When writing on F is for Fromelles, I wrote about Leslie Leister, my husband’s great uncle who was killed at Fromelles in 1916. This blog entry is looking at the official
correspondence which survives in his World War I dossier, NAA:B2455, Leister Leslie, between the next of kin and the Department of Defence following the death in World War I of Leslie Leister. Ten years after his death, his aunt and foster mother, Eliza Leister, was receiving correspondence from the War Office concerning her son.

When Leslie Leister died in 1916, he was first reported missing.  The day before the battle on 19 July he had written to his adoptive parents, His aunt and uncle Robert and Eliza Leister. They received that letter in September.

On 5 October 1916 Robert Leister wrote seeking further information about Leslie. (NAA:B2455, Leister Leslie folio 56)

NAA:B2455, Leister Leslie, folio 56

Robert Leister received a reply dated 11 October 1916 advising that

no further particulars are yet available regarding this soldier. You will be promptly notified upon receipt of any later information. (folio 55)

On 15 September 1916 the Deputy Post Master General wrote to Base Records seeking news of Leslie having seen that he was reported missing in the 199th casualty list of 28th August. (folio 58) Before enlisting, Leslie had been employed at the post office in Newcastle.

CASUALTIES. (1916, August 28). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15687503

On 13 March 1917, Leslie’s casualty record was amended that he had previously been reported missing but was now reported killed.  The authority for this change was a letter from the war office. (folio 22)

DIED IN GERMANY. (1917, March 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15720120

Family Notices: Roll of Honour. (1917, March 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28101225

On 3 April 1917 the Deputy Post Master General wrote seeking information about Leslie’s death:

With reference to your communication of the 23rd September last, stating that No. 4840, acting Corporal Leslie Leister, 55th (late 3rd) Battalion, was officially posted “missing” on 20th July last, I have to intimate a paragraph appeared in the “Roll of Honour” Sydney Morning Herald, of the 31st ultimo, stating that Private Leslie Leister died of wounds in Germany on 4th November last. Will you kindly advise me whether this refers to the soldier mentioned above, and if the date of death given is correct. (folio 54)

On 17 April 1917 the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Co. Ltd. wrote to base records seeking a certificate of death and identification particulars  for Jack Walsh known as Leslie Leister as he was insured with the company. (folio 52)

On July 10 1917 Robert Leister signed a receipt for a package of the effects of the late No 4840 Acting Corporal L. Leister, 55th Battalion consigned ex “Beltana”.  These effect comprised motor goggles and a card. (folios  46 and 49)

Connellan & Pearce, solicitors of Parkes, wrote several time to the Base Records office seeking a certificate of death. Their letter of 3 October 1917 referred to a letter on 4 September and another on 24 September. Probate of his will could not be obtained without the death certificate. (folio 39)

On 29 July 1921 the War Records Office wrote that they had been unable to find any trace of the last resting place of Leslie. The office requested

to have on loan any letters or communications that contain any reference tot he circumstances surrounding his death, particularly the exact locality at which it occurred, or where he was last seen alive. Of course any information you may have received as to his burial would be of the greatest assistance. (folio 33)

Robert Leister replied

I am unable to find the letters I would have liked to send you. One letter lost from the Sydney Red Cross & told my nephew was killed at Fromelles July 20th 1916 & that his name was on the German list. One letter was from a soldier that knew him well. They had reached the German’s Front-line at Fromelles & early in the morning of July 20th 1916 he saw him killed with a shell. Our boys was then retreating. My Nephew would be buried by the Germans.(folio 33)

On 28 November 1921, Robert Leister wrote in response to a query by the War Records Office on behalf of his wife advising that Eliza was the only person entitled to the War medal as she was his foster mother and aunt and his will was left to her. (folio 32)

On 7 August 1922 Robert Leister wrote to Base records acknowledging receipt of the Memorial Scroll but advising that the King’s Message had not been enclosed. (folio 30) The receipt for the Memorial Scroll was signed February 14 1922. (folio 31) 

Eliza Leister signed a receipt for a Victory Medal in connexion with the late Pte. L. Leister on 27 February 1923. (folio 26)

From the record below, the final folio of Leslie’s personal dossier, Eliza was sent information in 1926 about Leslie’s name being listed at V. C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial in France. This was ten years after Leslie had died.

NAA:B2455, Leister Leslie, folio 62