The AIF Project

William James O'BRIEN

Regimental number7054
Place of birthCarlton, Victoria
ReligionRoman Catholic
AddressAvenel, Victoria
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation33
Next of kinMother, Mrs B Granger, Bridge Street, Benalla, Victoria
Enlistment date27 October 1916
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name14th Battalion, 23rd Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/31/4
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A7 Medic on 16 December 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll14th Battalion
Other details from Roll of Honour CircularEnlisted on 27th October 1916 and joined the 14th Battalion on 27th July 1917.
FateKilled in Action 11 August 1917
Place of death or woundingGapaard Farm, Messines, Belgium
Age at death34
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsThe Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 17), Belgium

The Menin Gate Memorial (so named because the road led to the town of Menin) was constructed on the site of a gateway in the eastern walls of the old Flemish town of Ypres, Belgium, where hundreds of thousands of allied troops passed on their way to the front, the Ypres salient, the site from April 1915 to the end of the war of some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

The Memorial was conceived as a monument to the 350,000 men of the British Empire who fought in the campaign. Inside the arch, on tablets of Portland stone, are inscribed the names of 56,000 men, including 6,178 Australians, who served in the Ypres campaign and who have no known grave.

The opening of the Menin Gate Memorial on 24 July 1927 so moved the Australian artist Will Longstaff that he painted 'The Menin Gate at Midnight', which portrays a ghostly army of the dead marching past the Menin Gate. The painting now hangs in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, at the entrance of which are two medieval stone lions presented to the Memorial by the City of Ypres in 1936.

Since the 1930s, with the brief interval of the German occupation in the Second World War, the City of Ypres has conducted a ceremony at the Memorial at dusk each evening to commemorate those who died in the Ypres campaign.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Other details

War service: Western Front

Red Cross File, statement, 7336 Pte W.J. WOODS, 14th Bn, 3 April 1918: '[He was] In my Company D, and in same hut with me at Salisbury. I saw him killed outright while carrying Rations to the front at Messines. He was buried along with 20 or 30 others next day, all in separate marked graves, about 50yds from where he fell.'

Second statement, 7066 Lance Corporal C. PLATTS, 13th Bn, 25 January 1918: 'We were out on a ration party to the air posts on the 9th August, and while we were returning the shells were falling fast around us, and we had to run to get to the concrete dug out at Messines. When we got inside we found he was missing. Next morning he was found ... about 20 yards from the dugout. He had been hit in the throat by a piece of shrapnel. I am certain he was buried as a burying party went out soon after.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

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