LEAL, Thomas
(Service number 54058)

Aliases Tommy
First Rank Rifleman Last Rank Rifleman


Date 5 March 1874 Place of Birth Dunedin

Enlistment Information

Date 20 March 1917 Age 43 years
Address at Enlistment Waimate Hotel, Waimate
Occupation Farmer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin J. LEAL (brother), Blacksmith, Balclutha
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 3¾ inches. Weight 161 lbs. Chest measurement 38-40½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. No illnesses. free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Not vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 27th Reinforcements G Company
Date 16 July 1917
Transport Athenic
Embarked From Wellington Destination Liverpool, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Rifle Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Company

Military Awards

Campaigns Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 4 January 1918 Age 43 years
Place of Death Belgium, France
Cause Killed in action
Memorial or Cemetery Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials Timaru Memorial Wall; Waimate War Memorial; Caversham School, Dunedin, Memorial Gates

Biographical Notes

Thomas Leal, known as Tommy in the Waimate district, was born on 5 March 1874 at Dunedin, the second son of Thomas and Elizabeth (née Johnstone) Leal. His parents, both born in Scotland, married in New Zealand soon after arriving in the country and both had died before Thomas enlisted, his mother in 1908 and his father in 1914. The family lived in Caversham, where the father was the pound-keeper, later in Green Island. Mr Leal also ran dairy cows at Upper Junction. By late in 1894 Mr and Mrs Leal and some of their family were living in the Catlins. Young Thomas was educated at Caversham School, along with many of his siblings. The family home was some three miles distant from the school. In December 1887, Thomas’ twin sister, Jane, was presented with a silver medal and necklet by the teachers, as she had not been absent a single half-day from the time she entered the Infant Room until her leaving after passing Standard VI , a period of eight years. Thomas left school in December 1886, at the age of 12½, to go home to work. Thomas’ twin sister Jane married on 9 April 1896 at the home of her elder brother William at Ratanui. Among the many and varied presents was that of Mr T. Leal, junior - a silver breakfast cruet. Helen Warnock, the eldest sister of Thomas, died at Ratanui in March 1908. And on 10 July 1908 at Ratanui, Mrs Elizabeth Leal died. Mr Thomas Leal, late of Catlins, died at his daughter’s residence at North-East Valley on 6 September 1914. Both parents are buried in the Ratanui Cemetery, James Leal, of Ratanui and the youngest brother of Thomas, married in April 1912 at Pounawea.

It may be that Thomas Leal junior lived in parts of Otago in the early 1900s. He had acquired a selection in Douglas Settlement and by 1911 he was farming in the Waihao Forks area. There his offer to sow the school site in grass and, after a year rent-free, pay £2 per annum, was accepted. In May 1912, Thomas Leal and several others at Allanholm Road petitioned the Waimate County Council to open up a road through their settlement to enable a mail service to be run in the district. Later that year he wrote to the South Canterbury Education Board that he was prepared to undertake the fencing to the Allanholme School site at 15 shillings per chain. His offer was accepted. In mid 1915, T. Leal was one who contributed to Waimate’s collection in aid of the Red Cross war work.

T. Leal, farmer, Waihao Downs, single, registered at the Timaru Defence Office in November 1916. He was already listed on the Reserve Roll. His name and the phone number of his residence were added to the list of subscribers to the local telephone exchange in January 1917. A clearing sale of the whole of his Live and Dead Stock was held at his farm, Allanholme Settlement, Waihao Forks, on 9 March 1917. A week later about 60 people of the district gathered at Shannon’s granary Allanholme to present a Loewe pipe and shaving outfit to Mr Leal, who was leaving for the front. Thomas Leal responded to the cordial sentiments which accompanied the gift. He enlisted on 20 March 1917, by which time he was 43 years old. A farmer, single and Presbyterian, he named his brother, J. Leal, blacksmith of Balclutha, as his next-of-kin. This was James, his youngest brother. Thomas’ address was Waimate Hotel, Waimate. He was only 5 feet 3¾ inches tall, yet weighed 161 pounds and had a chest measurement of 38-40½ inches. He had a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision werer all good, as were his limbs, heart and lungs. He was in good health, with no defects, though he was not vaccinated.

The South Canterbury quota of the 29th Reinforcements, which included Thomas Leal and seven other Waimate district men, left Timaru for Trentham Camp on 30 April 1917 at short notice because of transport rearrangements. He was then posted as a Private to the 28th Reinforcements, and on 29 June to the 27th Reinforcements. Leal embarked at Wellington for Liverpool, per the “Athenic”, on 16 July 1917, a Rifleman with the 27th Reinforcements. Disembarking at Liverpool on 16 september he marched into Tidworth. The next day he marched into Sling and spent a month with the Otago Regiment before proceeding overseas with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade on 23 October. On 20 December at Rouen he was detached for duty with the area Commandant, rejoining his Unit on 1 January 1918.

Less than five months after leaving New Zealand’s shores, and just over two months in the Field , Thomas Leal, 54038, New Zealand Rifle Brigade, was killed in action – 4 January 1918 in Belgium, France. His name is recorded on the Buttes New British Cemetery (NZ) Memorial, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. He is honoured on the Timaru Memorial Wall, the Waimate War Memorial, and the Caversham School, Dunedin, Memorial Gates. For his service in Western Europe, Rifleman Thomas Leal was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These medals were sent to his oldest brother, William Leal, who had moved from Ratanui to Houipapa, Otago. W. Leal was also the recipient of the scroll and plaque.

His youngest brother James Leal, his next-of-kin, was also listed on the Reserve Roll – a married man with one child - and was called up. In June 1918, James requested for an extension of time, saying that “it was in the interest of his wife that he would like to see his brother’s estate fixed up before he went into camp.” Although his application was declined, extended leave was recommended should the administration of his brother’s estate be prolonged. Thomas Leal of Allanholm Settlement near Waimate had signed his Will on 20 April 1917, as he was about to leave New Zealand as a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He appointed the Public Trustee as executor and directed that the proceeds of his estate be divided equally between all his brothers and sisters living at his death, and to the issue of any who predeceased him. Of his ten siblings, his oldest sister Helen and his twin sister Jane had died, both leaving issue. The Timaru Herald of 2 July 1919 carried a notice of Waimate Land Auction – the estate of the late Thomas Leal – 247 acres renewable lease, Allanholm Settlement, with 2-roomed Dwelling, Stable, Granary, etc. His brother George, while on holiday from Dunedin, died in May 1928 when he was struck by the Oamaru-Timaru train when it came into Studholme Junction Station. George may have not heard the train as he was almost stone deaf. He was buried at Waimate. Another brother, John Leal, who served in World War I, was killed in June 1934 at Pembroke (Wanaka), having suffered a fractured skull and internal injuries when he was run over by a lorry as he returned from a football match on the domain. Thomas Leal Warnock who was killed in action in 1916 was a nephew of Thomas; and other nephews - Thomas Leal Blackley, Robert Bailey Warmock, John Stoddart – all served in World War I.

A photograph of Rifleman Thomas Leal (Waimate) was printed in the Otago Witness of 30 May 1918. And from 30 May1918 the name of T. Leal appeared on the Waimate Daily Advertiser Roll of Honour under the sub-title of The Supreme Sacrifice.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [07 May 2014]; NZ Defence Force Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5544 0067071) [17 August 2014]; CWGC [09 August 2014]; Evening Star, 17 December 1887, 10 May 1928, Otago Witness, 16 August 1894, 23 April 1896, 24 June 1905, Otago Daily Times, 3 March 1908, 13 July 1908, 7 & 9 September 1914, 11 June 1934. Timaru Herald, 9 August 1911, 9 October 1912, 2 June 1915, 20 November 1916, 30 April 1917, 16 & 21 January 1918, 2 July 1919, Clutha Leader, 7 May 1912, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 31 May 1912, 24 January 1917, 28 February 1917, 17 March 1917, 1 May 1917, 18 January 1918, 30 May 1918, The Colonist, 20 October 1916Mataura Ensign, 16 January 1918, New Zealand Times, 16 January 1918, Clutha Leader, 18 January 1918, Otago Witness, 30 January 1918, 19June 1918, Stratford Evening Post, 10 May 1928, Dunstan Times, 11 June 1934 (Papers Past) [09 August 1914; 16 September 2014; 18 October 2015; 18 & 19 September 2019]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [18 October 2015]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [17 October 2015]; School Admission record [2015]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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