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Herbert Frank O'Neill

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Herbert Frank O'Neill
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Personal Information
Date of Birth 19 Feb 1882
Place of Birth Cambridge, Auckland, New Zealand
Death 21 Sep 1917
Place of Death Belgium
Age at Enlistment 32 years, 6 months
Occupation Surveyor's assistant
Religion Roman Catholic
Address 'Perringa Grove', Serpentine, Western Australia
Next of Kin Mother , Mrs F O'Neill
Military Information
Reg Number 932
Date of Enlistment 7 Sep 1914
Rank Sergeant
Unit/Formation 11th Battalion, 16 Platoon, D Company
Date of Embarkation 2 Nov 1914 ‒ 5 Dec 1914
Ship Embarked On HMAT A11 Ascanius
Fate Wounded in Action 28 Apr 1915 Gallipoli
Wounded in Action 22-24 Jul 1916 Poziéres
Killed in Action 21 Sep 1917 Menin Road
Monument Serpentine Roll of Honour
Menin Gate Memorial
ANZAC Memorial Park (Byford)
Australian War Memorial
Medals 1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal



Pre War

It would appear that prior to coming to Australia, Herb was married, his wife's name being Mary Jane O'Neill.

He also had prior military service with the 8th New Zealanders in South Africa during the Boer War.

War Service

Enroute to Egypt they stopped at Colombo on 15 Nov 1914, Aden on 25 Nov 1914, and Suez on 30 Nov 1914 before arriving in Alexandria on 5 Dec 1914. Entrained, they travelled to Mena Camp near Cairo where they spent several months completing their training.

On 1 Mar 1915, along with his unit, he embarked on HMAT A23 Suffolk to join the Gallipoli campaign, and sailed the next day for Lemnos Island, arriving in the afternoon of 4 Mar 1915.

As a member of the 11th Battalion he was one of the first ashore at Anzac Cove early on 25 Apr 1915, landing from the HMAT A23 Suffolk around 4:30am under heavy rifle and machine gun fire. Early success was achieved as they scaled the cliffs (about 90m tall) and pushed inland. Herbert was wounded (described as slight) on the fourth day, the 28th, and was evacuated on HMT Galeka, arriving in Alexandria on 2 May 1915. From Alexandria he was transported to England where on 16 May he entered the No 1 Southern General Hospital in Birmingham. On recovering he was sent to Weymouth before being sent back to Gallipoli as a reinforcement, rejoining the 11th Battalion on 6 Sep 1915.

Evacuated from the Gallipoli Peninsula to Mudros Harbour on Lemnos in late Dec 1915, he then embarked on the HMT Empress of Britain for Alexandria, arriving there on 7 Jan 1916.

At Serapeum on 1 Mar 1916 he was appointed Lance Corporal, and on 29 Mar 1916 he and the rest of the battalion embarked on HMT Corsican for Marseilles, arriving there on 5 Apr 1916. In France on 1 May 1916 he was promoted temporary Corporal, with the rank being confirmed on 12 May 1916.

Herb was wounded during the attack on Poziéres with wounds to the left leg and shoulder. Seen by the 2nd Field Ambulance on 24 Jul 1916 we can assume that the injury was received in the earlier stage of the battle when D Company was part of the first wave of attack that sustained some casualties during not only the attack, but more when they ran into the friendly barrage that was firing on the second stage targets. Once the Field Ambulance had finished with him, he was passed on to 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, and on 26 Jul 1916 he was safely in the 1st Australian General Hospital at Rouen.

Three days later i.e. 29 Jul 1916 he was embarked on HMHS Marama in Le Havre for England where on 30 Jul 1916 he was admitted to the 3rd Western General Hospital in Newport, Wales with a shell wound to his left thigh. From 1 - 16 Sep 1916 he was granted furlough, before on 29 Sep 1916 he once again proceeded overseas to France, and was able to rejoin his battalion in the field on 16 Oct 1916.

On 25 Oct 1916 he was promoted Sergeant, before a month later on 27 Nov 1916 reporting to the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance with complications from his previously wounded thigh. Despatched to the New Zealand Stationary Hospital in Amiens, he was next seen by the 2nd Australian General Hospital on 30 Nov 1916. They evacuated him to England aboard HMHS St David on 2 Dec 1916 from Boulogne.

In England he was again admitted to the 3rd Western General Hospital in Newport, Wales on 3 Dec 1916. On 28 Dec 1916 he was transferred to the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital where he was granted furlough from 30 Dec 1916. For the next six months he was based at the No.1 Command Depot at Perham Downs before proceeding overseas to France again on 6 Aug 1917. Twelve days later he was back with the 11th Battalion in the field.

Initially reported as wounded, and missing in action on 21 Sep 1917, this was later amended, in November 1917, to him having been Killed in Action on 21 Sep 1917. The unit War Diary mentions heavy contact with the enemy on the 20th in Polygon Wood, with casualties taken, and on the 21st their withdrawal from the front lines.

Casualty List 370 published by the West Australian on 15 Dec 1917 advised this change of status.
  • Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres - 2015 photo Linton Reynolds
  • Section of 11th Battalion Memorial - Linton Reynolds photo

Herbert's Red Cross file [1]. held by the Australian War Memorial provides further insight into the circumstances of his death,

"Killed 21.9.17. O'Neill was a Sgt. and was buried at Anxac Ridge by 1st Div Artillery. He was killed in Polygon Wood stunt but I cannot say how. I have not seen his grave but I know they handed in his disc etc. Informant Cpl C.F. Heal 913, 11th Battn. D Coy. 11th Battalion D Copmp[any, Westham, 10 Apr 1918.

Killed 21-9-17. I know that this man was a Platoon Sgt., and that after we had reached our objective at Polygon Wood at 6 a.m. on 21-9-17, he was not to be found, and since then we have never been able to trace him or his body. Lt W.D.Brown (reliable) 11th Battalion. D Coy. 16th Platoon., 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth. 18 Jul 1918

I knew a Sergeant, Bert O'Neill in D. XVI. who was of medium height and build, dark, about 35 and had about that number. He had been wounded and had a spell in England. He was killed in the attack on Polygon Wood. He was at first missing and was found and buried by the Pioneers, who told us. 1963 Cpl H. Jones 11th Battalion D Company. No.3 Canadian General Hospital Boulogne 4 Dec 1917."

Notes

  1. "Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files - Herbert Frank O'Neill". Australian War Memorial. 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2018. 

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