O'BRIEN, Thomas
(Service number 3547)

Aliases Bricky
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 24 May 1881 Place of Birth Geraldine

Enlistment Information

Date 22 June 1917 Age 36 years 1 month
Address at Enlistment P.O., Perth, Western Australia
Occupation Jockey
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Susan O'BRIEN, Empire Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 2½ inches. Weight 112 lbs. Chest measurement 31-33 Inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair reddish brown. Free from scrofula; phthisis; syphilis; impaired constitution; defective intelligence; defects of vision, voice or hearing; hernia; haemorrhoids; varicose veins, beyond a limited extent; marked varicocele with unusually pendent testicle; inveterate cutaneous disease; chronic ulcers; traces of corporal punishment; contracted or deformed chest; abnormal curvature of spine; or any other disease or physical defect calculated to unfit him for the duties of a soldier. Can see the required distance with either eye. Heart & lungs healthy. Free use of joints & limbs. Not subject to fits of any description. 3 vaccination marks on arm. Sebaceous cyst right side of neck.

Military Service

Served with Australian Imperial Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 31st Reinforcement
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 10th Light Horse Regiment
Date 9 November 1917, 24 November 1917
Transport Commonwealth, Canberra
Embarked From Fremantle, Western Australia ("Canberra") Destination Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 27 August 1919 Reason Termination of period of enlistment.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

24 July 1918 admitted to 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital at Moascar with malaria; 28 July diagnosis changed to bronchitis. 9 August 1918 transferred to Rest Camp at Moascar; 19 March 1919 wounded, remained on duty.

Post-war Occupations



Date Age
Place of Death
Memorial or Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Thomas O'Brien was the fourth son of Edward and Susan Anna (née McClelland) O'Brien. Edward and Susan, both from Ireland, married in 1875 at Timaru. Known as Tommy, and “Bricky” in the racing world, Thomas was born on 24 May 1881 at Geraldine and baptised Roman Catholic on 16 October following at Geraldine. Along with his siblings, Thomas was educated at Geraldine School There was a large gathering of parents and friends for the annual distribution of prizes in December 1893. Few attendance prizes were awarded, but measles and other sicknesses had attacked the children during the year. The chairman of the Town Board urged the children to be regular in attendance and to “get as much learning as they could while they were young.” “Learn a trade if you possibly can,” was the message of a former schoolmaster to the boys. Thomas O’Brien, in Standard III, was a prize recipient. Thomas’ mother was a cripple by December 1903, when it was reported that she could not attend court to defend her husband on a charge of having a cow at large. His parents lived at Geraldine until about 1912 when they moved to Christchurch. Edward O’Brien senior, who died in April 1922 and Susan O’Brien in June 1931, are buried in Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch.

Thomas did not learn a trade as such, but like some of his brothers, embarked on a career as a jockey and went away to the North Island. It appears that Thomas O’Brien, who became an accomplished jockey and horse trainer, was in the Hawke’s Bay area, where his brothers Edward and Patrick also rode, from a young age. In February 1898 jockey Tom O’Brien was thrown from his horse “The Artist” when the horse struck one of the hurdles while being exercised on the Palmerston racecourse. O’Brien was found to have injured his spine. Was this young Thomas? Thomas, a jockey, recorded on the electoral roll at Hastings in 1900? By April Tom was back in the saddle and steered “Nayborn” to victory in the hurdles. From 1901 to 1907 T. O’Brien features regularly in the race results (Hastings Standard), more often than not with a placing. The following account appeared after the Ashburst-Pohangina Racing Club meeting – “The Ashhurst Guineas was a good sporting race and provided a most exciting finish. Ngatarua was brought to the post in beautiful condition and found the sevenfurlong journey much to his liking. The winner was paraded on the lawn, and adorned with the blue ribbon by Miss Hanlon, second daughter of the president, and cheers were given for the owner, trainer, and “Bricky” O'Brien, the jockey.” (Manawatu Times, 30 December 1903). Bricky did not confine his riding to the North Island. In March 1905 “the Canterbury light-weight” went over from Christchurch to Reefton and Westport, where he steered five winners.

The Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club Metropolitan Committee granted a jockey’s licence to T. O’Brien in September 1906. Perhaps this same Thomas O’Brien was enjoying a bicycle ride in April 1907, until he was fined for riding on the footpath. Mr O’Brien, one of his brothers (probably Edward or Patrick), received a telegram in December 1907, informing him that Tommy had been badly hurt through “Polyanthus” falling on him at the Palmerston Christmas meeting. But in mid January 1908 Tommy was back riding “Polyanthus”. The horse “Full Cry” was disqualified following a Wellington Racing Club meeting in July 1908, and also its owner and its jockey (T. O’Brien). T. O’Brien wrote to the Hawke’s Bay Metropolitan Club seeking permission to work in stables during his disqualification but the club refused as it did not have the power to do so. The following season the Wellington R. C. may have considered tommy O’Brien’s case. It was believed that he had paid a stiff penalty for his participation in the “Full Cry” business and that it would be a magnanimous act if his licence was restored. In September 1910 T. O’Brien was granted a jockey’s license by the Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club. The Hastings Standard of 7 October 1910 reported of the Hawke’s Bay meeting thus: “Tommy O'Brien, the well known horseman, signalised his reappearance in the saddle yesterday by piloting Multiple to victory in the Final Handicap. On returning to the birdcage, both horse and rider were subjects of a popular ovation, and there was further cheering when O'Brien entered the jockey’s room.” And the Evening Post: “The meeting concluded with the Final Handicap, for which Humming Bird was rather more in demand than Multiple. She got chopped out three furJongs from home, and so lost a length or two, but she could never have beaten Multiple in any case, as he won very easily by a length or so, giving T. O'Brien his first winning mount since his reinstatement. This was not lost sight of, as on returning to scale, and again on entering the jockey's room, O'Brien was loudly cheered.” In 1911 Thomas O’Brien was enrolled as a jockey at Greenmeadows, Napier, a place to which he makes feeling reference in 1918 while serving abroad.

Within about a year of his reinstatement, Tommy O’Brien had gone to Australia, where he met with more success, including an engagement to ride in the 1912 Australian Cup. He continued to ride winners in 1913 in Western Australia where he was based. In early May1913 at Boulder he rushed “High Guard”, who had been withdrawn the previous week, to the front soon after the start, and there the gelding stayed, casting out any anxiety from his supporters. “High Guard” was saddled up again for the last race of the day and again scored, with O’Brien in the saddle. In July 1915, as Edward O’Brien himself was preparing to go to the front, he advised that his brother Tom was in India – presumably riding. At the Boulder Picnic meeting in August 1916, jockey T. O’Brien and the owner of “Blue Inn” were suspended. T. O’Brien, jockey, along with the mare “Home Truth” and the owner, was disqualified in November 1916 for six months following an inquiry in the running of the mare at an earlier meeting. In the first six months of1917, T. O’Brien regularly featured in the racing results in Western Australia and further afield.

Thomas O’Brien attested at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, on 22 June 1917. He stated that he was 32 years and 1 month, whereas he was 36 years and 1 month (almost)! He said that he had been an apprentice jockey in Melbourne. A jockey, single and Roman Catholic, he nominated his mother – Susan O’Brien, Hotel Empire, Christchurch, New Zealand – as next-of-kin, and gave his own address as P.O. Perth, Western Australia. He was probably the smallest of the three O’Brien jockeys who served, being only 5 feet 2½ inches tall, weighing 112 lbs and with a chest measurement of 31-33 inches. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes and reddish brown hair. In all respects he was in good health.

Thomas O’Brien was initially posted to the rank of private but in less than a month was posted to trooper with the Australian Light Horse. Twice in October 1917, when he was absent without leave, a warrant for arrest as a deserter was issued, and on each occasion cancelled. The following month he reverted to the rank of private. Attached to the 10th Light Horse Regiment of the 31st Reinforcement, he embarked on 9 November 1917 per the “Commonwealth” and at Fremantle on 24 November transferred to the “Canberra” for Moascar, where he marched into the Reinforcements Camp on 21 December. Taken on strength, he marched out to the Australian Provost Corps on 15 April 1918. On 24 July 1918 Thomas was admitted to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital at Moascar with malaria, having complained of feeling feverish for three days, and prescribed routine treatment. Then, on 28 July the diagnosis was changed to bronchitis. And on 9 August 1918 he was transferred to the Desert Mounted Corps Rest Camp at Port Said, before marching out to Moascar on 21 August and transferring to the 10th Light Horse Regiment. He had leave in Egypt in early February 1919, but was reported absent for failing to return from leave. He was, however, soon traced and apprehended by the Military Police. Found guilty of 10 days absence, he was awarded 14 days Field Punishment and forfeited 24 days pay. He was discharged from the Field Punishment compound at abassia on 11 March 1919, his conduct being good. On 19 March 1919, just a week after rejoining the 10th Light Horse Regiment, O’Brien was wounded slightly but remained on duty.

Some interesting newspaper accounts of Thomas in Egypt came in 1918. “Private Thomas O’Brien, of the 10th Australian Light Horse, is now in Egypt, at a training camp. Most sportsmen will remember the cheerful “Bricky,” as he was popularly known, when he used to ride the horses of the big Hawke’s Bay owners. “Bricky” left these shores some ten years ago to try his luck in Australia. He pulled up at Adelaide, where he became attached to the James stable, and he did well. He then went West, and did better still. O’Brien says that the camp he is in is the largest detail camp in Egypt, and is full of donkeys, mules, and horses, but he asserts that he would sooner land at Greenmeadows tomorrow than go on to London, the home-call being so strong. (Press. 24 April 1918). At much the same time a picture postcard was received at Riccarton, Christchurch, with photographs of W. Holmes and “Bricky” O’Brien, two well-known horsemen, both looking “in the best of health and spirits”.

“Fred Smith, formerly private trainer . . . . , and well known on the West Coast, writes from Jordan Valley reporting that the New Zealand Rifle Brigade are having a spell for three months, and during the holidays they are having plenty of sports meetings which include a few horse races. Amongst the sporting brigade with Fred are “Bricky” O’Brien, now of the 7th Australian Light Horse; his brother, Ted O’Brien, Billy Holmes, Tim O’Connor and Bert Worrnald, all of whom send their greetings to their mates in New Zealand. At the last race meeting W. Holmes won on a mare that was an exact double of Redwing. “Bricky” O’Brien was on the runner-up. The New Zealanders have had a pretty hot time at Amman—east of Jordan —but all the above got out safely.” (Greymouth Evening Star. 2 August 1918)

“During the week a picture postcard of the New Zealand mare Gazelle, who completed the trying march over the desert, was received from a local sportsman at present on service in the Egyptian quarter. The photograph shows Gazelle to be wearing particularly well, and sportsmen in these parts will be interested to learn that the mare referred to recently won a match against one of the best Australian horses at Moascar, the match creating great interest amongst the troops from the Antipodes. Gazelle is probably the chestnut daughter of Lethe and Marvel, who won two hack races at Rotorua as far back as 1911, when she raced in the nomination of Mr. J. Brown. She then figured as a five-year- old, so that she is now entering on her twelfth year. The communication received states that the New Zealand mare was used right through the desert as a pack-horse by the Wellington headquarters’ staff prior to being handed over to the ex-New Zealand horseman, W. Holmes, to prepare for the match. Holmes rode his charge to victory by a head from the Australian representative, who was ridden by the ex-New Zealand lightweight horseman T. (“Bricky”) O’Brien.” (New Zealand Herald. 3 August 1918). A similar abbreviated account of the match appeared in the Western Australian Kalgoorlie Miner.

On 22 July 1919 advice was sent to Thomas’ mother to the effect that No. 3547 Private T. O’Brien 10th Light Horse Regiment was returning to Australia per transport “Oxfordshire” which left Cairo on 10 July 1919 and was expected to arrive at Melbourne about 10th August. In effect, he disembarked on 4 August 1919 at Fremantle. There he was discharged on 27 August on the termination of his period of engagement. Bricky had obviously won acceptance in Western Australia, as evidenced by newspaper items on his return – “Bricky O’Brien’s back.” (17 August 1919) and “Returned Jockey-Soldier Bricky O’Brien was the Poet Laureate of his platoon.” (24 August 1919). An item in the Perth Sunday Times of 31 August 1919 revealed another side of Tom O’Brien – “You don’t usually associate horse-racing with vocal music, one having a tendency to render hoarse (be careful of the spelling Mr. Linotype) the voices of the would-be warblers. One of the best amateur quartets of this city, and one that comes as a surprise, is composed of four leading sports, all of whom have been, and still are, first-class riders – Bert Porter, len Hobba, Wally Truscott, and “Bricky” O’Brien. It may seem an incongruous recreation for such as the above, but if you want to hear “Sweet and Low,” “The Soldier’s Farewell,” “The Moon Hath Raised,” etc., get with the aforementioned quartet when an evening party is in full blast. Those who only know the quartet in the racing and Naughty Nedlands capacity would be surprised to hear the amount of good, tunefull, well-balanced harmony contained in this four local song-birds.” By mid September 1919 Bricky O’Brien had gone to Singapore in search of rides. He was back in Western Australia on 24 June 1920, riding four winners and one third at the Mt Magnet race meeting. Bricky O’Brien rode the winner of the Cup at the Victoria District Turf Club’s meeting in November 1921. Mr J. Penn’s “Channel Fleet” closed in on the leading horse and passed the winning by a couple of lengths in front of the field. O’Brien was greeted by a rousing cheer when he entered the weighing-in paddock. At the Yalgoo races held in April 1923, some amusement was caused by the stubborn obstinacy of a certain horse which persisted in running anywhere but in the direction of the winning post. The owner thought he must have objected either to his jockey Bricky O’Brien, or the Irish Free State colours he was wearing, or that he missed the familiar stopping places and the cry of “Baker!” to which he was accustomed. In March 1925 Jockey O’Brien “got out of it lucky” when “Flinders Bay” fell – “Flinders Bay” which would be lucky if he didn’t break somebody’s neck.

In June 1925 “Bricky” O’Brien inserted a notice in the Geraldton Guadian, in memory of a pal who had died the year before. That pal was Jack Penn, the horse owner for whom Bricky rode. Bricky took in hand in April 1932, “Amen Ra”, an imported good looking chestnut horse purchased in Melbourne. “Gift Horse Wins” was the headline in January 1936. Three-year-old “Barramunga” had not raced to any extent, but he won three races altogether up to July 1935, when he was placed under the charge of Mr T. (“Bricky”) O’Brien. As a trainer Mr O’Brien is to be congratulated on the results he has achieved with the “gift colt,” for in his last eight starts he has not, on any occasion, been defeated, read The Daily News, WA. Thomas O’Brien was granted a jockey’s licence by the committee of the W.A.T.C. on 18 January 1938. In November 1939, Bricky was again riding, this time on the winning mount in the Queenstown Handicap in Tasmania. At the Repatriation Ward, Perth Hospital, there passed away on 10 September 1944, Tony O’Connor, late AIF, an esteemed friend of Tommy O’Brien (AIF).

Bricky O’Brien enjoyed at least one more tribute to his life in Western Australia. In October 1953 the “popular Beverley delegate to Avon Valley Football Association” was elected a life member of the association, in recognition of his long and valued service to the Australian game in the Avon Valley. The honour was fully deserved. He was also secretary of the Beverley Football Club. The Beverley president said that “Blue” had practically carried the club for years as secretary-treasurer and had worked for the good of the Association.

What became of Thomas “Bricky” O’Brien, born and educated at Geraldine, New Zealand, a noted jockey in both New Zealand and Australia, whose service with the Australian forces in World War I was recognised with the British War Medal and the Victory Medal? There was Thomas O’Brien, jockey, living in Kalgoorlie from the 1940s through to 1980. This Thomas appears to have died on 18 June 1987 and been buried in Kalgoorlie Cemetery, joined by his wife Ruby Millicent in 2006. The big question over this record concerns Bricky’s age. Thomas’s older brother Edward died of disease in 1919 at Cairo; and a younger brother Patrick served with the New Zealand Forces.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [27 January 2019]; Attestation Paper for Australian Imperial Force (National Archives of Australia per [27 January 2019]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [27 January 2019]; Baptism index (Christchurch Catholic Diocese index held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [27 January 2019]; Temuka Leader, 23 December 1893, Hastings Standard, 18 February 1898, 18 March 1901, 7 October 1901, 17 March 1902, 18 March 1903, 23 June 1906, 1 August 1906, 8 September 1906, 4 October 1906, several 1907, 12 April 1907, 23 December 1907, 1 August 1908, 2 October 1908, 3 September 1910, 4, 5 & 7 October 1910, NZ Mail, 6 January 1904, 3 February 1904, Hawera & Normanby Star, 21 February 1898, Wanganui Chronicle, 28 February 1898, 20 April 1898, Manawatu Times, 30 December 1903, Grey River Argus, 4 March 1905, Manawatu Herald, 9 March 1905, NZ Truth, 11 January 1908, 20 January 1912, 6 September 1913, Evening Post, 19 May 1909, 6 August 1909, 7 October 1910, 24 July 1915, Press, 21 May 1913, 24 & 25 April 1918, Greymouth Evening Star, 2 August 1918, NZ Herald, 3 August 1918 (Papers Past) [27, 29 & 30 January 2019]; Sunday Times, WA, 4 May 1913, 20 August 1916, 17, 24 & 31 August 1919, 14 September 1919, Kalgoorlie Miner, WA, Australia, 21 November 1916, 27 August 1918, 15 April 1932, Westralian Worker, 9 July 1920, Geraldton Guardian, WA, 22 November 1921, 11 June 1925, The Mullewa Mail, WA, 26 April 1923, Call, WA, 13 March 1925, The Daily News, WA, 7 January 1936, The West Australian, 19 January 1938, 12 September 1944, Advocate, Burnie, Tasmania, 4 November 1939, Avon Argus . . . , 22 October 1953 (Trove Newspaper Home) [29 January 2019; 05 February 2019]; NZ & Australian Electoral Rolls ( [28 January 2019; 03 February 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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