Harold Ambrose (Sonny) LEE

LEE, Harold Ambrose

Service Number: 4893
Enlisted: 4 November 1916, Cairns, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 31st Infantry Battalion
Born: Cooktown, Queensland, 1893
Home Town: Cooktown, Cook, Queensland
Schooling: Cooktown State School
Occupation: Mineral Water Manufacturer
Died: Died of wounds, France, 31 August 1918
Cemetery: Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, France
Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Daours, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

4 Nov 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Cairns, Queensland
7 Feb 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4893, 31st Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
7 Feb 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 4893, 31st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Wiltshire, Sydney
31 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4893, 31st Infantry Battalion, "The Last Hundred Days"

Private Harold Ambrose Lee

Harold Ambrose Lee, "Sonny" to his friends and family, was one of five children born to Margaret Lee (Kane) 1860-1945 and John Lee 1858-1935.

While little is know about John and Margaret's childhood, both were born in Galway Ireland and immigrated to Australia in their late teens/early twenties.

They settled in Cooktown, where their children grew up;

Theresa Bridget Lee (04 May 1886-13 Dec 1972), Henry Francis Lee (19 May 1888-30 Aug 1947), Mary Jane Lee (29 Jun 1890-09 Jun 1971), Pte. Harold Ambrose Lee (11 Sep 1893-31 Aug 1918), John Lee (02 Sep 1895-11 Sep 1895)

Margaret and John were ordinary Cooktown folk. Margaret was a mother who raised her children as Roman Catholics. John was a labourer, linesman, and miner.

Grief was not an uncommon feature in the Lee household. Baby John died at 9 days from febrile convulsions.

Whilst money was not plentiful, the Lee's were and honest working class family who would raise their children with resilience and character befitting those descendants who can proudly say 'they were born and bred in the North".

Perhaps it was patriotic calling to defend King and country that lead Sonny to enlist in the Imperial forces on 04 Nov 1916. Sonny and his father John were working together in the mines at Shipton's Flats at the time. Sonny was 23. He joined the ranks of the 13th reinforcement of the 31st battalion and on the 7th February 1917 sailed from Sydney on the 'Wiltshire' to Devonport, England. He was never to return home.

In his records it is stated that in July 1917, Sonny suffered form mumps and was placed in isolation in Hurdcott for nearly a month. By mid October 1917 Sonny having recovered was shipped to front lines in France. Like many men on the front he would suffer form diarrhoea and bronchitis. His life at the front would be marked with periods of loneliness and isolation followed by the horrors of the War - death, destruction, mud and deafening noise.

The 28th August 1918 was Sonny's last day at the front. It began at 8am with orders given for Sonny's battalion to move forward and maintain touch with the 30th battalion. At 9.15 am they moved towards to village of Fourcaucourt in accordance with direction of company commanders. At 5.30 pm the advance was still coming. A Coy - Sonny's division would capture 8 prisoners in front of Belloy-en- Santerre. At 8 pm the troops halted and later recommenced movement to occupy Argonne Alley and later Belloy-en- Santerre. While troops found the ruins of Belloy-en - Santerre unoccupied , the woods were ' full of MG' who were very active. Perhaps it was here that Sonny received the gunshot wound to his left thigh and right arm. Perhaps it was from a gun of an enemy soldier no older than Sonny. These facts will never be known.

Sonny was admitted to the 15th Australian Field Ambulance only later to be transferred to the 55th Casualty Clearing Station on onto the 61st Clearing Station where he died on the 31st August 1918.

John and Margaret would never know the exact details surrounding Sonny's death. With drugs in short supply, his death is unlikely to be with dignity and comfort. Perhaps a young nurse or chaplain held his hand and prayed for him in his last moments.

John and Margaret would be informed that their son had died as a result of wounds received in action and that the utmost care and attention where possible to the graves of fallen soldiers. Sonny was buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension 2 3/4 miles west of Corbie. Photographs would be sent in due course .

The war would end on the 11th Novemeber 1918. The Lee family would welcome Sonny's comrades home, being grateful for their return. Their heart would ache for their son. Grief would be known in the Lee household again.
On the 21st May 1919 John Lee would take receipt of a parcel containing Sonny's personal effects from the field :
2 purses3 coins
1 knife
1 money case
1 Medal
4 religious medallions
1 silk handkerchief
1 metal watch and chain
a notebook
1 wallet
1 YMCA wallet
1 Shoulder strap

On the 30th October 1919 Charles Patchings - Cooktown's town solicitor would write to the Officer in Charge on behalf of Margaret Lee regarding her son's will. He would say that she is in need of the money and request any information to assist a grief stricken mother. Five months after this letter John would request whether 'my boy' had left any money in his pay book.

On the 11th May 1923 John would receive on behalf of this son his war medals.- The Victory Star and British War medals.

A memorial plaque would be organised by the family to mark Sonny's resting place.

Sonny would never marry, have children of his own or grow old. The pages of his life would be barely written upon.
By his family then and now - he is remembered .

A photo of Sonny was placed on the wall of his sister's home and remained there for all her life. Her children grew to know their uncle by the presence of his photo and the family stories that were told . The photo has been lovingly restored and has been handed down through family hands.
Some people exist in our lives for sonly a short time but live in the hearts and minds of their family for generations

Private Harold Ambrose Lee
Service No 4893 13/31 st Battalion WW1

Sonny - a son, brother, uncle - friend - a boy from Cooktown Queensland

Lest we forget

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