People on board
LARACY, Francis Patrick (Frank)
Frank Laracy was born on 5 March 1891 in Toowoomba, Queensland, a town west of Brisbane. He was the only son, along with four daughters, born to Michael Laracy and Johanna Brennan, both of whom had been born in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland. They held the license for the Horse and Jockey Hotel in Toowoomba, and later, the Harp of Erin Hotel, and Michael was a member and Chairman of the Gowrie Divisional Board. Michael died in 1900 at the age of forty-four and Johanna carried on the business for many years.
Educated at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst N.S.W., their only son, Frank, was in Sydney working as a ‘Chemist’s Assistant’ when he enlisted in the Australian Army in August 1914. He was among the first groups to sail to Europe, posted with the 1st Field Ambulance. He was at the landing and evacuation of Gallipoli where he was severely wounded. Writing to his sister from hospital in Alexandria in May 1915, in a letter published in the Maitland Daily Mercury, he described his experience of being on the battlefield for fourteen days: “Actual warfare is awful” was his stark comment.
In another letter to his mother published in the Brisbane Courier, he told her he was progressing favourably and would “soon be back fighting the Turk”.
He was in France in 1916 when he was promoted to Sergeant and in August of that year he transferred to the regular army, to the 1st Infantry Battalion, receiving his commission as 2nd Lieutenant. He was wounded again in November 1916 and was sent to hospital in England. Throughout 1917 he was held in a supernumerary role in England but he was back in France in June 1918. Again wounded in action, he was transferred to hospital in England and was to be sent back to Australia. His military records show that he was awarded the Military Cross on 15 October for “conspicuous bravery and leadership”.
It is not known why he was on board RMS Leinster on 10 October, though it has been suggested that he was visiting his Irish relatives. In a report to authorities after the sinking, an Australian survivor, L/Corporal Michael Roche, reported seeing on the 7.30 mail train from Dublin “an Australian officer who had his left arm in a sling and carrying a gentleman’s suitcase in the right and wearing good conduct stripes”.
Frank Laracy was the only Australian officer on board, so this must have been him. In January 1919 Frank’s sister declared to the authorities in Melbourne that she had “received authentic information that my brother embarked, and was seen to jump into the water from the “Leinster” after she had been torpedoed”. She also enclosed two post cards from Dublin, dated 7 October.
Johanna Laracy was officially advised on 26 October that Frank was “Missing, supposed drowned”. His personal effects eventually reached Toowoomba, a green valise and a cabin trunk, containing as well as his clothing, letters, photos etc, a Smith and Wesson revolver and a German pistol, presumably souvenirs of his four years in Europe. In a presentation in Toowoomba in May 1920, Mrs Laracy received the Military Cross won by her only son. His name is inscribed on the Hollybank Memorial in Southampton and on the Roll of Honour on the Australian War Memorial.