The AIF Project


Regimental number1008
Date of birth23 February 1892
Place of birthWoodville, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
ReligionRoman Catholic
Addressc/o R J Pierney, Onga Onga, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation23
Next of kinMother, Mrs J O'Brien, c/o R J Pierney, Onga Onga, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
Enlistment date15 February 1915
Rank on enlistmentSapper
Unit nameSignal Troop 4
AWM Embarkation Roll number22/22/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A31 Ajana on 31 May 1915
Recommendations (Medals and Awards)

Mention in Despatches

Awarded, and gazetted, 'London Gazette', second Supplement, No. 30448 (28 December 1917); 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 57 (18 April 1918).

Miscellaneous details (Nominal Roll)Name does not appear on Nominal Roll
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Son of Patrick and Mary (nee Hogan) O'BRIEN

Military Medal

'Gallantry in the field and devotion to duty under heavy shell fire in SAUSAGE VALLEY during the afternoon and evening of 10th August, 1916. Corporal O'BRIEN showed remarkable courage and skill during this bombardment, he and his party were responsible for the restoration and subsequent maintenance of communications between Divisional Headquarters and the 4th and 12th Brigades working in the open the whole time. His work on GALLIPOLI was excellent, he being one of the chosen to man the 2nd Divisional Signal Office at the evacuation from the foot of PLUGGES PLATEAU finally evacuating in the last batch of C.111 party.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 62
Date: 19 April 1917

Distinguished Conduct Medal

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He assisted in the laying of a buried cable route. A large working party was on its way to the work when a hostile barrage commenced. He went out voluntarily through the barrage, met the party, and conducted them to the work. He showed great courage and determination throughout a very trying time, and was largely responsible for the successful completion of the work.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 95
Date: 27 June 1918

MM Bar

Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 116
Date: 25 July 1917

Military Cross

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He laid lines and maintained them under heavy shell fire. The lines from division to brigades were continually cut, but he remained in the open with his detachment, under heavy enemy barrage, and maintained communications. He showed a fine example.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 185
Date: 27 November 1918

Other details

War service: Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

Medals: Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal & Bar, Military Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Extract from 'Australian Dictionary of Biography: 'On 30 October 1913 he joined the Postmaster-General's Department in Australia as a lineman and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a sapper in the 4th Signal Troop, 4th Light Horse Brigade, in February 1915.

In Egypt his troop was allotted to the newly formed 2nd Divisional Signal Company and in August O'Brien accompanied it to Gallipoli. On the formation of the 4th Divisional Signal Company in Egypt in March 1916, O'Brien was transferred to it as a corporal and in June embarked for France where the company took over communications for the 4th Division at Merris on 11th June.

During operations at Pozieres he was awarded the Military Medal for laying and maintaining telephone lines under shell-fire, and for a similar act at Flers during the winter of 1916 he was awarded a Bar to the Military Medal. He was promoted sergeant on 10 April 1917 and for bravery while in charge of construction and maintenance parties on 7-14 June at Messines, Belgium, he was mentioned in dispatches.

During operations of the 4th Division at Ypres he showed remarkable disregard for danger and took charge of working parties constructing buried cable routes from Divisional Headquarters to the line brigades and supporting artillery. The scale of these cable-laying operations was enormous. The cable had to be dug to a depth of six feet (183 cm) to minimize the effects of shell-fire; it had to be dug at night and usually by working parties of tired infantrymen. For his efforts in these conditions his company commander, Major J E Fraser, described O'Brien as 'leaving no stone unturned to immortalize the password of the Signal Service "communication at all costs"'. For such work he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

On the night of 28/29 September 1917 at Zonnebeke a working party of 400 men was on its way to bury cable when a heavy enemy barrage commenced. Sergeant O'Brien volunteered to go through it to meet the party. Much depended on their work that night as an attack was to begin next day. He passed through the barrage safely and conducted the cable and on his own initiative brought up supplies. The work was completed and when tested all seventy pairs of cable required for that part of the divisional communications system were found to be in good order.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, promoted warrant officer on 4 October and commissioned second lieutenant on 6 November. During the German offensive from March 1918 at Albert and Dernancourt, France, as divisional lines officer O'Brien personally supervised his sections and maintained communications through the extremely heavy barrages of 5 April. Again in the words of Major Fraser, 'the importance of good communication on this eventful day, which decided the fate of the Great German Onrush and the results which he showed for his efforts, brought this gallant officer the Military Cross'.

After the Armistice Lieutenant O'Brien married Christina Urquhart on 28 November 1918 at Glasgow, Scotland.'
Date of death19 May 1974
Place of burialBankstown, Sydney, New South Wales

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