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Fighter Writer
The eventful life of Sergeant Joe Lee,
Scotland's forgotten war poet

Bob Burrows

Artist, poet, journalist, Black Watch soldier and prisoner of war – Joseph Johnston Lee lived a more eventful life than most. As a young man he travelled far and wide on board ocean steamers, always making sketches of the places he visited and always, in the end, returning to his home town of Dundee. During the First World War he fought with the Black Watch in the trenches, sending back poems and sketches that told vividly of the realities of war. His poems struck a chord with the people of Dundee, and indeed with the whole country, being widely published. In London during the 1930s he and Dorothy had many illustrious friends and acquaintances, including actors, artists, writers and musicians, and he remained in London throughout the Second World War, working on newspapers and sheltering from the bombs.

A contemporary of such well-known writers as Sassoon, Graves, Owen and Brooke, Lee’s work appeared alongside theirs in anthologies. Yet today his name has been largely forgotten. In this engaging account of his life and work, Bob Burrows attempts to put the record straight, bringing Joe Lee’s poems back to the public’s attention while examining the possible reasons for his fall into literary obscurity. Was it down to his self-effacing, modest personality, or because of a public spat with the then Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges?

Bob Burrows’ meticulously researched biography of this remarkable man is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in the poetry of the First World War. Yet there is so much more to the story of Joe Lee that the book is certain to appeal to a much wider audience, including those whose interests lie in the history of Dundee and the Black Watch.




About the Author

Bob Burrows retired from banking in 1991 to travel, spend more time with his family, and take up writing. The germ of the idea for this book came when he found a copy of Lee's Ballads of Battle among his mother’s possessions after she died. His search for more information became a quest that led, ultimately, to this biography. Bob’s first book, Cheshire’s Famous, is also published by Breedon Books.

You can see more information about the book at

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