Fallen Soldier. Forgotten Hero.

Uncovering the legacy of a Chinese-Canadian hero

Who is Freddy Lee?

Frederick Lee was born into a respected Chinese Canadian family whose members had originally immigrated from Sun Wei county near the city of Guangzhou, China. Among the very first Chinese to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) of the First World War, Lee was one of only 300 or so Canadians of Chinese descent who served. Lee subsequently fought at Vimy Ridge and later vanished, likely annihilated by artillery after seeing victory in the Battle of Hill 70.

Why he matters

Why do the forensics on a fallen soldier, a private, lost in battle more than 100 years ago, whose remains have never been found matter?

In the Spring of 2017, Mark Hutchings of the Hill 70 Memorial Project came out to Vancouver to seek help from the Chinese Canadian community. His mission, to complete the build of a monument that honours the Canadian Corps who fought at the Battle of Hill 70.

This name, Fred Lee, is etched into a Vimy Ridge wall of names of some 10,000 other lost Canadians who fought in WW1. Yet Fred Lee, while a typical example of our volunteer soldiers, was thought to be different. He had Chinese parents, and he was able to enlist at a time when racism was rife in Canada and especially in British Columbia.

How was he able to enlist, and go unnoticed as a soldier of Chinese descent for 100 years?

Retired Colonel Mark Hutchings, explained the significance in "nationhood" as a result of the stunning victory by the Canadians at Hill 70. The Canadian Expeditionary Force led by General Arthur Currie were magnificent in battle and became known as "shock troops". These troops were comprised primarily from volunteers, from coast to coast, from all walks of life and from all ethnicity.

A walkway at the Hill 70 Memorial in France named after Fred Lee, would represent our "strength in diversity" and the patriotic duty in service of all the volunteer soldiers who made up the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

Canada's very first army, comprised of volunteers from coast to coast, would have a memorial walkway named after the very first fallen Canadian soldier of Chinese heritage.

Why does he matter?

Because Fred Lee is more than an example of patriotic volunteerism. At a time when he became of age, he would have been denied the right to vote, to participate in activities Canadians take for granted, to work in certain professions, to exist in certain parts of towns, Fred Lee served. And he served well. He took whatever life handed him, and he excelled, doing his part to bring Canada into nationhood.

His story unfolding will make you cry. And 100 years after his death, his story continues to unfold.

Jack's journey begins

But who was Fred Lee? If we are to honour a lost soldier, who's remains have never been found, should we try to find out more about him?

Every single lost dead soldier came from a family. Honouring this lost soldier would also honour his family. And in the case of Fred Lee, his family, would have to be a pioneer family since there were so few Chinese women allowed into Canada at that time in history.

Do we know who is father was? "No link to his father, and his mother appears to have been in China," was what we heard.

Who was his next of kin? "No living relatives from what we can see," was also heard.

Finding a living relative would be a "needle in a haystack" was the advice given.

Simply put, Finding Fred Lee was "Mission Impossible".

But to Jack, these answers gave him motivation to search the truth. In life, Jack has a history of accepting challenges. And this one in particular sparked his curiosity, so he set off in search of Frederick Lee and drove to Kamloops BC in his campervan.

This is where our journey begins.

Our mission and objectives

Our mission is simple. We want to "find Fred Lee". We want to discover his past, his family's history, his effort as a Rocky Mountain Ranger, his work in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, his victory at Hill 70 and his human remains as a DNA match with living relatives today. In summary, we want to know everything about Fred Lee's past, present and future.

The imminent future will see his name honoured in France, at Hill 70 beside the town of Lens. But his past has already connected the dots to some of Canada's most significant historical events: the Gold Rush, the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Chinese Head Tax, WW1, the Chinese Exclusion Act and WW2.

Our goal is to complete the full story of Frederick Lee by focusing on three main objectives:

  • To raise funds for The Hill 70 Memorial Project to help the funding of the Frederick Lee Walkway.
  • To find his true life story and trace the full extent of his family across two continents.
  • To create awareness and educational resources for schools and communities across Canada.

Our dream is to find the nieces and nephews so that they may take a stroll on the Frederick Lee Walkway towards the cenotaph at Hill 70 where their Great Uncle Freddy's soul remains lost.

We need help!

Help us uncover Fred Lee's legacy.

Fred Lee is lost. Buried since WW1. Forgotten, until now.

  • We want to find his remains.
  • We want a DNA match.
  • We want to find his 7 brothers and sisters.
  • We want to find his living nieces and nephews who do not know their Uncle Fred.
  • We want to discover Fred Lee's story.
  • We want to know the journey of his pioneer family ... from Gold Rush to World War to present day.
  • We want to help fund and build the Frederick Lee Walkway.

Sign up for news, events and updates.

 

How can you help?

Get involved today by:

  • following our journey of discovery;
  • sharing our mission to your networks;
  • inviting Jack to your events to speak;
  • contributing your family history or stories;
  • offering your skills as a researcher and interpreter;
  • donating to the Fred Lee Memorial Fund ... to help build the Frederick Lee Walkway at Hill 70, fund research and educational resources; and,
  • getting your name on the Fred Lee Honour Wall.

Visit our Wall of Honour which recognizes the generous financial support and/or volunteer time and resources provided by the public.

 

We are all volunteers. To donate, please send a cheque payable to the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society. Please clearly state on your cheque that all funds to be earmarked: *100% Fred Lee Memorial Fund.

Chinese Canadian Military Museum

555 Columbia Street (2nd floor)

Vancouver, BC, V6A 4H5

*All donations go 100% to the Fred Lee Memorial Fund as administered by the registered Canadian Charity, The Chinese Canadian Military Museum.

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Freddy Lee Found in France ?

His photo, his bench and his walkway … but not Frederick Lee.  Not yet.  We have succeeded in honouring the Kamloops Kid at where he was killed in action.  His photo amidst the poppies.    The Frederick Lee Walkway … and the Frederick Lee Bench remind us of his journey and his contribution to his […]

Update: Finding Fred Lee & The Hill 70 Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 24, 2018 Update on National Commemorative Project to Honour Chinese Canadian Soldier The Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society, Philanthropist Jack Gin and The Hill 70 Memorial Project Team announce update to fundraising and overall tribute effort for Frederick Lee Vancouver, BC – Three Canadian organizations, the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society, Philanthropist […]

Honour for one Dead Soldier…

Honour for all who fought at Hill 70 From their base in Kingston, Ontario, the volunteer team did the “411” on Frederick Lee. “Regrettably very limited in scope and does not point to any living next of kin.” No father, no mother, no trace of family. But they presented a photo from the battle scene, […]

bg-hero

Who was Freddy Lee?

Frederick Lee, killed in action, 21 Aug 1917 His name is etched at the Vimy Ridge Memorial for fallen Canadian soldiers. But records show him on a list of 1877 dead soldiers from the Battle of Hill 70, located 15 kilometres away. This was a “forgotten battle” of WW1, the Great War that saw millions […]

CBC News

‘A remarkable battle that was largely forgotten’: Hill 70 memorial set to open in France Park commemorates Canadian soldiers who died in lesser-known battle not far from Vimy Ridge Briar Stewart, Chris Corday · CBC News A group huddles around a collection of large black-and-white portraits strewn across a table at the armoury in Kamloops, […]

Vancouver Sun

Canadian veterans turn to Vancouver’s Chinese community to help fund Hill 70 war memorial in France By Chuck Chiang Canadian veterans looking to build a memorial in France dedicated to one of the most significant battles of the First World War are hoping the story of a Chinese-Canadian soldier who died in the 1917 clash […]

Kamloops This Week

Honouring a Kamloops hero of Hill 70 By Adam Williams Frederick Lee was a Canadian hero. On a hill standing 70 metres tall, just outside the town of Loos, France, Lee and 100,000 other Canadians won what would one day be considered one of the most important battles of the First World War — the […]

Infonews.ca

Kamloops’ lost son: The mystery of WWI soldier Frederick Lee By Kim Anderson Officials want to honour a 21-year-old Kamloops man who fought and died in what many call a pivotal WWI battle. A Chinese-Canadian soldier named Frederick Lee survived the Battle of Vimy Ridge but was killed in the Battle of Hill 70. Now, […]