to it due to the Titanic background, which is very emotive.

The grave before restoration
The grave before restoration
After Mr Davies had brought the grave back to life
After Mr Davies had brought the grave back to life

"The headstone was hardly readable because of how dirty it was. Reginald was a surviving member of the crew and so was ostracised by society.

"For the Edwardians, the crew should have gone down with the ship to save as many women and children as possible, even though Reginald was a rower on one of the lifeboats.”

After he completes restorations, Mr Davies shares before and after pictures as well as the history of the deceased on social media where he is known as Military Grave Restorer.

He is sometimes commissioned to restore the graves by Op Nova and the Remembrance Trust but also takes money out of his own pocket.

His family set up a fundraising page to help support the projects which can cost hundreds of pounds each.

Of the sites he has restored, he has cleaned eight war memorials and the headstones of 47 Victoria Cross winners as well as the graves from a range of ranks.

Up next is a trip to Loch Morar in Scotland where the grave of SAS founder Sir David Sterling awaits.

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