O'BRIEN, William
(Service number 64717)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 1 September 1889 Place of Birth Liverpool, England

Enlistment Information

Date 13 July 1917 Age 27 years
Address at Enlistment 84 Evans Street, Timaru; amended to National Hotel, Wellington
Occupation Barman
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Elizabeth O'BRIEN (mother), 84 Evans Street, Timaru
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 32nd Reinforcements, E Company
Date 21 November 1917
Transport Maunganui
Embarked From Wellington Destination Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Regiment

Military Awards

Service Medals
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 25 August 1919 Reason On Termination of period of engagement.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Labourer; painter


Date 25 August 1958 Age 68 years
Place of Death Auckland
Memorial or Cemetery Otahuhu Cemetery, Auckland
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William O’Brien was born on 1 September 1889 at Liverpool, England, the son of John and Elizabeth Alice (née Bowring) O’Brien. Although the record names the child as Elizabeth, it appears to be his baptism on 22 September 1889 at the Sacred Heart Parish, Liverpool (his birth date and parents’ names being correct). William’s father, who had never been in New Zealand, had died before William enlisted with the New Zealand Forces. William recorded that he and his mother had been in New Zealand for 15 years. John O’Brien and Elizabeth Alice Bowring married in 1881 in the Church of England in Liverpool. In 1887 Elizabeth Alice O’Brien (née Bowring) was baptised in the Roman Catholic Church at Liverpool (conditionally as she had probably been baptised in the Church of England as an infant). In 1881 both Elizabeth A. Bowring and John O’Brien were with her parents at Liverpool, John a boarder and a car driver. In 1891, Elizabeth A. O’Brien and her three sons (John, Edward and 2 year old William) were with her widowed mother at Mount Pleasant, Liverpool. John O’Brien died on 23 April 1897 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary and was buried in the Roman Catholic Section of Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. John O’Brien was 38 or 39 years old and a car driver, both details corresponding to those given at his marriage in 1881.Two daughters who died young – Annie in 1894 (3 months) and Elizabeth in 1897 (14 months) – are buried in the same cemetery. Elizabeth Alice O’Brien, a widow, married German-born Morris Beerman Franklin in 1899 at Liverpool. In 1901, Elizabeth, Morris and three of Elizabeth’s sons (Edward, William and James, who was born in 1894) are still at Liverpool, the sons recorded as Franklin. Her eldest son, John Bowring O’Brien, an apprentice plumber, was with his maternal grandmother and uncle in 1901.

It appears that Elizabeth Alice O’Brien and her four sons – John, Edward, William and James - came to New Zealand in about 1902. In 1911 Elizabeth Alice O’Brien was living in William Street, Timaru, as was Edward, a hairdresser, he being recorded as an apprentice barber in 1901. John Bowring O’Brien, the eldest son, married Ruth Lissette in 1910 in New Zealand, From 1914 John, a musician, and Ruth were in Victoria, Australia. Edward Kennedy, hairdresser, and James Kennedy, ploughman - brothers of William - were both listed on the 1916 Reserves Roll living at 84 Evans Street, Timaru, their mother’s address by then. Edward married Gladys Kennedy in 1921. Edward and Gladys were still at Timaru in 1928. He died in December 1930 at Hastings and was buried there. In 1935 Gladys was with her mother-in-law, Elizabeth O’Brien, at Otahuhu, Auckland, and in 1946 with her brother-in-law, William O’Brien, again at Otahuhu. A death notice for Elizabeth Alice O’Brien, possibly inserted by Gladys, names two grandsons and her daughter-in-law, Mrs G. O’Brien. James O’Brien, the youngest son, was called up after his name was drawn in the ballot in 1917. James married Violet May Blackburn on 28 April 1931 at St Joseph’s Parish, Otahuhu, Auckland, which information appears in an annotation to his baptism record in Liverpool. James and Violet may have separated just a few years later. From the 1920s to the 1940s James resided at the Portage Road, which had been at one time the address of his mother and his brother William. James John O’Brien died on 24 November 1994, aged 100, and was buried in Otahuhu Cemetery. Mrs Elizabeth Alice O’Brien died on 22 June 1943 at the Otahuhu residence of her son William, where she had been living since leaving Timaru in the 1920s, and was buried in Otahuhu Cemetery.

William O’Brien enlisted on 13 July 1917 at Wellington. He gave his address initially as 84 Evans Street, Timaru, amending that to National Hotel, Wellington, where he was a barman. He named his mother as next-of-kin – Mrs Elizabeth O’Brien, 84 Evans Street, Timaru. Private W. O’Brien embarked at Wellington with the 32nd Reinforcements per the “Maunganui” on 21 November 1917, disembarking at Liverpool on 8 January 1918. Having embarked on 8 June 1919, he returned to New Zealand aboard the “Chupra”, one of 732 soldiers due at Lyttelton about July 22nd, 1919. Discharged on 25 August 1919, he intended to reside at 84 Evans Street, Timaru. From 1928 until his death, William O’Brien resided at Otahuhu, working as a painter. He married Mabel Gilman in 1940, and it is thought that they had a son William. William died on 25 August 1958 at Auckland, aged 68, and was buried in Otahuhu Cemetery, a service’s plaque marking his grave.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [30 April 2021]; 1881, 1891, 1901 England Census returns ( [02 & 04 May 2021]; NZ & Australian Electoral Rolls ( [01, 02 & 03 May 2021]; Liverpool Baptism records ( [03 May 2021]; Liverpool Marriage records ( [02 & 03 May 2021]; Liverpool Cemetery records ( [02 & 03 May 2021]; Otahuhu Cemetery headstone transcription [03 May 2021]; Otahuhu Cemetery headstone image (Find A Grave) [03 May 20201]; Otahuhu Cemetery burial records (Auckland Council) [03 May 2021]; Timaru Herald, 9 May 1917, NZ Times, 4 July 1919, Auckland Star, 23 June 1943 (Papers Past)

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