Skip to main content
To top Back to top back to top

The original documents of Alexander Mee's story were on display at Archives New Zealand Dunedin as part of the exhibition 'Readiness and Sacrifice'. The exhibition ran from 22 September until 24 December 2014.

Part of the exhibition documented the World War I service of Private Alexander Mee - 42532, 14th Company, 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. These documents included Alexander’s service and probate files, personal war diary and letters to his wife, Jessie.

Born 15 April 1886, Alexander was a farmer at Kuri Bush, south of Brighton, near Dunedin and the son of Samuel and Margaret Mee, also of Kuri Bush. His wife, Jessie Merrilees Coutts, was born 11 April 1890, the third child of William and Jane Coutts (née Merrilees) of Taieri Beach. Jessie Coutts and Alexander married on 27 February 1917. Their son, Alexander Coutts Mee, was born on 20 November 1917.

Alexander enlisted on 2 November 1916, embarking at Wellington 5 April 1917 on the Devon troopship destined for Devonport, England. He marched into Sling Camp on 11 June 1917, left for France on 6 July 1917 and joined the Battalion in the field on 9 August 1917. He notes in his diary the dates he went into the firing line: Friday 28 September 1917 (probably at the Battle of Polygon Wood) and Wednesday 10 October 1917 (Battle of Passchendaele).

From his Service File History Sheet: '8/1456 Cpl G Drummond (14 Coy. 2nd Bn. O. R.) I saw Mee at the assembly point prior to the advance on Bell Vue Spur. 12th October 1917. There was a heavy barrage, on our line. At the [?] & many casualties. He did not come with Coy.'

The finding of the Court of Enquiry was 'Missing Believed Killed' in action on 12 October 1917, at Belle Vue Spur at the Battle of Passchendaele.

Alexander is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium – New Zealand Apse, Panel 3. At the time of his death he was in the 14th Company, 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment.

Portraits

Left

The original photograph of Alexander Mee was provided by Mrs Agnes Rennie, Blenheim. The photograph was digitised and enhanced by Archives New Zealand Dunedin.

Right

The photograph of Jessie and Alexander Mee's son was provided by Mr Ian Coutts, Dunedin.

Jessie Merrilees Coutts, born 11 April 1890, was the third child of William and Jane Coutts (née Merrilees) of Taieri Beach.

Alexander and Jessie were married on 27 February 1917. Their son, Alexander Coutts Mee, was born on 20 November 1917.

In 1926, Jessie remarried to a Presbyterian Minister - Reverend John Hemingway Combes. She died in childbirth in 1927 and is buried in Te Henui Cemetery at Waitara.

Alexander Coutts Mee – 40656 – served as pilot in the Royal New Zealand Air Force in World War II. He was killed on 7 May 1941 whilst returning his aeroplane to England, following an air raid on Hamburg. He is buried in Grimsby Scartho Road Cemetery, Lincolnshire, England.

War diary

The war diary, with its pencil, is part of Alexander Mee’s probate file. This file also contains letters to his wife Jessie, his Will and the Dunedin Supreme Court documents granting probate. This is Item "G" in Jessie Mee's Affidavit.

The diary documents his voyage, from New Zealand to England, on the Troopship 'Devon' between 5 April 1917 and 24 June 1917. There are also two entries for 28 September 1917 and 10 October 1917; the days he went 'into the firing line'. Alexander describes ship board life; resting, sightseeing, writing letters, bible class, etc. as well soldiers' training.

The diary has 365 detachable pages, as well as field message form pages at the back. At the front of the diary there is a section of special military information essential to soldiers on active service: military vocabulary, military law, ammunition, marching times and speeds, finding true north, how a battalion is made up (numbers of ranks), New Zealand Expeditionary Force ranks, badges, pay scales, etc.

The diary includes his family addresses and the details of other soldiers.

The entries are written in pencil and are sometimes faint and hard to read. The digital images have been enhanced to increase contrast, so that they are readable.

The first four entries and last two entries are available below.

Letters to Jessie

This images below contain the letters written by Alexander Mee to Jessie, his wife. They were included in Alexander Mee's probate file.

Subjects covered in the letters are: the impending birth of his son, how much he misses Jessie, attending Bible Class and Y.M.C.A, food parcels, meeting up with fellow soldiers (friends and relatives he knows from home) and preparing for battle as well as when he will be going over the line. Alexander Mee notes in his diary that he went over the line on Friday, 28 September 1917 and Wednesday, 10 October 1917.

Hero image: Bringing up the guns - [Guns of the 101st Australian Battery moving up at the Battle of Passchendaele] by Harold Septimus Power. Archives reference: AAAC 898 NCWA Q539 R22499804