George Roy McGregor DEY

DEY, George Roy McGregor

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 1 July 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Winniminnie Station, Yunta, South Australia, 8 January 1891
Home Town: Clarence Park, South Australia
Schooling: Largs Bay School & St Peters College, Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Bank Clerk
Died: Killed In Action, Pozieres, France, 23 August 1916, aged 25 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Bank of New South Wales Roll of Honour Book, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board, Kapunda District Honour Board, Kapunda and District Fallen Soldiers Monument, Unley Town Hall WW1 Honour Board, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

1 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Keswick, South Australia
9 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
9 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, RMS Mongolia, Adelaide
23 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 10th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
Date unknown: Involvement 10th Infantry Battalion

The Last Port Ceremony

The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant George Roy McGregor Dey, 10 Battalion, First World War

Lieutenant George Roy McGregor Dey, 10th Battalion Killed in Action on 23 Aug 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant George Roy McGregor Day.

Roy Dey was educated and raised in Adelaide. He worked for the Bank of New South Wales first in Adelaide and then in Kapunda, from where he enlisted in June 1915. Dey entered the 10th Battalion, but instead of joining the battalion as they embarked for Gallipoli he remained behind for some time at Mitcham camp studying for the qualification for a commission - which he obtained in October 1915 - and acting as an instructor in musketry.
In March 1916 he left Australia with the 15th reinforcements to the 10th Battalion. Before he went his wide circle of friends attended a party at his parents' house to say farewell, with flowers in the battalion colours, musical items, and games.

Roy Dey was bound for France and the Western Front. His first major action with the battalion was the battle for the French village of Pozières. This operation was part of the Battle of the Somme and was conducted under some of the heaviest shell-fire seen on the Western Front.
When the 10th Battalion was relieved following the successful capture of the village, Dey was somehow left in the field for four hours after the rest of his battalion. When he was finally relieved and came out of the trenches he discovered that he had been registered as missing. Letters to his family reassured them that all was well.

A month after the first successful attack on Pozières, the 10th Battalion was ordered to attack Mouquet Farm to the north. Once more Roy Dey was reported missing when the battalion came out of the line. This time he was never found.

Exactly what happened to Lieutenant Dey was never firmly established beyond the fact that he was killed in action. The most likely scenario was that he was shot by either a German sniper or a machine-gun shortly after leaving the jumping-off trench to attack the German trenches. Reports were made that Dey had been given medical assistance while lying in a shell hole, but that a bombing attack by a German patrol forced the man giving assistance out of the hole, leaving the probably already fatally wounded Dey behind. He was never seen again. Roy Dey was 25 years old, and has no known grave.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with around 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant George Roy McGregor Dey, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

From the book Fallen Saints -  George Roy McGregor Dey of ‘Elmstead’ Clarence Park was born on Winnininnie Sheep Station, Yunta, South Australia in January 1891. He was educated at Largs Bay College and the Collegiate School of St Peter and after leaving the School, worked as a clerk with a South Australian branch of the Bank of New South Wales.

He enlisted at Keswick on 1 July 1915 and was posted to the Infantry Base Depot at Mitcham Camp. He attended an NCO Course during half of July and August then at the beginning of September commenced officer training; he was appointed second lieutenant on 16 December 1915.

Second Lieutenants Dey, Mills, Baker and Wyllie and 201 other ranks of the 15th quota of reinforcements for the 10th Battalion sailed from Adelaide aboard RMS Mongolia on 9 March 1916. He boarded HT Ivernia at Alexandria on 20 May and after a period on the strength of the 1st Australian Division Base Depot at Étaples joined the battalion towards the end of July.

After the 10th Battalion was relieved on night 22/23 August, Second Lieutenant Dey B Company 10th Battalion was listed as missing & wounded; a Court of Enquiry convened on 19 June 1917 found he had been killed in action on 23 August 1916; he was 25 years of age. [i]

The dates as reported by the men during Red Cross interviews are often confusing, but traumatised men interviewed months, or even a year or more after an event, found it difficult to recall specific dates. What further compounds the issue is the reports of how a man died but during a battle or shortly after it the average soldier would have found it almost impossible to determine whether someone had been hit by a bullet, shrapnel ball or shell splinter.

Note:-The Secretary of the South Australian Division of the Red Cross warned all staff at the time to be wary of all unofficial reports and made then aware that hearsay should be always be received cautiously.

Witness statements [ii]

When interviewed on 27 October 1916 Private Reginald Brownett said that after Lieutenant Dey was wounded at Pozières on 21 August, stretcher bearer Private Alcorn of B Company found him. Alcorn said he left Dey with a Corporal from 6 Platoon B Company in the safety a shell hole. When the Germans began bombing the hole the corporal got out. ‘The Germans threw several bombs in as he left’ and he believed Dey was bombed and killed. He said Lieutenant Dey’s ‘wounds were so bad when he left that he could not have lived.’

On 26 December 1916, Private John Frederick Tester said that after being badly shelled on the evening of 19 August ‘we were hopping over to a partly dug new trench at a farm, which sounded like barrackas.’ He said Lieutenant Dey rose up out of the trench and called out ‘Come on lads, I think we are right!’ with that he fell, killed instantly by a sniper. He said he saw Dey lying dead. ‘He was a simply splendid lad, I’d go anywhere with him, all the boys worshiped him.’ 

In a letter to Lieutenant Dey’s mother, a friend wrote to tell her of the death of her son George also known as Roy.

 ...  We had made a charge, and Roy was out in front leading his men, when he was shot. He was such a brave boy, and his loss is felt among his men, as he was loved by all of them. [iii]

George’s brother, Trooper Robert McGregor-Dey served in the 9th and the 11th Light Horse Regiments and returned home after the war. 

[i] ibid,: B 2455/1, Dey George Roy McGregor / 3504096, viewed 17 May 2006
[ii] Australian War Memorial, Australian Red Cross wounded and missing enquiry bureau files – Dey George Roy McGregor / 0920101, viewed 15 October 2005
[iii] Adelaide Chronicle, 28 October 1916, p. 44