This blog comprises the World War One account of Gunner Godfrey Lincoln Lee (1884-1968). After the war, Lincoln, as he preferred to be known, prepared a typescript from the diary-like letters he had written to his first wife, Mary Catherine Lee (nee Allen). Blog entries will be made on (or close to) the 100 year anniversary of each diary entry.
Lincoln Lee enlisted on 22 August 1916, and departed New Zealand on 2 April 1917 as part of the 23rd Reinforcements, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He fought in Western Europe until the end of the war, serving in the 15th Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery. Lincoln’s main task as a soldier was to transport ammunition, typically on donkeys, from reserve dumps up to the front-line guns. He arrived back in New Zealand on 30 May 1919.
Lincoln’s account begins three days after he boarded the troop ship SS Corinthic, and ends the day he returned home. It is as much an account of travel as it is of war.
This blog aims to share, for those who are interested, Lincoln’s account at a time of 100 year anniversaries and widespread remembrance of World War One. (Inspiration for the blog came from an interview on Radio New Zealand of Tim Thorpe, who has been tweeting daily extracts 100 years to the day from the diary of his great uncle, William McCaw). The blog editor, John Hutton, is Lincoln Lee’s grandson, through his only child Belinda Hutton (nee Lee) from his second wife, Elizabeth Loe.
Lincoln had wanted to publish his account in the 1960s, but publishers then felt there wasn’t sufficient interest to make it worthwhile. If there is sufficient interest in the blog today, Lincoln’s descendants would consider publishing the diaries more formally.
Comments on the blog, and particularly historical information relating to Lincoln’s wartime experience, are welcome and indeed invited.
Lincoln Lee was effectively a second generation New Zealander. His mother, Fanny Thompson Gully, was the daughter of John Gully, the watercolour artist. Fanny was born in England but emigrated to New Zealand as a young girl in 1852. Lincoln’s father, Robert Lee, emigrated to New Zealand in 1863, and was a Wellington-based educator. Thus when Lincoln travelled to Europe in 1917 to fight, he was taking his first overseas journey, as were many other New Zealanders who went with him. His account reads as someone who identified as being ‘English’ (or identified with an idealised English culture), but for whom England was a foreign country.
Unfortunately, the original letters Lincoln wrote to his first wife have not been retained, which would have allowed comparison with the typescript published here. As Lincoln states in his hand-written Forward (reproduced below), the original ‘diary’ was twice the length of the typescript. The family nevertheless holds an earlier version of the typescript, which shows some editing for readability, but not significant changes.
Lincoln dedicated his wartime account to his lifelong friend, Warwick Wilson, who served with him. The dedication can be read here.
The original “Forward” to Lincoln Lee’s type-script (1965)
Walk March or Bill Massey’s Tourist
In its original form, this diary, typed direct from my letters to my first wife, was twice its present length. In the forty five intervening years I have deleted much personal and trivial matter, hoping that in its present form it may prove of general interest. Many of my friends have found it so. With mounted troops, “Walk March” is the equivalent of a “quick march” with infantry. “Bill Massey’s Tourists” was a name we gave ourselves. Our artillery badges of “Ubique” and “Quo fas et gloria docunt” are traditional. There was no doubt about “Ubique” and I trust we did something to uphold the other.
Lincoln Lee, Auckland 1965
Note – “Ubique” (‘everywhere’ in Latin) is the motto of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. It appears in a scroll on the 1911 New Zealand Field Artillery badge, above a cannon and beneath a crown. “Quo fas et Gloria docunt” is a motto meaning ‘Where right and glory lead’, and is also used on New Zealand Field Artillery badges.
Note – many of the photographs published on this blog, including the above, have been digitally restored by Richard at Pixelfix, whose work has been much appreciated.