|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||26 June 2019|
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
|Copying Provisions||Copy provided for personal non-commercial use|
The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1630A) Driver Wallace Douglas Lee, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on (1630A) Driver Wallace Douglas Lee, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.
1630A Driver Wallace Douglas Lee, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, AIF
DOW 29 October 1917
Today we remember and pay tribute to Driver Wallace Douglas Lee.
Wallace Lee was born in 1896 to William and Margaret Lee in Bungendore, New South Wales. Known to friends and family as “Wallie”, he attended Bungendore Public School. After leaving school he worked as a labourer in the district. Before enlisting in the army, Lee had served in the 11th Light Horse Troop in Bungendore for 11 months.
In August 1915, Lee enlisted in the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment. His older brother Sidney also joined the Light Horse, and in November the people of Bungendore met at McAlister’s Hotel to farewell the young men. After a toast to the health of the King, the two brothers were presented with silver watches.
A few weeks later, Lee embarked from Sydney on the troopship Persic. He arrived in Egypt at the end of December, just as the Australian and New Zealand troops were being withdrawn from Gallipoli to training camps in Egypt. At this time, due to a successful recruiting campaign at home, the Australian Imperial Force doubled in size. With their valuable riding skills, many Light Horse troops were mustered to other duties, especially artillery. Lee was one of these men, and he became a horse driver in the 9th Battery of the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade.
Lee trained with the artillery for three months in Egypt before sailing for Marseilles. From there the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade moved to the Somme sector. Lee’s first experiences of warfare were of bombarding the German trenches at Fromelles in early July. His battery engaged in counter-bombardment, targeting the German artillery after it had fired. The 3rd Brigade moved away from Fromelles before the infamous battle there that cost so many Australian lives. Lee and the rest of his brigade marched west to the town of Albert.
From July to the end of the year, the 3rd Artillery Brigade supported infantry actions in the north of France, moving towards the border of Belgium. As a driver, Lee was in charge of a six-horse team attached to an 18-pounder gun. Firing high explosive and shrapnel shells, Lee’s gunner team provided covering fire for infantry advances, and also attempted to destroy German fortifications.
The Australian guns were often the target of German artillery or aeroplane bombing raids. In August 1916, a German aeroplane dropped seven bombs on the 3rd Brigade, which resulted in nine men killed and 39 wounded.
There were other challenges. As the summer months gave way to autumn, persistent rain turned the fields of Flanders into a sodden morass. The field diary of the 3rd Artillery Brigade records the severe difficulties faced by the men when moving the horses and heavy guns through the mud. Repairs and maintenance work were also impeded by the rain. With winter came snow that lasted well into April 1917.
In the summer months, Lee and his comrades marched into the Ypres sector in Belgium. By the end of July they were positioned on the Belgian coast north of the city. At this time, the British commanders launched an offensive aimed at pushing the Germans out of Flanders.
In September the men of the 3rd Field Artillery marched to a position ten kilometres west of Ypres. From there, they supported British and Commonwealth troops fighting their way eastwards towards Passchendaele Ridge. The offensive had initial successes at Menin Road and Polygon Wood, though at the cost of many casualties.
For the first half of October, Lee and the 3rd Field Artillery moved to a rest area away from the front line. There the men spent two weeks on daily training that involved cleaning and servicing the guns. For Lee, it also meant cleaning the horse harnesses and exercising the horses. During this period, the fine weather ended, and a heavy rain set in. The rain created deep mud in the Ypres sector that severely slowed the advance of the artillery.
On 22 October, as the 3rd Field Artillery struggled back to the front line, Lee was struck by shrapnel and wounded on his horse. He was taken to the First Canadian General Hospital in Etaples where he died of his wounds a week later, on 29 of October 1917. He was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery in France, alongside nearly 11,000 Commonwealth soldiers. He was 21 years old.
His grieving family engraved his headstone with the following epitaph: Too far away
Your grave to see
But not too far
For our memory.
Driver Wallace Douglas Lee is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Driver Wallace Douglas Lee, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Historian, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1630A) Driver Wallace Douglas Lee, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War. (video)