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de BAVAY, John Francis Xavier (1887-1955)

de BAVAY, John Francis Xavier (1887-1955)

John de Bavay was born on 12 May 1887, the son of Auguste Joseph Francois de Bavay and Anna nee Heinzle de Bavay. He was enrolled at Geelong College in 1907 and his address at enrolment was 'Florimel', Gellibrand Street, Kew. At Colllege, John was a member of both the 1st Football XVIII and 1st Cricket XI of 1907. He had previously attended Xavier College from 1895 to 1906.

In March 1884, his father, Auguste de Bavay had arrived in Melbourne to take up the position of brewer with T & A Aitken’s Victoria Parade brewery and distillery; his salary was £6 a week, with a commission of 1 shilling on every hogs-head of good beer. On 21 March 1885 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, he married Anna Heinzle, German-born daughter of a furniture warehouse-man.

In 1900, Auguste de Bavay had signed a long-term contract with Fosters, but he also acted as consultant for the Swan Brewery in Western Australia, the Cascade Brewery in Tasmania and, after 1907, Carlton and United Breweries. At the outbreak of World War I, de Bavay was asked by Senator Pearce, Minister of Defence, to investigate the possibility of manufacturing acetone for use in producing cordite. Within two weeks he had developed a process based on the fermentation and distillation of molasses and as a result was asked to design and build the Commonwealth Acetate of Lime Factory on the Brisbane River, (his son John de Bavay assisted him in this task). De Bavay made no money from his invention, it was, he claimed, his gift to the Commonwealth.

During World War I, John de Bavay enlisted (No. 391) in the AIF on 11 November 1914 and embarked with C Squadron, 10th Light Horse Regiment, from Fremantle on HMAT A52 Surada on 17 February 1915. He served on Gallipoli as a Corporal where he was wounded, necessitating evacuation to Australia on 19 January 1916.

A C N Olden who commanded the 10th Light Horse Regiment in the last months of the war, and was awarded the DSO in September 1918, wrote of the fateful day for the 10th Light Horse Regiment at 'The Nek' in Westralian Cavalry in the War:
'Never in the history of the Army has a more stunning effect been created in a unit with such suddenness than had that glorious debacle of August 7th among the wasted ranks of the 10th Regiment. Bitter as was the loss of their comrades . . . it was nothing compared with the bitterness of the knowledge that their lives were offered in vain.'

A brief item in Pegasus of June 1955 reported his death: 'John Francis Xavier de Bavay died at Hobart on February 23 (1955). He was associated throughout his lifetime with the brewing industry and chemical manufacture. When a pupil at Geelong College he played in the first football and cricket teams.'

Sources: Pegasus June 1955 p48; Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. p.168 (citing Pegasus; National Archives; Australian Dictionary of Biography: Online Edition).
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