Profile

O'BRIEN, Edward John
(Service number 7/1501)

Aliases Enlisted as Edward O'BRIEN
First Rank Trooper Last Rank Trooper

Birth

Date 2 April 1880 Place of Birth Geraldine

Enlistment Information

Date 8 June 1915 Age 35 years 2 months
Address at Enlistment 162 Salisbury Street, Christchurch
Occupation Horse trainer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs E. O'BRIEN (mother), 162 Salisbury Street, Christchurch
Religion Roman Catholic
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5½ inches. Weight 161 lbs? Chest measurement 35-39 inches. Complexion fresh. Eyes blue. Hair black. Sight, hearing & colour vision all normal. Limbs well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth - pass. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. Small mole on left side of neck. Small scar left flank.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation 6th Reinforcements
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Canterbury Mounted Rifles
Date 14 August 1915
Transport Tofua
Embarked From Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Mounted Rifles

Military Awards

Campaigns Balkan (Gallipoli); Egyptian; Egyptian Expeditionary Force
Service Medals 1914-1915 Star; 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

Discharge

Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

March 1916, Egypt - bronchitis; April 1916 admitted to hospital in Egypt - dysentery & debility; August 1916 readmitted to hospital - diarrhoea; 30 April 1917 admitted to hospital at Moascar - back injury; May 1917 admitted to hospital at Abassio, Cairo - contusions of back & neck; August 1917 admitted to hospital - tonsillitis; transferred to Infectious hospital; 7 September 1917 admitted to Convalescent home at Heliopolis - diptheria; February 1918 - dental treatment; December 1918 suffering from debility; February 1919 dangerously ill at Moascar. - pneumonia.

Post-war Occupations

Death

Date 10 March 1919 Age 38 years
Place of Death 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, Moascar, Egypt
Cause Died of disease - bronco pneumonia
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt
Memorial Reference C. 20.
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Edward John O'Brien was the third son of Edward and Susan Anna (née McClelland) O'Brien. Edward and Susan, both from Ireland, married in 1875 at Timaru. Edward was born on 2 April 1880 at Geraldine and baptised Roman Catholic on 6 June following at Temuka. He attended Geraldine School where, in early 1886, he received recognition in the Below Standard I group. The distribution of prizes was looked forward to with much interest by the scholars. Edward was probably too young to appreciate the words of the Rev Mr Barclay, that they should “attend to their duties that they might be in a position to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded them.” Ted’s 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.

In 1911 Edward John O’Brien was a horse trainer in Hastings. His brother Patrick may have been in the same area. Several of the family seem to have been horse trainers or jockeys. In fact Ted had been in the area since at least 1908. In early January 1908 E. J. O’Brien was granted a temporary jockeys licence by the Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club. It was in April 1908 that he had an accident when his mount, ‘Golden Comb’, fell. It was initially thought that Ted had escaped injury, but he struck a post which caused an ugly wound over the right eye requiring stitches. In August the same year he brought a complaint against an owner who had engaged him to ride at Napier Park but had not fulfilled the engagement. He had been taken off his mount ‘Top Rose’ without being previously notified. After the evidence of O’Brien and of the owner of ‘Top Rose’ was heard, the matter was, however, dismissed. At the August 1909 meeting of the Hawke’s Bay Metropolitan Committee both E. J. O’Brien and P. O’Brien were granted jockeys licences. Edward’s licence was granted again in August the following year.

E. J. O’Brien was granted a trainer’s licence by the Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club in April 1911. That licence was renewed in June 1913 and August 1913. As of September 1913 Ted was in command at Mr Moynahan’s stable at Taradale, where he had a number of charges – an untried three-year-old, a four-year-old chestnut gelding, a chestnut mare, among others. “The condition of his charge reflects credit on O’Brien, whose painstaking efforts may be rewarded with success in the near future,” reported the Hastings Standard. A couple of months later, Old Lord Possible who had been reported as “ready to race now”, unseated his rider, Ted O’Brien while out exercising and dumped him on the road. The horse was caught after galloping through Taradale. Fortunately neither horse nor Ted was injured. And it was Lord Possible who brought trainer Ted O’Brien success in January 1914 after some time without a win.

On 8 June 1915, aged 35 years and two months, Edward O’Brien enlisted with the New Zealand Forces. He gave his address as 162 Salisbury Street, Christchurch, though he was working at Flaxton, near Christchurch, as a horse trainer. Roman Catholic and single, he nominated his mother, Mrs E. O’Brien of 162 Salisbury Street as his next-of-kin. Although just 5 feet 5½ inches tall, as befits a jockey, he was in good physical and mental health. His teeth were rated “pass” and he had a mole on his neck and a scar on his left flank. He had been recruited in May 1915 for the Reinforcements and Special Force. He was one of twenty-eight men selected from the Christchurch and Kaiapoi areas to join the special mounted rifle reinforcements. They left for Trentham on 1 July 1915 after parading at the King Edward Barracks at 6.30 pm. They were accompanied by friends who had grown in number by the time the train drew out of the station. While in Tauherenikau Camp, on 30 July 1915, Ted was admitted to the military hospital then transferred to the Greytown Civil Hospital with a sore throat.

Before long – on 14 August 1915 - Trooper Edward O’Brien embarked with the Sixth Reinforcements, Canterbury Mounted Rifles on the Tofua, destined for Suez, Egypt. At this time his brother Tom, a well-known horseman in the Dominion and Australia, was in India. In October 1915 he was posted to his unit with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. Edward was confined to barracks and forfeited 4 days pay in January 1916 for absence without leave in Cairo. He was first appointed cook in September 1916 at Alexandria, relinquishing the position in October, only to be reappointed 12 days later. Very soon after he was transferred to the Mounted Rifles Brigade.. In January 1917 he was again appointed cook at Alexandria – he must have been doing a good job. He relinquished the position in April 1917, only to be reappointed in June 1917. There followed again a posting to the Mounted Rifles.

Emmett Mclvor, formerly a well-known amateur rider and sporting writer in the Hawke’s Bay district, wrote in October 1916 while also serving overseas – “. . . . . In Egypt we were camped at Tel el Kebir for over five weeks, exactly that period too long. While there, all the places of interest within reasonable distance were visited by the boys. Here we met Jim Stellin, also another well-known personage of New Zealand in Ted O’Brien, the ex –steeple ‘Jack.’ Ted is a Sergeant cook, and many a time we tasted of his fare. In fact, we owe him a great deal for his favors in this direction. O’Brien has done his bit and proved too much for Johnny Turk at Gallipoli. Other ex-jocks, trainers and owners were also met here. . . . . .”

In March 1916, just three months after disembarking at Alexandria, Edward had a bout of bronchitis. He was admitted to hospital in Egypt in April 1916, with debility consequent upon dysentery. After being discharged to duty he was readmitted in August, sick with diarrhoea. Progress was satisfactory. Next hospital admission was on 30 April 1917 at Ismailia, with a back injury. Though he was reported as improving, the following month he was hospitalised at Abassio, Cairo, with contusions of the back and the neck. Later in the month he was discharged to light duty. August 1917 brought another hospital admission, this time with tonsillitis, then a transfer to the infectious hospital. On 7 September 1917 he was admitted to the Convalescent Home at Heliopolis suffering from diphtheria. February 1918 he required dental treatment. In December 1918 he was again suffering from debility – in retrospect probably not a good sign.

The Greymouth Evening Star reported on 2 August 1918: “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.”

1918 had brought a few service movements for Ted O’Brien – in April he was detached to the School of Cookery at Alexandria; in May transferred to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade; in November to the Desert Corps Reinforcements Camp; and in December appointment as cook, a position he relinquished in mid January 1919.

The news in February 1919 was not good – E. O’Brien (Christchurch) was reported dangerously ill at Moascar, Cairo. Less than four weeks later he was dead, although in the intervening period it was mistakenly reported that he had been removed from the seriously ill list. His condition was unchanged. After some three years and nine months abroad, Trooper O’Brien died of disease – broncho pneumonia - on 10 March 1919 at the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, Moascar, Egypt, aged 38 years. He had been admitted to the hospital on 26 January 1919. He was buried in the Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery by Chaplain Rev P. Killian. A telegram dated 11 March 1919 confirmed the sad news. A well-known cross-country rider and horse trainer, he had seen 3½ years of service at Gallipoli and in Palestine. But it was service peppered with hospital admissions, appointments as cook, and periods with the mounted rifles. The cemetery is situated less than a kilometre north-west of Ismailia town centre, Ismailia being a small town on the west side of the Suez Canal. The cemetery was begun in February 1915 following an unsuccessful attack on the town by Turkish forces, and continued to be used for burials from camps and hospitals in and around Ismailia and nearby Moascar. There are now 372 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery. The cemetery is contained within the main Ismailia Civilian Cemetery complex.

Ted O’Brien’s sorrowing parents and an older brother, Ern, remembered him in an In Memoriam notice in the Press of 10 March 1921. Thirteen months later the O’Brien family buried their husband and father, Edward senior. Mrs O’Brien lived till 1931. As per his will, Edward John O’Brien (a trainer) 7/1501 1st C.M.R. wished to leave all his money in the Post office Saving Bank to James O’Brien Motor Driver 187 Salisbury Street Christchurch. James was his youngest brother. Edward had drawn up his will on 10 July 1917 while on military service. It was executed by the Public Trustee in February 1920, when a sum of £202.17.5 in the Post Office Saving Bank was the total property. The medals awarded to Edward O’Brien – 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal – were forwarded to his brother James, his legatee, in November 1919, by which date James O’Brien was living at 198 Salisbury Street; likewise the plaque and scroll.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [27 January 2019]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5549 0087357) [27 January 2019], CWGC [27 January 2019]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [27 January 2019]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [27 January 2019]; Timaru Herald, 13 March 1886, 18 March 1919, Temuka Leader, 3 December 1903, Hastings Standard, 9 January 1908, 15 April 1908 [x 2], 7 August 1908, 2 October 1908, 7 August 1909, 8 August 1910, 10 April 1911, 7 June 1913, 2 August 1913, 6 September 1913, 20 November 1913, NZ Truth, 10 January 1914, 14 October 1916, Sun, 15 May 1915, Press, 2 July 1915, 25 March 1919, 10 March 1921, 10 April 1922, Evening Post, 24 July 1915, New Zealand Herald, 18 August 1915, Greymouth Evening Star, 2 August 1918, New Zealand Times, 19 February 1919, 12 & 15 March 1919, Star, 20 February 1919, Dominion, 5 March 1919, New Zealand Herald, 15 March 1919 (Papers Past) [27, 29, 30 & 31 January 2019]: Baptism index (Christchurch Catholic Diocese index held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [27 January 2019]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [28 January 2019]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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