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William BRENNAN


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
L Cpl 577 42y8m 30/09/14 18/5/15 - KA 1 & 7

William Brennan (1872-1915)

Booklet

Family Background, Education & Early Life

William Brennan was born in Gympie on 15 January 1872, third son of James Brennan and Margaret Mills (neé Dale). He attended Brisbane Grammar School from February 1885 to October 1887 and joined the State Civil Service in the Department of Public Lands.  Two brothers and a sister were older and two sisters and a brother younger.  Bill’s eldest brother (James Brennan) served as honorary secretary of the Committee of Management at the Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church before the congregation moved to Creek and Ann Streets.

Enlistment & World War 1 Service

At the age of 42 years 8 months, William Brennan, a single man and Public Servant, enlisted in Brisbane for service in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth of Australia on 30 September 1914.  His mother and father, at that time were living in Milis Street, Wooloowin. Given service number 577 and assigned to the 15th AIF Battalion, Bill Brennan was appointed Lance Corporal on 1 December and embarked from Melbourne on 22 December 1914 aboard HMAT Ceramic bound for Egypt.

He was engaged in continuous fighting till 18 May 1915 when he was killed in an advanced trench at Quinn’s Post.  In his book, Quinn’s Post Anzac Gallipoli, Peter Stanley described the dreadful assaults occurring at Quinn’s where “the bomb duel continued.” Referring to the May 18 battle, he says in part, “The massing of Turkish troops on the brow of Mule Valley was several times broken up by machine-guns firing from north and south of Quinn’s, but the lines were so close that defenders at Quinn’s threw bombs and even fired revolvers into the packed masses emerging from the opposing trenches.”    Hundreds were killed or wounded that day. Padres Merrington and Green conducted burials. 

Tribute to Bill Brennan's Life

Hansard1 records a speech in the Queensland Legislative Assembly on 10 December 1915 by Hon. James Tolbie, Member for Toowoomba and Secretary for Public Lands. He reported on the loss felt by the Department of Public Lands by “the death of the late Mr William Brennan who fell defending the Empire and the cause of liberty.”  Tolbie referred to his recent conversation with the head of the Department of Public Lands who held a very high opinion of Bill Brennan’s work and influence.

He continued, “ Mr Brennan was an officer of the department who was most highly valued.  He (departmental head) did not know that any other officer was held in higher esteem by his superior officers. He left a position of responsibility, and a position that carried with it a very considerable amount of emolument. He left a position that was very nearly the head of one of the sub-departments, and had that gentleman lived he was sure that in the course of events he would have had charge of one of the most important sub-departments of the department. He left all those things to accept the pay of a private soldier of 6s. a day - less than one third of his salary and knowing well what was in front of him."

“He felt that as a single man the responsibility was on him of taking the place of married men in fighting the battle of the Empire, and it was only last week that he had heard something of him from one of the men who had returned from the front. It happened that two young men, members of the Light Horse, known to Mr Brennan, landed at Gallipoli, and he happened to come across them. He spoke to them, gave them good advice as to what their conduct should be, he having had some weeks' experience on the field himself."

“One of those men had just got into the trench when he was taken away, and the next morning Mr. Brennan also fell. The third man, after nearly six months in the trenches, returned to Queensland shattered in health and he spoke in the warmest possible terms of the high esteem in which Mr. Brennan was held by his fellow soldiers. He regretted that the Queensland Lands Department had lost so valuable and so faithful an officer.”

Memorial

Lone Pine Memorial 44 honours the memory and sacrifice of William Brennan.

1Hansard, Queensland Legislative Assembly, 10 Dec 1915

Booklet


Select Bibliography
• Annals of the Brisbane Grammar School 1869 – 1922
• Archives of Australia military records
• Australian War Memorial records
• Brisbane City Council Online Services, cemetery records
• The Brisbane Courier, 30 December 1931
• The Golden Book, Brisbane Grammar School Archives
• Queensland Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, Friday 10 December 1915
• Saint Andrew’s Archives, Memoirs, E N Merrington
• Stanley, Peter. Quinn’s Post Anzac Gallipoli. Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005
• Wickham Terrace Presbyterian Church, Annual Reports 1901 – 1925

Compiled by N. E. Adsett    August 2014

 

 

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