Enlistment Address

Gilgandra, NSW

Service Number



24th Battalion,


Gilgandra Coo-ee


RTA May 1918


2nd Lieutentant John Robert Lee

John Robert Lee was 30 years old when he enlisted at Gilgandra and was 5’11”, weighed 10stone 7pounds (66kgs); he had a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark hair. His mother was listed as next of kin, Mrs J Sanders, Oliver Ford, Conrett, Durham England. His previous service was with the Gilgandra rifle club.

John was born in Lancaster Durham on October 19 1885, to coalminer James Lee and Jessie Watson. He was educated at public schools in Leadgate and Durham before attending Cliff College in Sheffield. He worked as a water works engineer for ten years and became a Methodist minister before coming to Australia in 1910, preaching at Yanco and Gilgandra.

When he marched off with the Coo-ees he had left the farm with 350 acres of ripening wheat. When the wheat was ripe, his neighbours moved in with 16 harvesters and horse teams and took it off, whilst others sewed the bags and carted the wheat to the silos for him.

John enlisted in Gilgandra on October 9, 1915 and marched to Sydney with the Coo-ees. As a former Methodist minister, he acted as their chaplain and as a skilled orator, he gave many stirring speeches. He embarked from Sydney with the 24th Battalion on October 30, 1916 on HMAT Argyllshire and disembarked at Devonport on January 10, 1917.

After further training In England he joined his unit in France on the Western Front on March 23, 1917. Early in April 1917 he was transferred to 21st Battalion where he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on May 17. He participated at Bullecourt and in the capture of Broodseinde Ridge. From October 1917 he was at the General Headquarters Gun School, then on leave until November 1917. A knee injury ended his time in France and he returned to Australia in May 1918. He remained in the Army as a Reserve Officer and worked with recruitment and training at Liverpool.

In 1927 he was elected for Drummoyne. He was Nationalist Whip from 1922 to 1927 and Minister for Justice from 1927 to 1930; in 1931 he joined the United Australia Party. From 1934 to 1937 he was also an Alderman at Drummoyne, serving as Mayor in 1936. He left the Assembly in 1941, and from 1940 to 1943 served again in the AIF, he assisted with recruiting and served as a staff captain with the Citizen Military Forces.

John Lee died in 1957. His wife survived him. John is commemorated in the Gilgandra Heritage Centre, the Cooee Memorial Gateway, and the Gilgandra Uniting Church.

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