Saturday, April 23, 2016

Anzac Day 1916 - Richard O'Brien & Hugh O'Brien

For Anzac Day 2016 I thought I'd see where  Richard O'Brien (a 15th battalion Gallipoli veteran) & brother Hugh O'Brien (enlisted in October 1915 in the 9th Battalion) were 100 years ago for Anzac Day, 25 April 1916.

Hugh O'Brien 
According to the 9th battalion war diary and the Australian War Memorial case study

The battalion left Egypt on 26 March 1916 (just over 1 month after arriving from Australia) and arrived in France (Marseille) on 2 April 1916. Its first billets were at Strazeele, Merris and Meteren, which were reached on 5 April 1916. It spent 2 weeks there. The first experience of the front line for the 9th Battalion on the Western Front was at Rouge de Bout, a very quiet sector.

On 25 April 1916 the first Anzac Day celebration was held. The 9th Battalion’s war diary for the day read: Generals Plumer, Walker, White inspected Battalion. General Maclagan spoke to men emphasising this the anniversary of Anzac after which General Plummer (the 2nd Army Commander) spoke. Company sports were held during afternoon, £50 in prize money distributed from Regimental funds.

Richard O'Brien 
He transferred from the 15th Battalion to the newly formed 11th Australian Field Artillery Brigade 41st Battery in March 1916.  April & May 1916 seem to have been spent at Tel-el-Kebir camp in Egypt doing artillery training.  Whilst the brigade's war diary makes no reference to Anzac Day it is likely Richard participated in the camp service and sports day.

Where were they in 1916?
I also thought it would be interesting to see where Richard & Hugh spent the first half of 1916 & whether they may have had the chance to cross paths.  The maps below shows there was a period when they were near each other in Egypt (though not in the same camp) and perhaps in France. Whether they saw each other we don't know but I like to think so.

Richard O'Brien & Hugh O'Brien Egypt & France 1916

A closer look at Egypt - both in camp near the Suez
Richard & Hugh Egypt 1916 - a closer look
 A closer look at France - not so far from each other in mid June 1916 before the 9th headed to Pozieres.
Richard & Hugh France 1916 - a closer look

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hugh O'Brien enlisted 7 October 1915

100 years ago today my Great Uncle Hugh O'Brien enlisted in Brisbane aged 23 years and 3 months.  He joined the 13th Reinforcements, 9th Battalion.  I've posted about Hugh before.  

It seems Hugh was not really suited to a soldiers life .... but he was not alone in that.  

He embarked from Brisbane on 3 January 1916 on HMAT Kyarra.  The ship must have stopped in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) as in Colombo on 28 January 1916 Hugh was charged with 1) Drunkenness and with 2) Leaving his picquet without orders from his superior officer.  (I think picquet means guard duty).  His punishment was 96 hours detention.

Then on 27 June 1916 he was court martialled in the field (National Archives of Australia file A471,8207). He was charged with When on Active Service Drunkenness. The offence took place on 21 June 1916 in the Field near Sailly (France) about 10:30pm. 

He was definitely not alone for the 9th battalion unit diary for 21 June 1916 says "we are averaging 2 cases of drunkenness each day.  All such are sent up for court martial.  Liquor can be purchased by men in every billet and the sale is very hard to control".   

The evidence presented informs us that Hugh belonged to No 16 Platoon of D Company who were temporarily attached to A Company. He was found guilty and sentenced to 45 days Field Punishment No 1 - described by the Australian war memorial website as consisting of heavy labouring duties, possibly being restrained in handcuffs or fetters, and being tied to a post or wheel. I think he also forfeited 52 days pay for the time of the field punishment plus 7 days awaiting trial.   

Sadly he didn't get to complete his punishment as he was killed on 23 July 1916.  

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Richard O'Brien Gallipoli 25 April 2015

On 25 April 1915 Richard O'Brien (introduced in Richard O'Brien enlisted 19 September 1914) with C Company of the 15th Battalion was aboard HMT Seeang Bee anchored opposite the disembarkation point at 4pm.   His company was with the balance of troops from Seang Bee which landed at Anzac Cover at 9 am on 26 April 1915.  Under Captain Quinn (after whom Quinn's Post was named) C Company and one platoon of B Company were ordered to support the right of the 3rd Brigade.

Richard O'Brien's file shows that only 2 days later he suffered a gun shot wound to the shoulder on 28 April 1915.   He was taken to hospital ship Gascon and then to Shibin-El-Kem hospital near Cairo, Egypt.

His file shows that his father was notified 'wounded in action at the Dardanelles'.

Richard rejoined his battalion on 13 June 1915 and had plenty of war ahead of him.

Meanwhile on 5 May 1915 the C Company was in bivouac with the rest of the 15th Battalion at Monash Valley.  The battalion was then involved in the attack at Quinn's Post.  The enemy counter attacked.

10 May 1915
Heavy casualties to the number of 160 killed and wounded were suffered by our battalion during the withdrawal of our troops to the original position.

14 May 1915
In addition to the officers the following are the other ranks casualties to date: killed 108, missing 103, sick 23, wounded 296, unaccounted for nil.

Sources:  Unit war diary AWM4 23/32/6 - April 1915, AWM4 23/32/7 - May 1915, WW1 service file

Friday, September 19, 2014

Richard O'Brien enlisted 19 September 1914

My Great or grand uncle Richard O'Brien enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 19 September 1914. Richard had been in Australia less than one year having arrived with his father and 2 of his sisters from Tipperary, Ireland in December 1913.  Richard was aged 21 years 1 month when he enlisted in Bundaberg, Queensland.  Looking at the mapping your anzacs website he was one of 761 people who enlisted in Bundaberg over the course of WW1.

He was appointed to the 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, AIF.   Richard was initially based at Enogerra army camp in Brisbane (source:war diary) with the following article on Trove from the Brisbane Courier 7 November 1914 describing one day (The distance from the current Enogerra barracks to Sandgate is 18.6km)  

The 15th Infantry Battalion of the Expeditionary Force and the 9th Battalion of Infantry Reinforcements, which marched to Sandgate from the Concen- tration Camp at Enoggera on Thursday,stayed the night at Sandgate. Yesterday the reville sounded early, and by 6.30 the troops were on the march through the main streets of Sandgate, giving the residents and others an opportunity of witnessing the fine stamp of men of which the battalions are made up. Subsequently the men indulged in recreation in which swimming played not the least important part. At 11 o'clock camp was struck and the soldiers commenced their march back to the Enoggera Encampment. It was a very hot, dusty and trying march but the infantry were in fine fettle and arrived back at Enogerra between 4 and 5 pm.

According to the embarkation roll on Australian War Memorial website he was one of 1029 from the 15 Infantry Battalion (December 1914) who embarked from Melbourne on 22 December 1914 on ship A40 HMAT Ceramic.   According to the war diary available on the Australian war memorial website the ship embarked from Port Melbourne at 3:30pm.

So Richard along with the rest of the 15th Infantry battalion (Queenslanders) had travelled to Broadmeadows, Melbourne by train arriving 26 November 1914 (source:war diary) to form part of the second Expeditionary Force with The Argus 1 December 1914 reporting:


At Broadmeadows the training of Colonel Monash's 4th Infantry Brigade commenced in earnest yesterday. The 14th Battalion was sent to Williamstown during the morning to learn the practical side of musketry, while the 13th, 15th, and 16th Battalions carried out exercises in the immediate neighbourhood of the camp, finishing up with short protected marches. The brigade staff is now under canvas, and a step nearer to active service conditions has been reached.

The brigade is complete, except that a company and a few other details from Western Australia have still to report them- selves. The men in camp are reported to be showing marked keenness for their work, and the brigade major (Lieut Colonel McGlinn) refers to them as "a very fine body altogether "

And this from the Port Fairy Gazette 3 December 1914 Melbourne notes
City folk have had plenty of opportunities of viewing troops on the march and the fine 
complement of motor waggons which are at present grouped in the Domain on the St. Kilda 
road. The various contingents from other States have been arriving in Melbourne during 
the past week, and it is expected that the second expeditionary force will soon be on the sea.
 The work of fitting up the different transport ships is being pushed forward day and night, which
is evidence that an early start is expected. Amongst the transports are two of the 
largest steamers trading to these ports-the Ceramic (18,500) and the Ulysess (15,000). The 
captured German vessels are also being used as transports.

The Argus 18 December 1914 reported on the inspiring spectacle of the 4th Infantry Brigade marching through the city.

While back in Queensland the Brisbane Courier 17 December 1914 reports on Stanley Prince Evans who is listed on the same embarkation roll.
Private Stanley P. Evans, of Coorparoo, who is at present with the 15th Infantry (Queenslanders), at Melbourne, on his way to the front, was yesterday presented through his father, Mr. W. Evans, of Greenslopes, Coorparoo, with a pair of military brushes (engraved), in holster, as a small token of esteem from the residents of Coorparoo. This is the eleventh Coorparoo member of the Expeditionary Force, and each has received a presentation from the residents.

I will explore Richard's war service further another time.

For anyone searching for William Howden (service number 4735) you will find 
some pages from his file are included in Richard O'Brien's file.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alfred Walter Gillingham enlisted 26 August 1914

My great or grand uncle Alfred Walter Gillingham enlisted one hundred years ago on 26 August 1914 in the British Army Service Corps. Born Paddington, London the son of Richard & Ada Gillingham he was a 19 year old motor mechanic.  So far I've identified five great uncles who served in WW1 in either the British or Australian armies.  I think Alfred is the first of the five to enlist.

Not knowing much about the Army Service Corps (ASC) I took a look at the British newspaper collection with The Daily Mirror in August 1914 noting that it is the ASC's job to see that the British soldier gets it all (food, ammunition and other necessities of campaigning) - and in good time.  The Long,Long Trail website has some good information on the ASC.

From Alfred's WW1 service record I've found that he served overseas (France I think) in Oct/Nov 1914 for 51 days before being knocked down by a motor car and hospitalised for 6 days in England. He was again overseas (France I think) from July 1915 for 3 years 261 days.  I plan to look further at what his war service entailed.

I have remembered Alfred Walter Gillingham on the Lives of the First World War website and plan to add some details in due course.

I have just started participating in Operation War Diary which is a project to tag the National Archives digital war diaries.  This will be really useful & it is quite easy to do the tagging so I hope the unit diaries I want to look at in more detail get tagged as part of this project.