Frederick Joseph de La Rey

by Peter Leonard

The story of my grandfather, Frederick Joseph de La Rey.

Originally from South Africa (I can't definitely link him to the famous Boer, General Jacobus Herculaas (Koos) De La Rey, (maybe someone can help me) , he was a green grocer in Hurstville, Sydney, with a 3 month old daughter when he sailed on the HMAT Benalla on 9/11/1916 as a Lance Corporsl stretcher bearer. Interesting among the enlistment documents are 2 different enlistment forms, dated 3 weeks apart. The first shows his birth as Rustenburg, Transvaal, South Africa. The second is the same apart from the place of birth, shown as Hurstville, Sydney, Australia. I like to think that the locals thought Rustenburg might be politically sensitive, with its Boer heritage, and got him to do a new one to get him accepted. Even more interesting is the fact that both forms are filed on the National Archive -- the old one was never destroyed!

He travelled to England and then to France on a couple of tours. While in England, he was promoted to Acting Sergeant while training troops in gunnery, but served as a Lance Corporal stretcher bearer. He won the Military Meal for Bravery at Clery on night of August 30/31, 1918, and his knowledge of German was significant in that. He died of wounds sustained on 29 September 1918, just 6 weeks before the Armistice was signed. All documents are shown on the website.

My grandmother fought a correspondence war to get his grave, which listed him as "Pte F J De La Rey", corrected to read his proper rank, :acne Corporal. She never remarried and brought my mother up as an unsupported single mother. She only ever told the family that he "died in the war". His medal and the paperwork only came to light after her death in 1970, when my sister went through her effects. I have pieced together what I could from war records and photographs, but there is heaps to do with old photographs from her family album of portrait photos taken all over Europe.

I have set up a website: WEBSITE of FREDERICK DE LA REY
Born August 1888 - Died 29 September, 1918