Frank Lee

Frank Lee was born August 9, 1925 in the town of Baldur, Manitoba.

He was the fifth of nine children born to Chinese immigrants Lee Foon and Yee See Lee. Frank’s family owned and operated the general store in Baldur which was known as Lee’s Food Mart.

When he was very young, Frank realized he loved to figure things out: take things apart and put them back together to see how they worked. He was destined to become an engineer.

Frank was a brave kid. After he turned 13, he travelled by train, on his own, to other provinces in search of work each summer.

Frank Lee soon after his enlistment in the Canadian Army

Shortly after he graduated from high school, Frank enlisted in the Canadian Army along with two of his brothers, Ken and Oscar. All three became members of Force 136, a clandestine army group that was trained and supervised by the British Special Operations Executive.

Frank Lee in front of his parents’ store in Manitoba

Trained in commando warfare and jungle survival, this specialized group of approximately 150 Chinese Canadians were assigned the dangerous job of secretly operating behind Japanese lines in South East Asia. Their mission would be to seek out and work with local resistance groups to spy on and sabotage Japanese equipment.

Frank was based out of India and was trained as a wireless radio operator.

Frank Lee in India

Parachuting was always a scary activity, but especially so for the wireless operator. Most jumpers dropped with a main chute and a spare chute. The wireless operator jumped with only one chute: he had to carry the wireless machine in the place where the spare chute would normally be mounted.

Frank was always extremely proud to be War veteran. And his willingness to serve and die for Canada, led to Chinese Canadians finally being granted full citizenship and the right to vote in 1947.

After the War, he returned to Manitoba and became the first Chinese Canadian to graduate with an Electrical Engineering Degree from the University of Manitoba.

It was during this time, that he met the love of his life, Corinne Barber, a young girl from the farm community of Elgin. They were married in June 1954 and eventually had four children.

Frank and Corinne moved to Vancouver where Frank started his career with BC Electric (now BC Hydro) and Corinne started raising their family.

Frank worked for BC Hydro for 30 years, and moved the family from Victoria, to Prince George, and then back to Burnaby. When he retired in 1985, the couple moved back to Victoria, built their dream home, and travelled extensively.

Unfortunately, shortly after their 50th Wedding Anniversary, Corinne became ill and passed away in 2009.

Frank kept busy after her death, playing bridge, volunteering and making many new friends at the Seniors’ Centre.

He passed away at home January 9, 2017. His family was by his side.

In 2016, Frank Lee stood next to an archival photo at the Chinese Canadian Military Museum. He is in the 1945 photo: second from the left.