People on board
ROACH, Michael Denis (Denny)
Michael Denny Roach was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, on 30 July 1890 to Michael Roach and Ann Maher. According to his obituary in 1913 Michael Roach Snr, then aged forty-nine, had been born in County Mayo, Ireland, and had been in Australia for forty-eight years. His parents, their name written as Roche, had married in Belmullet in 1858 and had emigrated to Australia in the 1860s. Michael Denny had just one sibling, Mary Kathleen and in 1913 the family were living in Martha Street, East Guildford, a suburb of Perth.
In 1906, at the age of sixteen, Michael Denny began work as a Carpenter with Western Australian Railways, resigning in June 1913 when his wage was eleven shillings a week. In December 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Army with the 12th Field Ambulance. He was in France for the next three years, with spells of leave and hospital stays over the time. In September 1918 he was promoted Lance Corporal, and went on leave to the UK at the end of the month.
In his report to the Australian Red Cross later in the year, Michael Denny Roach said that he had gone on board RMS Leinster on the morning of 10 October in the company of a New Zealand soldier, Rifleman Fahey. They had come out from Dublin together on the train and sat on the main deck. They thought that they saw a porpoise or a whale and then the ship was struck by the torpedoes. Roach got on to a raft and then on to “a water-logged boat which was later turned upside down by the waves”. He was rescued, as was Fahey, and taken to hospital. He later helped with the identification of other Australian bodies in the King George V Hospital Morgue.
Roach’s military records show that initially he was reported as an ‘illegal absentee’ and then as ‘Missing, believed drowned’, and finally ‘Not Drowned’. His mother received a letter dated 19 October 1918 that “cabled advice is just to hand to the effect that he is a survivor”; presumably she had believed that he had drowned. He returned to Australia in May 1919 and married Catherine Jane Connell in 1924. They lived in the Perth suburb of Maylands, later in North Perth, where he continued his trade as Carpenter. There were no children. Michael died in 1948 and Catherine in 1970 and they are buried together in the cemetery in Guildford.