Maurice Gerard O'Brien
From Our Contribution
|Date of Birth||1 Nov 1912|
|Place of Birth||Belmont, Western Australia|
|Death||30 Jan 1980, aged 67|
|Place of Death||Armadale, Western Australia|
|Age at Enlistment||27 years, 4 months|
|Description||5'6" (1.68m) tall ; ; fair complexion ; blue eyes ; straw coloured hair|
|Address||Fremantle road, Armadale, Western Australia|
|Next of Kin||Mother , Mrs Elsie O'Brien|
|Date of Enlistment||4 Mar 1940|
|Unit/Formation||2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion|
|1st Departure from Australia|
|Journey Dates||20 Apr 1940 ‒ 19 May 1940|
|Transport Details||HMT Y3 Nevasa Fremantle to El Kantara, Egypt|
|Journey Dates||10 Apr 1941 ‒ 12 Apr 1941|
|Transport Details||SS Pennland Alexandria, Egypt to Pireaus, Greece|
|Journey Dates||25 Apr 1941 ‒ 26 Apr 1941|
|Transport Details||SS Thurland Castle Megarda Greece, to Suda Bay Crete|
|Journey Dates||14 May 1945|
|Transport Details||plane Germany to England|
|Return to Australia|
|Journey Dates||18 Jun 1945 ‒ 24 Jul 1945|
|Transport Details||HMT J11 Liverpool to Sydney|
|Post War Details|
Wounded in Action 1941 Crete |
Returned to Australia
|External Monument(s)||The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria|
1939-45 Star |
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45
Enlisted at Subiaco on 4 Mar 1940, and was taken on strength by the General Reinforcements Pool 2nd AIF, and then on 9 Apr 1940 by the 2/11th Battalion then based at Claremont. On 15 Apr 1940 they moved to the Northam camp before boarding the HMT Y3 Nevasa for the Middle East on 20 Apr 1940.
After arriving at Katana in Egypt on 19 May 1940, they moved to Gaza Ridge, and while there Maurice was evacuated to the 2/1st Australian General Hospital for treatment from 18 - 28 Jun 1940. The 2/11th underwent training in Palestine and Egypt. A decision to reorganise Australian infantry brigades along British lines, with three battalions instead of four, meant the 2/11th was now part of the 19th Brigade, but it remained part of the 6th Division. The battalion went into action for the first time at Bardia on 5 Jan 1941 and, as part of the Allied advance into Italian-occupied Libya, subsequently fought at Tobruk on 21-22 Jan 1941, and to secure Derna airfield on 25 Jan 1941. It was advancing to the south of Benghazi when the Italians surrendered on 7 Feb 1941. On 30 Mar 1941 Maurice was charged with having been AWOL from 10:00pm on 28 Mar until 2:00pm on 29 Mar 1940. His penalty was a fine of 10/- ($1) and forfeiture of 1 days pay.
On 10 Apr 1941 they embarked on SS Pennland in Alexandria harbour for Greece. The Allied forces, however, were unable to hold back the attacking Germans. The 2/11th withdrew from its initial positions at Kalabaka and remained on the move until it occupied rearguard positions at Brallos Pass a week later. It fought and slowed the Germans there on 24 April and then continued its withdrawal to Megara, where it boarded SS Thurland Castle and was evacuated by sea on the night of 25 Apr 1941.
The battalion landed on Crete the following day and was subsequently deployed with the 2/1st Battalion to defend Retimo airfield. This they did, holding on tenaciously for ten days following the landing of German paratroops on 20 May. German successes elsewhere on Crete, however, made surrender inevitable. Many 2/11th soldiers attempted to escape from Crete but only a relatively small number ultimately succeeded; most were taken prisoner. On 4 Jun 1941 Maurice was listed as Missing, believed to be a prisoner of war, captured in Crete. This was confirmed on 14 Jul 1941, and it was said that he had been wounded in action on 20 May 1941. His German POW records show he was captured on 30 May 1941 indicating a lengthy period of 10 days avoiding capture.
Maurice had been wounded with a gun shot wound to his right thigh and had been evacuated from Crete on 1 Jun 1941 to a German POW Hospital. Held initially by Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, his POW Number was 92453. He would later be moved to Stalag VIIIB on 14 Apr 1943, and during the period 6 Oct 1941 until 19 Oct 1943 he participated in a least 6 Kommandos of varying duration (Working parties out posted from the Stalag).
Maurice was repatriated to the UK by plane on 14 May 1945, and as a recovered POW was sent to the No.1 AIF Transit Camp. On 18 Jun 1945 he boarded troopship J11 for Sydney where he disembarked on 24 Jul 1945. Medically examined in Western Australia, and following 9 days in the 109th Australian Convalescent Depot, he was demobilised on 31 Aug 1945.
Total service of 2007 days included 40 days active service in Australia, and 1,920 days active service overseas.
Electoral Roll entries: 1943 - 1949 Fremantle road, Armadale, farm hand; 1958 Jull street, Armadale, labourer, 1968 - 1977 at 45 South West Highway, Armadale, truck driver