The Sinking of the R.M.S. Leinster

People on board

Peter Freitas

FREITAS, Peter (aka BRAULT, Leonce)

Peter Freitas, also known as Leonce Brault, was born in Guildford, Sydney, NSW on 1 December 1885. His father, Ferdinand Felix Brault, was born in Laval, Mayenne, France, and had arrived in Australia in 1881. Peter’s mother, Sophia Freitas, was born in Sydney; her father had come from the Azores, Portugal in 1860 and her mother’s parents had come from Manchester, England and Dublin, Ireland. Ferdinand and Sophia had nine children, Peter being the eldest. Ferdinand was engaged in the coffee and tobacco trade, and the family moved between Australia, New Caledonia and Tahiti. Towards the end of his life Ferdinand was manager of the Tipperary Hotel in Taravao in Tahiti, where he died in 1906.

It is not clear exactly when Leonce Brault changed his name to Peter Freitas, his mother’s maiden name, apparently as a result of falling out with his father. When he married in 1905 it was as Leonce Brault, as was the name at the birth of their first child William in 1907, but William was buried a few months later as William Freitas. Leonce/Peter’s wife, Delia Christina Hayes, was from Ireland, possibly Killaloe. There were two more children, Michael in 1908 and Mary Christina in 1911, both named as Brault. At this stage they were living in Nambour, Queensland, where Leonce Freitas was listed as a Farmer on Electoral Rolls.

Peter Freitas enlisted in August 1914 with the Auckland Infantry Battalion, but again it is not clear why, or for how long, he had been in New Zealand. Both New Zealand and Australian addresses were given for him and for his wife Delia. He reached Egypt in December 1914 and was attached to the Field Ambulance as a Driver. He was in the Dardanelles in 1915 and was promoted Lance Corporal in March 1916 while in Ismailia, Egypt. The following month his unit was sent to France where he was still attached to the Field Ambulance. His records show that he was on leave to England from 21 September 1918. The records do not show if he had ever returned to Australia on leave. It has been suggested that he was visiting his wife’s relatives in Ireland and was returning to duty on 10 October on RMS Leinster. Peter Freitas did not survive the sinking, but his body was recovered and taken to the King George V Hospital in Dublin for identification.

He was buried on 13 October in Grangegorman Military Cemetery and has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. He is also commemorated on war memorials in New Zealand and Australia. His war medals were sent to his widow Delia in Sydney, where she had settled with their two children. She lived until 1968 and both her and Peter’s names on inscribed on her headstone.



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