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, of several soldiers, one of whom looked Asian. Was that good enough to present as the possible Private Frederick Lee? Why would these folks in Kingston be so keen to present this unknown soldier with the Chinese surname?

They were part of the Hill 70 Memorial, a project started by volunteers, all keen and driven to complete a project about a forgotten battle that they deemed of significance in Canadian history. The very first battle in war comprised of only Canadian men led by a Canadian general, executed with impressive brilliance that overwhelmed the enemy, where the French had failed and the British had failed, and the result of which was a quiet acceptance of the “Canadians” as having an impressive army, its own identity and then its own seat at Versailles where nations would pen a treaty, and where Canada actually graduated from being a “dominion” of the British Empire to a de facto nation of its own.

We learned that this was Canada’s “war of independence” where instead of fighting against the empire, you fought with the empire. And while the Canadians had no motivation for independence, it just happened. And we can historically look back to this battle site, known as Hill 70.

To honour one soldier is to honour them all …

This lost soldier, a private from Kamloops, a farmer, a volunteer with a Chinese surname, an example of our strength in diversity, he would represent all the soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) who fought in victory and died at Hill 70.

Well and good, I thought. Honour this dead Hill 70 soldier because he has a Chinese surname. 100 years after disappearing and being forgotten, Frederick Lee’s name had resurfaced for a purpose. Diversity and inclusion, modern day words, were in fact a core characteristic of the Canadian Expeditionary Force of 100 years ago.

A “Frederick Lee Walkway” was proposed. And I thought, whoever this Frederick Lee was, he deserved to be known as more than just a name.

To honour him, we had to know who he was.

I would become the first person in 100 years to go looking for Frederick Lee at his hometown of Kamloops, BC.

Copyright Jack Gin 2018

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