George Vincent LEE-KIM MM

LEE-KIM, George Vincent

Service Number: 2441
Enlisted: 17 July 1916, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 59th Infantry Battalion
Born: Hong Kong , January 1897
Home Town: Bendigo, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Memorials: East Bendigo School, White Hills Arch of Triumph
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World War 1 Service

17 Jul 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2441, Melbourne, Victoria
25 Sep 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2441, 60th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Shropshire, Melbourne
25 Sep 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2441, 60th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
14 Aug 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 60th Infantry Battalion
29 Oct 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 60th Infantry Battalion
2 Sep 1918: Honoured Military Medal, Mont St Quentin / Peronne, Conspicuous services rendered and bravery in the field
25 Sep 1918: Transferred AIF WW1, Corporal, 59th Infantry Battalion
29 Sep 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 2441, 59th Infantry Battalion, Breaching the Hindenburg Line - Cambrai / St Quentin Canal, GSW (right shoulder)
14 Mar 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 2441, 59th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Military Honours Citation – 02/09/1918

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the operation on 30th August -5th September 1918.

On the 2nd September 1918 near Peronne when his platoon officer was rendered a casualty the NCO took charge of the platoon and although badly shaken he set a splendid example by his initiative and daring bearing in leading the platoon forward to its new position.

 Crossed out below this citation is typed -

Previously recommended in connection with operations on the 8th& 9th of August,1918. Not recommended for New Year Honours


The above citation was posted in the London Gazette on November 19, 1919 and refers to actions of Corporal George Lee Kim of Grassy Flats near White Hills a few miles from Bendigo. It states the Military medal was awarded for ‘Conspicuous services rendered and bravery in the Field’.

George Vincent Lee Kim was a young ANZAC of Chinese decent. His father William was a market gardener of some renown in the Bendigo district and had married an European women named Ellen. The Lee Kim family had been market gardeners on twenty acres at Grassy Flats that Ellen was granted under the Land Act in1892.

George’s enlistment papers states he was 19 years and 7 months, born in Hong Kong, single, a labourer and of the Church of England faith.  He gives his address as care of Mrs Grellis of Strickland Road, Bendigo. He enlists in Bendigo on July 17, 1916 and two days later transferred to the Company 38th depot which would have been the Bendigo Race course very close to George’s family farm.

Just over two months later on September 25, Private George and his company embark for war on the ‘H.T Shropshire’, landing in Plymouth on November 11, 1916. A journey at sea of 7 weeks. On arriving in England, George’s unit is sent to Hurdcott training camp a collection of huts located near the village of Fovant on the Salisbury Plains.  The area is famous for it’s chalk hills surrounding the camp a series of military badges was carved into the hillside by the Australian soldiers in training.

After a couple of minor AWL offences which many an Australian soldier fronted which usually resulted in punishment of days confined to barracks and loss of pay, George’s 15th training unit is sent to the channel port of Folkstone and they set sail for France on the Princess Clementine on New Years eve 1916.  

Landing in France and reaching the Australian staging depot at Estaples in Northern France, George’s war starts with hospitalisation for mumps on New Years Day, 1917. Recovered he is admitted to the 60th Battalion on February 17, 1917. 

Early in 1917, the 60th battalion participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line, but it was spared having to assault it. It did, however, defend gains made during the second battle of Bullecourt. Later in the year, the AIF's focus of operations switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium. The 60th's major battle here was at Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917. This assault was a success - a product of the systematic way in which the early actions during the third battle of Ypres were fought. (AWM site)

After 11 months of active duty in France, in October, 1917 George is appointed Lance Corporal and the promoted to Corporal on October 29.   

George’s battalion was at the front when the major German offensive on the Western front came in late March and as part of the 5th Division, the 60th moved to defend the sector around Corbie. During this defence, the 60th Battalion participated in the now legendary counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April. When the Allies launched their own offensive around Amiens in August, the 60th Battalion was amongst the troops in action on the first day. 

The 60th Battalion went on to take part in the strategic battles of Mont St Quentin, liberating the town of Peronne in the first days of September. It was here at this battle on September 2 that George’s bravery under fire is acknowledged and he is  recommended for his military medal.

By late September 1918, however, the AIF was considerably under-strength and one battalion in each brigade was ordered to disband to reinforce the other three. The 60th Battalion was so ordered, and the men mutinied. After being addressed by Brigadier H.E. 'Pompey' Elliot they complied with the order and the battalion disbanded on 27 September 1918. Their actions are indicative of the high regard in which Elliot was held, and of the high standard of discipline within the 60th; it was the only Australian battalion ordered to disband in September 1918 that did so. (AWM site) 

At the end of September 1918, George who is now in 59th enter one of the last strategic battles of the war. On the 29th of September in an operation mounted by the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, in co-operation with American forces, break through the formidable German defences along the St Quentin Canal. At this crucial battle, George receives a Gun Shot Wound (GSW) to his right shoulder and the war would be over for him. He is returned to England and admitted to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Whalley in Lancashire. The 59th battalion were withdrawn to rest on the 2nd of October and did not take part in any further action in the war.

The efforts of the 60th and 59th battalions in 1918 are recognised and honoured as being crucial in breaking the spirit of the German high command and brining the war to a rapid close in November.

George was to return to Australia on the H.T Mamari leaving England on December 21, 1918. As there were many soldiers returning at this time, there is no mention of George's return to Bendigo. It is not until November 1919, that George receives word of his citation posted in the London Gazette.   

Following the war, he marries Gertrude, however, the Bendigo Advertiser says that they divorce in October 1930.

George was to receive the Victory Medal and the British War Medal in 1923 and his name is immortalised along with the other 64 diggers on the White Hills Arch of Triumph.