03 May 2014

Leslie De Vis

The De Vis family was a rather typical one in the late 19th century in Australia. It was a large family and some of the children died in infancy. The family was from North Queensland and the children were either born in Charters Towers, Townsville or Bowen. The British War Medal I was given by Karyn H was awarded to 2455 PTE Leslie Holmes De Vis. The medal is named to his first unit, 1st Bn AIF however, he was later transferred to 42nd Bn AIF. De Vis was killed in action on 18 October 1917.
With such a distinctive surname I thought that the search for this family would be reasonably. However, through the records there are different spellings of the name. Variations I came across include Devis, De-Vis, de Vis and even Deuis which is also how the medal is named.
What I did discover was that of all the children of this large family, five enlisted for WWI. They were:
LT Charles Edwin De Vis MM,
PTE Frederick Selwyn De Vis,
PTE Herbert Walter De Vis, and
Sister Gertrude Julia De Vis.
Charles and Frederick would also serve during WWII.
Of all Leslie's siblings, I could only determine that Gertrude, Frederick and William had children. I couldn't track down Gertrude's children.
Frederick's only son, Selwyn George De Vis served in the RAAF and was killed in action during a bombing mission over Germany on 19 March 1945. Frederick De Vis was a Commonwealth public servant and lived in Canberra for many years. Selwyn worked for the CSIRO before enlisting. This link to the ACT Memorial page gives a synopsis of Selwyn's life.
The only other of Leslie's siblings I could find who had any children was William. In the 1930s William was a miner in the WA gold fields. I lost track of him through the official records but I found a William De Vis buried in Rockingham, WA. I quick search of the White Pages showed that two families with this surname lived in that area. I took a punt and cold called one of the numbers.
The punt paid off and I ended up speaking to William's grand son. To my very pleasant surprise I was told that William's son, Leslie's nephew was still alive. We have since spoken and the family military history is well known and documented in the family.
Thanks to Karyn and Rob for giving me the medal. The returned medal tally is now 1439.

Post update 2 Jun 14
In the last week I have been contacted by William De Vis' daughter, Margo. She has kindly provided me a composite photo of all the the De Vis siblings who served during WWI.
  Backrow: Bert and Fred Front row: Les, Gertrude, Charles.


  1. Excellent stuff !

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