Tag Archives: John R. Lee

John Robert LEE

John Robert LEE

Lieutenant J. R. Lee (Sydney Mail, 3/3/1920)

Lieutenant J. R. Lee (Sydney Mail, 3/3/1920)

Per his military service record (Lieutenant) John Robert Lee was born at Lancaster, Durham, England. He gave his age as 29 years and 11 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as water engineer. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 11 ½ inches tall, weight 10 stone 7 lbs., with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. His religious denomination was Methodist. He claimed to have previous military service with the Gilgandra Rifle Club. He completed his medical on the 7th October 1915 at Gilgandra, and was attested by Captain Nicholas at Gilgandra on the 9th October 1915.

On the Coo-ee March Private Lee was made an acting Quarter Master Sergeant in the travelling committee of control appointed for the Coo-ee March at Stuart Town, with Major Wynne as chairman, Captain Hitchen, Mr H. T. Blacket, and Acting Sergeant Stephens as Secretary, during a visit by A. H. Miller (Secretary), and C. H. Richards and P. J. MacManus, from the Gilgandra Recruiting Committee.[1] In this role he was a recruiting speaker on the march.[2] He gave many of the recruiting speeches on the march from Gilgandra to Sydney.

John Robert Lee had been brought to Australia by the Methodist Home Missionary Society in 1911, and he was sent initially to Leeton, where he established the first Methodist church in that town.[3]  The Rev. J. R. Lee had been appointed a probationary clergyman at Gilgandra in 1913, but following his transfer elsewhere after this 12 month appointment, he had resigned from the ministry to take up farming near Gilgandra in 1914, where he remained a lay preacher, before joining the Coo-ee March.[4]

The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate reported on ‘his powerful recruiting speech’ at Dubbo:

‘He said that the “Coo-ees” were deeply sensible of the warm-hearted receptions they had been accorded so far, and they hoped that there would be hundreds of them by the time they reached Sydney. They hoped this idea of Captain Hitchen’s would be an inspiration to the young men all along the route. Personally, he was glad to do what he could to get Australia to realise the seriousness of the situation and the obligation of service… “The  ‘Coo-ees’ are after men,” cried Mr. Lee, “and we want you. There never was a time when your country more needed you. I hope every young man will realise the position as Hitchen’s ‘Coo-ees’ realise it…”. [5]

After completing the Coo-ee March he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

Sergeant-Major Lee was a recruiting campaigner for the State Recruiting Committee on the ‘Wallabies’ and ‘North Coaster’ recruiting marches in December 1915 and January 1916.[6]

He applied for a commission in the Australian Imperial Forces on 10th July 1916, after completing a course at the Officer Training School at Duntroon on 20th June 1916.

He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant, and was posted to the 17th Reinforcements for the 24th Battalion on 25th July 1916.

On his embarkation roll his rank was 2nd Lieutenant, and his address at time of enrolment was Gilgandra, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his mother, J. Sanders, Oliver Ford, Conrett, Durham, England.

2nd Lieutenant Lee departed Sydney on the HMAT A8 Argyllshire on 31st October 1916 with the 17th reinforcements for the 24th Battalion, bound for England.  He disembarked at Devonport on 10th January 1917.

He was taken on strength of 24th Battalion in France on 23rd March 1917.

He was transferred to the 21st Battalion in France on 2nd April 1917.

He wrote in a letter dated 15th April 1917 to the editor of the Gilgandra Weekly:

“… when I joined the battalion (21st) about two months ago they had had a fair innings for a time and were due for a spell. Nevertheless, was able to join in the trot on the heels of the Hun through Bapaume and villages near by. Began to think by the rate Fritz was falling back that we had started on that long last route march to Berlin, only it was a little bit different to that good old Western trail from Gilgandra to the sea…”.[7]

He was promoted to Lieutenant on 17th May 1917.

Lieutenant Lee attended the General Headquarters Gun School from 3rd to 8th September 1917.

He went on leave to England on 20th October 1917, and returned from leave on 3rd November 1917.

Lieutenant Lee injured his knee on 23rd November 1917, whilst the Battalion was training undertaking a football match at Locre, Belgium.

On 25th November he was admitted to the 14th General Hospital at Boulogne in France.

On 30th November 1917 Lieutenant Lee was evacuated to England on H.S. St. David, and admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital with a dislocation of his right knee.

On 12th March 1918 he began his return to Australia on the troopship Kenilworth Castle.

He arrived in Sydney on the HMAT Kanowna on 24th May 1918.

His appointment was terminated on 22nd June 1918.

[1] ‘Our soldiers’, The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, 26 October 1915, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77601552

[2] ‘Sergt-Major J. R. Lee’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 19 November 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108047436

[3] ‘Personal’, Spectator and Methodist Chronicle, 19 November 1915, p. 1618, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154174538

[4] ‘The Gilgandra March’, The Methodist, 20 November 1915, p. 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155442595

[5] ‘The “Coo-ees” arrival in Dubbo’, The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, 15 October 1915, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77601264

[6] ‘Route Marches’, The Sun, 26 November 1915, p. 8,  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221913106 ; ‘The Marches. Wallabies start’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 1915, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15630157 ; ‘The Federal Elections’, Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser,  28 November 1918, p. 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article134142941

[7] ‘Lieutenant J. R. Lee’, Gilgandra Weekly,  22 June 1917, p. 22, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108453939


Ernest SIMPSON (aka C. A. SIMPSON)

Ernest Simpson (aka C. A. Simpson)

One of the men who lined up to join the Coo-ee March at Gilgandra has been listed as “C. A. Simpson” on the Cooee March Memorial Park gateway in Gilgandra, and in the book The Coo-ee March by John Meredith (1981).

Simpson was incorrectly named as “C. Simpson” in a photo published in the Daily Telegraph (pictured on left below), which possibly lead to the incorrect initials being assigned to him.


Paraded for medical inspection … (left to right): Messrs. C. Simpson, C. Finn, C. Marchant, and J. R. Lee (Daily Telegraph, 11/10/1915)

An article in The Farmer and Settler (19 October 1915, p. 3) reported that ‘In addition to the men sworn in at Gilgandra and at towns en route, the great march column numbers: … Simpson, temporarily unfit, but hoping to pass the doctor in Sydney’.[1]  Further down the same page is reported: ‘One of the men marching to Sydney has failed to pass the doctor. He waited for three weeks in Gilgandra, paying his own hotel expenses, and then when he stripped off for the medical inspection he was “turned down” for hernia. He is physically the strongest man that has offered, and, is otherwise “as sound as a bell”. He intends to march to Sydney, undergo an operation upon arrival, and submit himself again’.[2]

A chance review last week of a document held in the official correspondence from the march held in the Mitchell Library, which lists an “E. Simpson” with a period of enlistment from “9/10 to 11/11/15” with other Coo-ees still waiting for payment for their period of service who had been rejected as medically unfit on arrival at Liverpool Camp,  has enabled his identity to be established.[3]

Knowing the correct initial for his first name, and that he had actually enlisted,  allowed for his service record to be located on the National Archives of Australia website. He is listed under the name Ernest Simpson, joining on 9th October 1915, at Gilgandra. He was born in Horsham, Victoria, and gave his age as 33 years, and his occupation as labourer. There are no details entered for his description on his medical certificate form in his service record papers.  His next of kin is listed as his father, Duncan Simpson, Renmark, South Australia.

On the ‘Detailed medical history of an invalid’ form in his service record dated 17th November 1915 at Liverpool, he was found by the medical board to have a double inguinal hernia, and to be unfit for military service.  He was medically discharged on 29th November 1915.

[1] ‘Route March notes’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October, 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116648915

[2] ‘Failed to pass the doctor’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October, 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116648912

[3] The Alex Halden (Joe) Miller papers mainly relating to the Gilgandra Coo-ee Recruitment March, New South Wales, 1912-1921, 1939, MLMSS 5081


Day 1, Sunday, 10th October, 1915, Gilgandra to Balladoran

The start at Gilgandra (Daily Telegraph 12/10/1915)

The start at Gilgandra (Daily Telegraph 12/10/1915)

Transcribed from The Farmer and Settler, 12 October, 1915, p. 3.


Gilgandra’s greatest of all events, the start of the route march, became a fact of history on Sunday last, when the contingent after a simple religious ceremony stepped out on its long march to the coast.

On Saturday, when the ‘Farmer and Settler’ special reporter, who will march to Sydney, arrived at Gilgandra, he found Captain Nicholas and Drs. Burkitt and Cooper, of Dubbo, on the ground. Captain Nicholas has been appointed to take charge of the contingent, and be will be their leader and instructor all the way through to Sydney.

On Saturday afternoon twenty-five recruits were sworn in. Two failed to pass the doctor, but they will march through to the coast nevertheless. The number of recruits would have been double if the recruiting association had not been compelled to wait so long for the permission of the military authorities, the result being that many men grew tired of waiting, and went into camp. The doctor said that the Gilgandra men were as fine a body of recruits as he had seen, with good feet and sound constitutions. On Saturday night a torchlight procession paraded the town, headed by the band. The recruits were followed by the rifle club and the boy scouts. In the interval of a picture show, Major Winn, of Sydney, and Private Lee, the ex-clergyman recruit, made special appeals to the young men to volunteer.

There were fully three thousand persons, almost the whole population of the district, at the open-air consecration service on Sunday morning, when the Rev. W. Jenkins commended the men to their Creator.

The shire president, Mr. Barden, said he was sure that the twenty-five starting out would be five hundred at the end of the long march. Almost the whole of the people, the largest gathering ever seen at Gilgandra, accompanied the march to Boberah, where a general programme of hand-shaking took place. A guard of honor of young horsewomen   rode at the head of the procession, and the local recruiting association and shire councillors took part. Captain Nicholas formed up his little force — grown already to thirty-one men; and Mr. W. T. Hitchens had the honor of giving the first words of command–‘Quick march.’ Amid resounding cheers the route march had begun, and it was followed for several miles of its long journey, by a great cavalcade of horses and vehicles. Then there was a halt, with more good-byes, more cheers, and the rifle club fired a parting volley.

The heat was intense, and the dust hung over the troops like a pillar of cloud — a fiery cloud, so that when the first stop, Marthaguy, was reached, all were grateful for the lunch spread by the residents, and not less for the facilities provided for a wash and a freshen up. At Marthaguy one new recruit fell in. Many of the Gilgandra folk still followed the column. The young daughter of a prominent citizen left her car and marched alongside the men for some distance; she announced her intention of being present in Martin Place at the finish, and declared that if she had been a boy she would have marched all the way, and gone to the front with the contingent. It is a pity that some of the boys have not the spirit of the girls.

Patriotic sons of the West. A 320 mile march (Sydney Mail 20/10/1915)

‘Patriotic sons of the West. A 320 mile march’ – Coo-ees on the road to Balladoran (Sydney Mail 20/10/1915)

At Balladoran the townspeople met the column a mile out of town and escorted them to their camp with banners, and gave them a hearty welcome. The camp was reached at five o’clock, and here another recruit joined the column.

Following are the names of the first twenty-five to enlist:–

John Quinn, John Macnamara, Stanley E. Stephens, Jack Hunt, William L. Hunt, Albert W. Pearce, Leslie W. Greenleaf, Arthur C. Finn, Francis N. White, Alfred Wardroffe, Victor Quinton, William Alston, Sidney Bennett, John R. Lee, Harold Baxter, Charles R. Wheeler, E. T. Hitchen, James McKeown, James Crowford, Charles E. Marchant, Andrew J. MacGregor, Lawrence L. McGuire, Robert C. Campbell, Peter Wilson, and Frank Humphrey.’

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116668904