b. 26/04/1887 Kensington, London. d. 25/11/1914 Festubert, France.
Frank Alexander De Pass (1887-1914) was born on 26th April 1887 at his parents’ home, 2 Kensington Garden Terrace, Paddington, London. The family was of Sephardic-Jewish (Spanish/Portuguese) in origin and came to England in the 1660s. The family’s original surname was Shalom but during the Spanish Inquisition some families changed it to the Spanish word for peace “De Paz”. When those families arrived in England, the name was anglicised to De Pass. His father was Sir Eliot Arthur De Pass KBE, the founder of EA de Pass & Co, West India Merchants, trading in Jamaican sugar and coffee. Frank’s mother was Beatrice (known as Trixie) nee de Mercado, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica. His parents had married in Kingston on 29th August 1883. Frank had four brothers and a sister.
Frank was educated at Abbey School in Beckenham, Kent and Rugby School, where he was a contemporary of Rupert Brooke. He entered the Royal Military Academy Woolwich in 1904, having been placed 3rd on a list of successful candidates. He was then commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery on 20th December 1906, and was posted to India. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1909.
In August 1909, he was transferred into the 34th Prince Albert Victor’s Own Poona Horse, and he learnt to speak Hindustani and Persian. He was also an accomplished rider, played a lot of polo and was a very good shot. He was appointed Orderly Officer to Sir Percy Lake, Chief of General Staff in India, with the local rank of Captain in 1913. He re-joined the Regiment in September 1914 after the outbreak of War, and arrived at Marseilles on 15th October 1914. He was part of the first Indian cavalry regiment to serve in the Great War. The Regiment saw its first action at Neuve Chapelle on 2nd November and for the next few weeks served dismounted, providing work parties and acting as a mobile reserve.
On 24th November 1914 near Festubert, France, Lieutenant de Pass entered a German sap and destroyed a traverse in the face of the enemy’s bombs. Subsequently he rescued, under heavy fire, a wounded man who was lying exposed to enemy bullets in the open. Lieutenant de Pass lost his life in a second attempt to capture the sap which had been re-occupied by the enemy. De Pass had been hit by a sniper’s bullet, and was buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, France. His gravestone carries the words of Rupert Brooke’s war sonnet “IV: The Dead”, “loved; gone proudly friended”. He was the first Jewish VC of the Great War. He was also mentioned in despatches four times. The VC was posted to his father, because he was not well enough to receive it personally from the King.
In addition to his VC, he received the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His medals were sold at Spinks on 28th March 1995 for £25,000 and are held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea. They are not currently displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL ARMY MUSEUM, CHELSEA, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BETHUNE TOWN CEMETERY, BETHUNE, FRANCE.
PLOT I, ROW A, GRAVE 24
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Terry Hissey – VC Stone in Kensington, London.
Thomas Stewart – Two images of memorials to De Pass VC at RMA Sandhurst and the medal group at the National Army Museum.