Brian Colden Antill Pockley was born at North Sydney, New South Wales, on 4 June 1890. Pockley studied medicine at the University of Sydney and was a medical practitioner when the First World War broke out in 1914. At the age of 24, he applied for a commission in the Australian Imperial Force and was appointed as a captain in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF). He departed Australia to serve with the ANMEF in German New Guinea on 19 August 1914.
Captain Pockley was part of the first landing force of the Naval Brigade at Kabakaul on 11 September 1914. During the advance towards a German wireless station, Able Seaman William Williams was shot in the stomach, becoming the first Australian casualty of the First World War. After tending to Williams, Pockley gave his Red Cross armband to another naval serviceman, Stoker Kember, so Kember could carry Williams to the rear. Shortly afterwards, Pockley was also wounded.
Pockley and Williams were taken aboard HMAS Berrima, where they both died that afternoon. The author of "The Australians at Rabaul", S.S. Mackenzie, later wrote, "Pockley's action in giving up his Red Cross badge, and thus protecting another man's life at the price of his own, was consonant with the best traditions of the Australian army, and afforded a noble foundation for those of Australian Army Medical Corps in the war."
Pockley, with Williams, was buried at Herbertshohe cemetery on 11 September 1914. On 11 July 1919 Brian Pockley's remains were reinterred at Rabaul Cemetery on 11 July 1919, with full naval and military honours. In 1950 his grave was among the First World War graves that were relocated to Rabaul War Cemetery (Bita Paka), Papua New Guinea. Pockley's brother, Lieutenant John Graham Antill Pockley, served with the Australian Army in the First World War and was killed in action, in France, on 30 March 1918.
Brian Pockley was born on 4 June 1890 to Dr Francis Antill and Helen Pockley at St Leonards in Sydney. He grew up in the Wahroonga area and attended school at the Church of England Grammar School in North Sydney. He showed early sporting prowess, representing his school in rugby and athletics.
Pockley entered Sydney University to study medicine. He achieved consistently high marks, made the first 15 with the university rugby team, and was awarded a university Blue for both rugby and athletics. Pockley also received military training as a member of the Sydney University Scouts.
His self-effacing manner and upstanding personality won him many friends, from the classroom to the sports field. He was regarded by many as a fine young man with a bright future.
In March 1914 Pockley took up a position at Sydney Hospital as junior resident medical officer. Over the next six months he proved himself a fine surgeon and a popular member of staff.
When the First World War began Pockley joined the Australian Army Medical Corps and volunteered for duty with the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. Just a few weeks later he embarked aboard the transport ship Berrima, bound for New Britain.
Pockley went ashore at Kabakaul in the early hours of 11 September as part of a landing party sent to destroy a German wireless station at Bitapaka, seven kilometres inland.
During the trek the group encountered New Guinean troops led by German reservists and, after a short skirmish, captured the enemy position. Pockley was called to treat one of the Germans, who had been shot through the hand.
The force moved on with the wounded German at the front, calling on his comrades ahead to surrender. His wound was so bad that Pockley was eventually forced to perform an amputation in the field.
The party went ahead, leaving several sailors behind to ferry messages. Soon those left behind were attacked, and Pockley was called to treat Able Seaman Billy Williams, who had been badly wounded. The wound was mortal, and Pockley called another sailor to carry Williams to the beach. He then took off his Red Cross brassard and tied it to the sailoras helmet in an attempt to guarantee safe passage. He would later be Mentioned in Dispatches for his selfless courage and sacrifice.
As Pockley headed back towards the main party, he came under fire and was shot. The round entered his stomach and tore a fista"sized hole in his back, shattering one of his lower vertebrae as it exited his body.
Pockley and Williams were carried back to the Berrima. Pockley died shortly before 2 pm; Williams shortly after. Their bodies were taken ashore that afternoon and laid to rest at HerberstshAhe, though he was later reinterred at the Bita Paka War Cemetery in Rabaul. Brian Pockley was 24 years old.
Further loss hit the Pockley family in 1918 when Brianas brother John was killed in France.