LEE, Walter Ashton
(Service number 3656A)
|Aliases||Known as Ashton|
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank|
|Date||13 June 1898||Place of Birth||Temuka|
|Date||26 June 1917||Age||19 years|
|Address at Enlistment||Brookstead, via Pittsworth|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mr Walter LEE (father), Brookstead, via Pittsworth, Queensland, Australia|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 4½ inches. Weight 112 lbs. Chest measurement 31-34 inches. Complexion medium. Eyes blue. Hair brown. Free from scrofula; phthisis; syphilis; impaired constitution; defective intelligence; defects of vision, voice or hearing; hernia; haemorrhoids, varicose veins, beyond a limited extent; marked varicocele with unusually pendent testicle; inveterate cutaneous disease; chronic ulcers; traces of corporal punishment, or evidence of having been marked with the letters D. or B.C.; contracted or deformed chest; abnormal curbature of spine; or any other disease or physical defect calculated to unfit him for the duties of a soldier. Can see the required distance with either eye. Heart & lungs healthy. Free use of joints & limbs. Not subject to fits of any description. Dentally fit. Fit for Active Service.|
|Served with||Australian Imperial Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||10th Reinforcement|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||52nd Battalion|
|Date||31 October 1917|
|Embarked From||Sydney, New South Wales, Australia||Destination||Devonport, England|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||52nd Battalion, Australian Infantry|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||24 April 1918||Age||19 years|
|Place of Death||Villers-Bretonneux, Somme, France|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Adelaide Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux, Somme, France|
|Memorial Reference||I. F. 27.|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall (2015 additions to the Tiimaru Memorial Wall); Temuka War Memorial; Temuka District High School Roll of Honour; Opihi College Roll of Honour (created by David Ellena, 2015); Australian War Memorial; Pittsworth (Queensland) Memorial School of Arts Memorial Tablet|
Walter Ashton Lee, known as Ashton, was the only son, indeed the only child, of Walter and Bertha (née Davis) Lee, formerly of Temuka, later of Queensland, Australia. He was born on 13 June 1898 at Temuka, South Canterbury, and was educated at the Temuka District High School. In fact, young Walter Ashton Lee was not of school age when he was first admitted to the school. He met with success from the outset, however, being placed first in Preparatory 1, Upper, when he was only 5½ years old. He was also awarded a 2nd class certificate for Attendance. The following year, in Preparatory 2, he received an Attendance Prize and 1st class certificate. At the annual entertainment in aid of the prize fund of the Temuka District High School in December 1905, Ashton took part in the group recitation of “Baby’s Troubles”, which elicited a very heart round of applause. At the prize distribution a week later, he was again rewarded for first Class Attendance. An Attendance Prize and first-class certificate came his way again in 1906, by which date he was in Standard I. And in 1907, which was to be his last full year at Temuka, he was awarded yet another Attendance 1st Class Certificate (Standard II). When the family moved to Queensland in 1908, Ashton continued his education at Pampas State School.
His father, Walter Lee, was a slaughterman at Temuka, perhaps in conjunction with his brother Joseph’s butchery business. Joseph Lee and his father, Edward, visited Queensland in 1907 and, favourably impressed, took up land on Darling Downs and set about winding up their business affairs at Temuka. A presentation was made to Mr E. Lee, a Temuka resident held in high esteem and whose departure was much regretted, in January 1908 when he was about to leave Temuka. Messrs J. and W. Lee also spoke on this occasion – Joseph and Walter, his sons and the fathers of the servicemen who were go to war with the Australian forces. The health was proposed of Messrs J., R. and W. Lee, sons of Mr Edward Lee. Mrs Lee was bade farewell at a gathering arranged by the Ladies Guild and choir of St Peter’s Church in May 1908 as she prepared to join her husband in Queensland. On 27 May Mrs Edward Lee and Mr and Mrs Joseph Lee and family left Temuka for Queensland. Walter and Bertha and their young son Ashton may have already left for Queensland. Three generations of the Lee family had been valuable members of the Temuka community. Having suffered the effects of drought, Mr Edward Lee and some of his family intended returning to New Zealand in early 1912, but he was to die in Queensland in August 1912. Mrs E. Lee returned to New Zealand in February following and lived for some years with her son Rufus at Temuka. In 1921 a presentation was made to Mrs E. Lee, one of the oldest members of the Temuka Parish Church, and “still a consistent and ardent worker for it”. A Temuka Leader article, of 24 January 1924, recalling the arrival of the Victory in March 1866, Mr and Mrs Edward Lee among her passengers, mentioned that Mrs Lee was still at Temuka, “hale and hearty”. She too returned to Australia where she died in 1934. Brothers Walter and Joseph Lee engaged in wheat-growing in Australia, and in 1917, when their sons were preparing to go and serve at war, they harvested a record crop of wheat off their St Ronan’s (Queensland) property.
Walter Ashton Lee, who had just celebrated his nineteenth birthday, was one of ten men who offered their services for the Australian Imperial Force in June 1917. All were accepted, nine of them single and one married. Ashton enlisted at Brisbane on 26 June 1917, at which time he had been working as a carter in the employ of Mr C. T. Bickerton, a storekeeper, for a few weeks. Both Mr and Mrs Walter Lee consented to his application to enlist, as he was under 21 years of age. He was single, of Church of England affiliation, and living at home. Young and of very slight build, Ashton was 5 feet 4½ inches tall, weighed 112 pounds and had a chest measurement of 31-354 inches. His complexion was medium, his eyes blue and his hair brown. He was free of any diseases and deformities. He could see the required distance with either eye. His heart and lungs were healthy. He had the free use of his joints and limbs. He was free of all diseases and defects which may have rendered him unfit for the duties of a soldier, he had been vaccinated in infancy and he was dentally fit. He declared that he was not subject to fits of any description. Thus he was fit for Active Service. He nominated his father – Walter Lee, Brookstead via Pittswoorth, Queensland – as his next-of-kin. Prior to entering camp, he intended to spend a couple of weeks with his parents at Brookstead.
Walter Ashton Lee, 3656, took the troop train from the Queensland A.I.F. camp on 28 October 1917 and embarked with the 52nd Battalion of the 10th Reinforcement, leaving from Sydney, New South Wales, on 31 October, per “Euripides”. Having disembarked at Devonport on 26 December he was to spend time at Codford with the 13th Training Battalion, until he proceeded overseas from Dover to France on 1 April 1918. He marched in and, joining his unit (52nd Battalion) at Calais on 4 April, he was taken on Strength in the field. Private Lee, 3656, was allotted the letter “A” to his Regimental Number. Less than ten months after Ashton had enlisted and after not three weeks in the Field, Mr and Mrs Walter Lee received the sad news that their only child had met his death in action. The information was carried in Casualty List No 404 which was issued from the censor’s office at the end of May. Walter Ashton Lee was killed in action on 24 April 1918, at Villers-Bretonneux, Somme, France. He was just nineteen years old. He was buried in Adelaide Cemetery, Villers-Bretonneux, where a Memorial Cross was erected. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Mrs E. Lee, Temuka, received word in late May 1918 that her grandson, Ashton Lee, had been killed in action on 24 April 1918 in France. An old Temuka boy, he was the only son of Walter Lee, Brookstead, Queensland, and had been only a very short time in France. Ashton was not yet twenty years old. In November 1918 Mrs E. Lee received a letter advising that a second grandson, Leonidas (Lennie) Lee, had been killed in action in France. Walter Ashton Lee was a cousin of Leonidas Lee. Sidney Lee, another cousin of Ashton, served with the Australian Forces; and Gordon Rufus Lee, of Temuka, also a cousin, served in World War II.
The Will which was signed by Private Walter Ashton Lee, 3656, 10th Reinforcement 52nd Battalion, on 4 October 1917, was lodged with the Officer in Charge Base Records upon embarkation for active service abroad. It stated simply “In the event of my death I give the whole of my property to my mother Mrs Bertha Lee of Brookstead via Pittsworth Queensland.” In June 1918 an inventory and package of the effects of Walter Ashton Lee were sent from the A.I.F. Kit Store in London to his father – YMCA Wallet, Letter, Photos, Cards, Metal Mirror. The next month Walter Lee followed up on his earlier request for a Certificate of Death of his son. In 1921 Walter Lee advised a change of address for himself and Mrs Bertha Lee, to Pampas, Queensland. On 12 July 1921 Walter Lee, Pampas acknowledged receipt of Memorial Scroll and King’s Message in connection with the late No. 3656A Pte W. A. Lee. On 10 November 1922 the Memorial Plaque was acknowledged and on 19 June 1923 the Victory Medal. The British War Medal and the pamphlet “Where the Australians Rest” were also sent.
In 1922 Mr Lee contacted the authorities to get the Grave number for his son as the original communication had been destroyed before he could record the number. The grave numbers had been reallocated but there was no change in burial site. The first photos received on 26 October 1921 had depicted a temporary memorial. The permanent headstone would be inscribed with the soldier’s correct regimental number, rank, name, unit, date of death, and personal inscription, but it was not practicable to include the Battalion colours as Mr Lee had requested. It appears that Private W. A. Lee had been exhumed and reinterred. Walter Lee died suddenly on 3 July 1938 at his home, Denby, Brookstead. He had gone from Temuka, New Zealand, thirty years ago and settled with his father and brother Joseph on the Yandilla Estate. The partnership was dissolved on the death of Mr Lee senior, and thereafter Walter successfully carried on wheat and sheep farming. He was survived by his widow, Bertha, who died in 1955.
An Honour Board to the memory of those soldiers who, in their boyhood, had attended the school at Pampas, was unveiled in early 1920 in the presence of a large number of relatives and residents of the districts. Reference was made to the willingness with which the boys of Brookstead and Pampas had volunteered to fight for Country, King, Freedom, Honour and Right. Six of the twelve boys who had attended the school had paid the supreme sacrifice, among them Ashton Lee and his cousin Leon Lee. The Honour Roll was a very handsome one, manufactured at a cost of £12/13/7. Eric Lee, a cousin of Ashton, had subscribed four shillings to the Roll. Mr A. C. Krieg, Chairman of the Pittsworth Shire Council, gave 10 shillings towards the cost of inscribing the names of L. P. Krieg and Ashton Lee on the Memorial tablets. Mr Krieg was probably a neighbour of the Lees.
The Roll of Honour erected at the Temuka District High School to perpetuate the memory of the ex-pupils of the school who lost their lives in the Great War, was unveiled in June 1921 in the presence of a large gathering, comprising nearly all the pupils of the school and some hundreds of adults. Proceedings commenced with the singing of “O God our help” and the saying of the Lord’s Prayer. The chairman said “These men went forth to do battle for right against a strong and mighty foe, knowing that they might not return to their own again. It was therefore our duty as fellow citizens to do something to keep their names ever green in our minds and hearts.” The names of two of those men who went forth, are Private A. Lee and Private L. Lee.
Fourteen months later the Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled before a very large gathering in the domain, including Temuka Territorials and Cadets, Temuka and Geraldine returned soldiers, the Temuka Pipe Band, the Salvation Army Band, the children of the district schools, national and local dignitaries, and local folk. Opening proceedings, the Mayor said “We regret that this occasion has arisen, but having done so we must look back with pride at the actions of those who rose to the call of the Motherland, which was in peril. Many of those brave boys who left these shores did not return, and we have erected this memorial to their memory, . . .” Following hymns and scripture readings, His Excellency the Governor-General formally unveiled the monument and the local M.P. read out the names inscribed thereon.
The names of Walter Ashton Lee and his cousin Leonidas Lee were heard regularly at Anzac Day commemorations at Pittsworth, Queensland. At the evening united public meeting in 1930, Mr J. W. Shaw said that they had gathered together to to pay tribute to those who had won a priceless reputation for Australia. Before reading the names, the Rev. Tunstall said that it was the aftermath of the Great War that confronted them that day. The Rev. Bean moved a motion of sympathy with the relatives of those who died, and with those who had suffered on behalf of the Empire, and recorded the assurance that those who had fallen, and those who had survived the perils of War, would ever be remembered with gratitude. Several hymns were sung, and the anthem “Lest We Forget” by a combined choir, and a collection was taken up for the Pittsworth Soldiers’ Memorial fund. In 1931, the school children and citizens placed wreaths at the Memorial Tablet at the Pittsworth Memorial School of Arts, where the citizens had gathered for the ceremonies. L. Lee and Ashton Lee are two of those who lost their lives and whose names appear on the tablet. The same list of names – all soldiers from the district who made the supreme sacrifice - was read in 1933, after addresses and wreath-laying during the day, and resolutions of sympathy and loyalty and the sounding of the “Last Post” at 9 o’clock in the evening. Similar commemorations were held in 1937, one minute’s silence being observed and the “Last Post” sounded after the reading of the names of the fallen soldiers from the district. Anzac Day 1939 drew a large crowd to the public meeting. Again numerous wreaths were placed around the marble Memorial Tablet. The main feature of the day was the unveiling of costly War Memorial Stained-Glass Windows at St Andrew’s Church of England. St Andrew’s was one of the most beautiful and picturesque churches in Queensland. The windows were a memorial to all the men and women of the Pittsworth district who gave service during the Great War. In 1943 Anzac Day fell on Easter Sunday, which drew large congregations to the churches. The Star Theatre was also full for the public commemorations. A procession comprising members of the Returned Soldiers’ League, V.A.D, A.W.A.S. and W.A.A.F. was headed by the Toowoomba Pipe band. An explanation was given to the children of how the word “Anzac” first came into use 28 years ago. And there were added to the memorial the names of soldiers who had fallen in World War II, which list had grown by 1944. In an address to the children, the speaker said that “it was a privilege for them to pay homage to the daring exploits and gallant deeds of the men who fought in the great struggle of 1914-1918. The men whose deeds they commemorated fought that war to end war, but unfortunately their hopes had not been realised.” The Pittsworth branch of the Fathers’ Association entertained 350 ex-servicemen and women at luncheon at the 1947 Anzac commemorations, a function which had been inaugurated in 1946 and proved very successful and popular. The fallen soldiers were again honoured at a public meeting. The 1949 Anzac commemorations were memorable and reflected the march of time. At Pittsworth the Stone of Remembrance and a plaque inscribed with the names of the second World War fallen were dedicated and unveiled. The names of the fallen from both wars were read as the Last Post was sounded. “Their bodies lie over many quarters of the globe. Their honoured memories remain with us for all time. It is for us to treasure and honour them.” And at the 1950 Anzac public ceremonies, the traditional resolution of loyalty was moved. The residents of Pittsworth desired to express their admiration of the self-sacrifice, endurance and heroism of the men and women who served in the two world wars.
Ashton Lee is honoured, his name being on the Timaru Memorial Wall (LEE W. A.), the Temuka War Memorial (LEE A.), the Temuka RSA Roll of Honour (LEE A.), the Temuka District High School Roll of Honour (Lee A.), and the Opihi College Roll of Honour (created 2015) (W A LEE), and on the Australian War Memorial, and the Pittsworth (Queensland) Memorial School of Arts Memorial Tablet.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [26 April 2015]; Australian Imperial Force Attestation Paper (National Archives of Australia) [09 August 2014]; CWGC [07 May 2014]; Paul McNicholl's list of additional names for the Tiimaru Memorial Wall (August 2013); NZ Birth registration (microfiche held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [09 August 2014]; Temuka Leader, 19 December 1903, 24 December 1904, 9 & 16 December 1905, 15 December 1906, 21 December 1907, 9 January 1908, 28 May 1908, 15 August 1911, 13 February 1913, 1 May 1913, 6 February 1917, 18 & 25 June 1921, 12 August 1922, 24 January 1924, Timaru Herald, 28 May 1908, 29 May 1918 (Papers Past) [01 December 2015; 27 September 2019; 01 October 2019]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch) [09 August 2014]; Daily Standard, 27 June 1917, 29 May 1918, The Brisbane Courier, 27 June 1917, 18 July 1917, 28 & 29 May 1918, Toowoomba Chronicle, 25 May 1918, Darling Downs Gazette, 30 May 1918, The Week, 31 May 1918, Cairns Post, 6 June 1918, Pittsworth Sentinel, 10 March 1920, 15 May 1929, 30 April 1930, 29 April 1931, 29 April 1933, 28 April 1937, 26 April 1939, 1 May 1943, 30 April 1944, 29 April 1947, 26 April 1949, 28 April 1950, Queensland Country Life, 14 July 1938 (Trove) [03 November 2014; 30 September 2019]; New Zealand & Australian Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au); Queensland BDM Indexes (Queensland Government) [09 August 2014; 29 September 2019]; Paul McNicholl's list of additional names for the Tiimaru Memorial Wall (August 2013)
- Walter Ashton & Leonidas LEE - newspaper clippings 1930-1950 (pdf, 13.7 MB updated 10-Oct-2019)
- LEE - Leonadis, Sidney & Walter Ashton - newspaper clippings (pdf, 1016.9 KB updated 11-Feb-2020)
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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