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The search for a Kamloops WWI soldier will be expanding to China

Jack Gin, the chief finder in the Finding Frederick Lee project says volunteers will be heading to China to help find the nieces of the Kamloops born soldier to collect DNA to help identify Lee's remains.

KAMLOOPS - An organization searching for a Chinese-Canadian soldier who died fighting for his country in the First World War says they are getting closer to finding out more details of the Kamloops man.

Jack Gin, the organizer of the Finding Fred Lee Project, says gathering information about Lee is also about finding his family. Gin has connected with Richard Lee, the nephew of Private Frederick Lee who enlisted in the Canadian Army during a time when Chinese-Canadians faced discrimination by the Canadian Forces.

"Richard Lee is Fred's nephew," Gin says. "Richard told me when he was growing up he had a picture of the uncle he never met."

Richard Lee is the nephew of Private Frederick Lee.
Richard Lee is the nephew of Private Frederick Lee.

Private Lee was born in Kamloops to parents who immigrated to Canada from Sun Wei, China. He was one of approximately 300 Canadian soldiers of Chinese descent who served during the First World War. The Finding Fred Lee project was started to help find the story of a man who fought through barriers against his own culture in order to help defend his country in the First World War. Lee was killed in action at the Battle of Hill 70 on August 1917.

Not much was known about him, Gin says, but they are hoping to change that with their upcoming projects.

"We want to find out more about Fred Lee, we know he was a machine gunner during the war but we want to know how he died," Gin says.

It's been a year-long process of searching, but Gin says they will continue finding all the pieces to Lee's story. One way of doing that includes a trip to China.

"I met with the person in charge of identifying the remains of Canadian Soldiers in Ottawa," Gin says. "Last year they found four different remains from Hill 70 so they might have Fred Lee now."

Gin says they need the family's DNA in order to help identify the soldier remains currently in Ottawa.

"Richard is going to give me some of his DNA but the doctor says we would rather have the niece," Gin says.

Lee had five younger siblings — two of whom were sisters — who have most likely passed away, Gin says, but he is hoping that they had daughters.

"We need to know if the two nieces had daughters, so that's going to take (us) to China," he says. 

Gin says Elsie Cheung, the president of the Kamloops Chinese Freemasons will be heading to China for a three-month visit to help locate Lee's descendants.

"We are going to find this guy, and we are going to China," he says.

Gin says it's important to remember individuals like Lee who played an important part of Canadian history. For more information on the search for Private Lee, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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