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.  

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