LEAH, William Frederick
(Service number 66636)

Aliases Fred
First Rank Private Last Rank


Date 30 June 1886 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 19 July 1917 Age 31 years
Address at Enlistment 32 Le Cren Street, Timaru
Occupation Cook
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mr J. A. LEAH (father), 32 Le Cren Street, Timaru
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 135 lbs. Chest measurement 34-36 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes light blue. Hair light brown. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Not full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest not well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Not good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits. (27 April 1918) Good bodily & mental health. Never under treatment in a sanatorium or mental institution. Absent from work – fracture of right elbow when twelve years of age. Marked limitation of movement of right elbow. Fit for Home Service as a Cook.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals
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

Farm hand, labourer


Date 25 April 1960 Age 73 years
Place of Death
Memorial or Cemetery Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 9, Plot 165
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William Frederick Leah, known as Frederick or Fred, was the second son of Joseph Andrew and Martha Jane (née Daniel) Leah, of Timaru. His parents married in July 1879 in Cornwall, England, and appear to have come to New Zealand soon after. William Frederick Leah was born on 30 June 1886 at Timaru. Frederick Leah was educated at Timaru Main School with a stint at Waimataitai School from 1895 to 1897. The Sunday School anniversary services of the Primitive Methodist Church was held in February 1898. “Recitations were capitally given” by four children, one of them by 11 year old Fred Leah. Fred was mentioned again at the February 1902 celebration of the Timaru Primitive Methodist Church Sunday School anniversary. The chairman stated that, in going through the books to ascertain the prize recipients for good attendance, he had been struck with the regularity and punctuality of the attendance recorded; and also with the record of the learning of the “golden passages” prescribed for memorising. “There had been a little difficulty in allotting the prizes; it had been decided to give two prizes to each class, but it was found that in fairness three prizes must be given. F. Leah was presented with a prize for Boys – 1st class. Eva Leah’s wedding in November 1912 was the first celebrated in the new Timaru Primitive Methodist Church.

William Frederick Leah’s offending started as early as 1903, when the 16 year old parcel-boy was fined for theft at Timaru. Fred Leah, who did not appear, was fined 5 shillings, with costs 7 shillings, for riding a bicycle at night without lights. This occurred in May 1907 in Timaru. Later in the year, Frederick Leah was fined 10 shillings and costs for riding a cycle without lights after sunset, his second offence. Fred Leah incurred another fine for cycling without a light – on 11 March 1916 in the main street of Fairlie. It was in 1910 that William Frederick Leah started on a downhill slope, when he was charged with stealing a few sums of money on 11 August at the Athletic Grounds. Leah pleaded not guilty. On 11 August, a witness saw a man like accused in appearance in the dressing-room on the Athletic Grounds, when the representative match North Otago v. South Canterbury was in progress. “This person was in the act of withdrawing his hand from some players’ clothing, and looked flustered when he saw witness, explaining that he had been asked by some High School boys to watch their belongs.” Fred was then employed as a waiter, and his crooked right arm was noted in the police record. Appearing in the Timaru Magistrate’s Court in May 1911 on a charge of obtaining £3.10s by false pretences, after he was arrested by the Timaru police, he was remanded to appear at Culverden. There he was committed to the Supreme Court for trial. It was noted that he had been convicted for theft at Timaru in 1910. “Prisoner’s character was not good.” Leah, who was sentenced to eighteen months’ detention for reformative treatment, had been employed by the Amuri County Council. It was also noted that he was “fond of drink”, and that his right arm was malformed. In July 1913 at Timaru, William Frederick Leah pleaded guilty to charges of obtaining goods and money under false pretences. The Salvation Army Captain, on behalf of several of Leah’s friends, asked that Leah be sent to their Prisongate House in Christchurch. A Sub-Inspector noted that there were previous convictions against accused for theft and forgery and uttering. His Worship imposed a penalty of three months imprisonment on each charge, action to be suspended if the accused remained in the Army Home for six months. At the Salvation Army Home in November, a youth obtained 3 shillings by false pretences from William Fred Leah. The youth was given a third chance. Further charges of theft and false pretences were laid against Leah in June 1916 – theft of £3.3s.3d. at Fairlie; receiving 4s.4d. at Kimbell, and failing to account for it to his employer; with failing to account for 3s and 7s6d received on account of D. Furness; and with obtaining a week’s board by means of false pretences. Accused asked to be sent to the Salvation Army Prison Gate Home, to have a chance to reform. Saying that the accused had already served eighteen months’ reformative treatment, which had evidently done him no good, the Magistrate imposed a sentence of three months’ imprisonment on each charge, the sentences to run concurrently. The sentence was served in Paparoa Prison.

William Frederick Leah, cook, Timaru, was listed on the 1916 Reserve Roll. Come July 1917, William Frederick Leah, a cook, Timaru, was drawn in the Ninth Ballot and called up for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. William Fred Leah enlisted on 19 July 1917 at Timaru. He was then 31 years old, single, and Presbyterian. He nominated his father as next-of-kin – Mr J. A. Leah, 22 Le Cren Street, Timaru, and gave the same address for himself. He was employed as a cook for G. Murray, Braemar. He had been medically examined for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in March 1916 at Timaru. He had been rejected as unfit for the Military Forces on account of a broken arm. By the July 1917 medical examination, he was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 135 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34-36 inches. He had a fair complexion, light blue eyes, and light brown hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal. His limbs were well formed, but not his chest, and he did not have good movement of his joints. While his heart and lungs were normal, and he was free of diseases and defects, he was not in good bodily and mental health. His elbow joint was stiff, and he had limited movement. His chest was badly formed. He was classified C2 and recommended for service in Camp as a cook.

This did not deter him from his wayward conduct. On 7 August 1917 at Waimate, Leah obtained by false pretence the sum of £1 from the C.F.C.A. Ltd, with intention to defraud. Accused pleaded guilty in the Timaru Court. It was noted, however, that he had a long list of previous convictions, and he was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment with hard labour. On 27 April 1918 at Christchurch, the Travelling Medical Board re-examined William Frederick Leah, Recruit 48976. Most details were unchanged, although he was now recorded as in good bodily and mental health. He had never been under treatment in a sanatorium or mental institution. He had been absent from work, because of a fracture of his right elbow when twelve years of age. There was a marked limitation of movement of the right elbow. He was fit for Home Service as a Cook. Commencing Home Service on 29 April 1918, Private Leah was posted to Stores. After four months service at Featherston Camp, Private Leah, 66636, was admitted to Featherston Hospital – on 7 August 1918, suffering from influenza. He was discharged after three days. He was granted Leave on 25 October 1918.

After the war, Fred Leah engaged in farm and labouring work and lived at various locations – Cave in 1919, Eiffelton in 1928, Tipapa, Motunau in the 1930s, Killermont Station, Omarama in 1949, and at Nazareth House, Christchurch in 1957. William Frederick Leah married Amy Elizabeth Reay in 1922. Although they had at least two children, Fred and Amy appear to have gone their separate ways from the 1920s. A warrant was issued in November 1922, for failing to comply with the terms of a maintenance order for the support of his wife, Amy Elizabeth Leah, of Christchurch – arrears to 28 September 1922, £5. Leah was described as of slovenly appearance and fond of drink. Having been arrested in July 1923 by the Christchurch police, Fred was sentenced to three months imprisonment for disobedience of a maintenance order. The following January he was in arrears to the extent of £122 on two maintenance orders, in respect of his wife and two children. He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, to be released on the payment of £50. His tendency to theft surfaced again in 1926 when he was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour for theft of another’s property (£1.11s). William Frederick Leah incurred the maximum penalty of six months’ gaol in July 1930 at Ashburton. He had stolen £20, the property of a fellow worker on a farm at Eiffelton. The money was taken from the pocket of a pair of trousers placed under a mattress in the owner’s hut. The arrest was made at Timaru the next day. He was convicted and discharged for the conversion of a bicycle, the property of the same owner. He cycled to Hinds, then spent some of the money on liquor and taxi fares. The cycle and £7.13s.10d were recovered at Timaru. Leah was before the court again in March 1932, this time at Temuka. He pleaded to a charge of theft of £2 and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. On a further charge of the commission of an offence, he was convicted and discharged.

Early in 1936, Mr Fred Leah was one of the generous supporters of the Tipapa health, donating cash. But a year later he was back in court, for stealing £7 from the coat pocket of a hut-mate at Methven, on or about March 10, 1934. Leah admitted the theft when he was held by police on a maintenance charge. He was sentenced in the Supreme Court to six months’ imprisonment. The sentence was to be cumulative with one Leah was already serving. “Unless you take heed it is inevitable that you presently must be declared a habitual criminal,” said His Honour. His Honour went on to say that the accused’s record was very bad indeed, so bad that it was very difficult to know what to do with him. For years he had been in and out of prison. It was, however, in his favour that he had freely admitted the charge. In default of maintenance, Leah was arrested by the Fairlie police in February 1937. Imprisonment at Paparoa Prison for three months was again imposed on Leah, in March 1938, for disobedience of an order in favour of his wife. “The issue of the warrant will be suspended so long as £4 is paid within 14 days and 5 shillings a week off the arrears, in addition to the amount of the current order.” The following June he was again arrested by the Fairlie police. By February 1939 Leah was £255 in arrears. A six-month prison sentence would be suspended if 5 shillings a week was paid off the arrears. He was subsequently arrested by the Ashburton police. In June 1939, on being interviewed by the Christchurch police, Leah admitted a theft offence. In April 1942, for arrears of maintenance for his wife to an amount of £384, he was convicted and discharged. Later in 1942, he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. The warrant was to be suspended while 5 shillings a week was paid off arrears (£401 for his wife), as well as the current maintenance. After a warrant for failing to comply with the terms of a maintenance order for the support of his wife was gazetted in September 1943, William Frederick Leah was arrested by the Culverden police. In May 1944 he was again arrested and tried, although a portion of the arrears had been paid. His propensity for theft, failure to pay maintenance, and drink problem kept the police busy for many years. Photographs of William Frederick Leah at Waiotapu on 16 May 1912 were printed in the Police Gazette of 7 August 1912, and again on 4 March 1931.

William Frederick Leah died on 25 April 1960, aged 73 years, and is buried in Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, with Ethel McGregor who had died a month before. The burial entry records simply Frederick Leah. Amy Elizabeth Leah died in December 1979 and is buried in Linwood Cemetery, Christchurch. His brother Henry Lawson Leah, who was killed in action in France on 29March 1918, is remembered on their parents’ headstone in the Timaru Cemetery.


NZ Defence Force Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5544 0067038) [22 September 2019]; Ruru Lawn Cemetery burial record (Christchurch City Council) [22 September 2019]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [09 August 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [18 October 2015]; England Marriage Index ( [18 October 2015]; South Canterbury Times, 16 February 1898, Timaru Herald, 14 February 1902, 1 June 1907, 16 November 1907, 15 September 1910, 8 & 13 May 1911, 21 November 1912, 21 July 1913, 18 April 1916, 9 June 1916, 4 July 1917, 14 August 1917, Star, 15 May 1911, Press, 16 May 1911, 7 November 1913, 5 July 1923, 9 January 1924, 17 May 1926, 15 July 1930, 5 March 1932, 10 January 1936, 16 March 1937, 17 April 1937, 15 March 1938, 7 February 1939, 21 April 1942, 8 December 1942, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 13 August , Horowhenua Chronicle, 14 July 1930 (Papers Past) [22 & 24 September 2019; 04 October 2019]; New Zealand Police Gazette, 8 April 1903, 28 October 1910, 10 & 17 May 1911, 3 July 1912, 7 August 1912, 1916, 3 September 1917, 22 November 1922, 11 July 1923, 17 October 1923, 6 February 1924, 11 June 1924, 4 March 1931, 19 August 1931, 9 March 1932, 28 March 1934, 24 February 1937, 20 April 1938, 22 June 1938, 22 March 1939, 10 May 1939, 14 June 1939, 29 September 1943, 3 November 1943, 7 June 1944 (Papers Past) [22 September 2019]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [22 September 2019]; Ruru & Linwood cemeteries, Christchurch, burial records (Christchurch City Council) [21 September 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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