The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (632) Lance Corporal William Henry O’Bree, 14th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.342
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 8 December 2021
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Melanie Cassar, the story for this day was on (632) Lance Corporal William Henry O’Bree, 14th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

632 Lance Corporal William Henry O’Bree, 14th Battalion, AIF
KIA 2 May 1915

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lance Corporal William Henry O’Bree.

William O’Bree was born in 1887 to William and Elizabeth O’Bree of Moulamein, New South Wales. When he was three years old his mother died, and his father did not remarry until 1899. William O’Bree spent most of his childhood in Swan Hill, probably with relatives, while his father worked as a travelling salesman for the Massey-Harris Company. William was educated in Swan Hill and Balranald, and went on to work as a labourer around Nyah and Wood Wood. He was also known as an athlete in the Swan Hill district, and by 1914 was living in Horsham.

William O’Bree came from a particularly patriotic family. In 1915 his father wrote a poem entitled “Help the Belgians” which he printed, and sold copies through his work to raise money for the war effort. His father also proudly noted that “every relative of [William’s] that was of military age and fitness served in the war”.

William enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force within weeks of the outbreak of war in August 1914, and was posted to the 14th Battalion. His father later noted that O’Bree probably didn’t leave a will as he “seemed so hopeful of returning safely.” He underwent a period of training in Australia, during which time he was promoted to lance corporal, and left Victoria on 22 December. Lance Corporal O’Bree arrived in Egypt at the end of January 1915, but came down with pneumonia shortly after his arrival. He spent several weeks in hospital before returning to his battalion.

The 14th Battalion continued training in Egypt for several weeks before being sent on to the island of Lemnos. There the men spent several days training to climb down rope ladders into small boats in preparation for landing on Gallipoli. They embarked from Lemnos on the troopship Seang Choon at 9.30 am on 25 April 1915, steaming towards Gallipoli to join the small force that had landed in the early hours of that same morning.

The Seang Choon arrived off Gallipoli around 5 pm and within an hour was taking on board casualties brought out on small boats. The men of the 14th Battalion were forced to evacuate the troop decks to make room for the wounded, and worked all night to help them aboard. The bulk of the battalion ferried across to Anzac Cove late the following morning. By early afternoon, 25 officers and 810 other ranks of the 14th Battalion were ashore, and bivouacked on the beach before heading for the heights the following morning.

The 14th Battalion occupied a position near Courtney’s and Quinn’s Posts, helping to establish a perimeter above the beachhead. For the next several days, the men came under a number of Turkish attacks, but were able to repulse them all, sometimes just with the aid of their bayonets. On 2 May 1915 the 14th Battalion was again near Courtney’s Post, coming under “energetic and accurate” Turkish machine-gun fire. Lance Corporal O’Bree’s position was close enough to the Turkish trenches for them to reach with a good throw. At some point on the 2nd, a Turk threw a hand grenade into the Australians’ trenches, killing William O’Bree instantly. O’Bree’s friend, Private Foxcroft, wrote to the family to say “he was a very brave soldier and liked by all who knew him. Needless to say you have the sympathy of all his comrades.”

Lance Corporal William O’Bree was buried near where he fell by the well-known chaplain, Andrew Gillison, who was himself killed a short time later. Today O’Bree is commemorated at Courtney’s and Steel’s Post Cemetery, where his headstone bears the simple epitaph, “we miss him at home.” He was 28 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lance Corporal William Henry O’Bree, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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