ANZAC Centenary 2014-2018: Sharing Victoria's Stories

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WWI Stories – Egbert Lee


Mark Hallowell shares the story of his grandfather, Egbert Lee.

Egbert LeeEgbert was born in Melbourne (Fairfield) on 13 April 1889 and was 25 years old at the time of his enlistment. His father was a journalist and then later ordained as a Presbyterian Minister. Egbert spent time at Stawell where his father was the editor of the Stawell Times. Due to his father’s vocation, Ebert moved to Tasmania (Zeehan) at the turn of the 20th century. He later returned to Victoria to Numurkah and worked as a salesman in a general store. Egbert was one of four sons who all enlisted in WWI, and who all survived. Egbert’s brother Rupbert enlisted at the same time as Egbert and in the same 7th Battalion. Egbert had a passionate love of all things Australian, in particular Banjo Paterson’s poems which he could recite verbatim.

Egbert was my grandfather. I have very fond memories of him when I was child. He passed away when I was 14 years old and now as an adult I only wish that I could have spoken to him about his experiences, but unfortunately youth doesn’t provide those insights. My mother has collected a vast library of my grandfather’s war records including photographs. I’m grateful that my mother and the rest of my family had the foresight and sense of family history to preserve such important documents.

Egbert enlisted on 18 August 1914 into the 7th Battalion 1st AIF at Shepparton, Victoria. His service number was 383. Egbert departed for Egypt on the troopship A20 Horarata on 20 October 1914. We are unsure of his arrival in Egypt, although we have letters written to his parents from Mena Camp in Cairo on 15 February 1915 and also whilst at sea on route. Being a member of the 7th Battalion, Egbert was in the landings at Gallipoli on 25 April. His Battalion landed at Fisherman’s Hut and took very heavy casualties. Only 38 out of 140 men got ashore without injury.

The 7th Battalion also took some of the heaviest casualties at Lone Pine in August 1915. His close friend Alec Burton won a VC (posthumously) in this engagement. Egbert was repatriated after being admitted to hospital at Mudros on 21 October 1915 for Malaria. We have a photograph of B Company 7th Battalion of which Egbert was a member. Of the 12 soldiers, half were killed during the Gallipoli campaign. Egbert was later (luckily) repatriated back to Australia in October1916. Egbert brought an English wife back with him who unfortunately died of Spanish Influenza in1919. He remarried in 1920 and worked as a salesman for the rest of his life, passed away in January 1973.