FRIEND, Percy O’Connor

NAME:  Percy O’Connor FRIEND                                                                                                                               

SERVICE NO:  1916

YEAR OF BIRTH:  1896

PLACE OF BIRTH:  Coleraine

DATE OF ENLISTMENT:  4 August 1915

PLACE OF ENLISTMENT:  Melbourne

AGE AT ENLISTMENT:  19

UNIT:  46th Battalion (late 31st Battalion 2nd Reinforcement)

EMBARKED: 3 January 1916

TROOPSHIP:  HMAT A55 Kyarra

FATE:  Killed in Action – 3 April 1918 – France

HONOURS/AWARDS:  Military Medal

Born in Coleraine in April 1896, Percy Friend was a son of watchmaker Joseph Frederick Friend and Bridget Agnes O’Connor. Sadly, Bridget died on 22 April 1896 aged forty-two, as a result complications during Percy’s birth. Percy attended Coleraine State School and after finishing school he got work in Coleraine with Messrs Broadbent Bros & Co, agents and carriers. He then moved to Hamilton to work at the Commercial Bank in Thompson Street.  He played football for Hamilton YMCA.

Percy enlisted in August 1915 and left Australia in early 1916 with the 2nd Reinforcement of the 31st Battalion.  After arriving in Egypt, he spent a week in hospital at Heliopolis with influenza. On discharge, he transferred to the 46th Battalion.  Percy fell sick again in April with dysentery and spent another week in hospital.  He then moved on to France, arriving on 8 June 1916. He was soon back in hospital with septic feet but was able to rejoin his battalion near Vadencourt by the end of July 1916. They were preparing to go into the frontlifne at Pozieres where they remained from 4 August until 15 August.

On 18 October 1916, Percy was presented with a Military Medal by General Birdwood while the battalion was at Ridge Wood.  It was for Percy’s bravery while carrying messages during a heavy barrage when they were at Pozieres.  Percy didn’t know he would be receiving it and was very surprised.  Chaplin Ingamells from Coleraine saw Percy receiving his medal and reported home how very proud of Percy he was.  He said as Percy relayed messages he was buried two or three times and received a wound to his leg from a shell but did his duty and “never flinched”.

Again in November 1916, Percy was in hospital with influenza before his transfer to Base Depot A.  It was 26 February 1917 before he rejoined the 46th Battalion by then in camp at Bennecourt, France.  On 21 May 1917, he was promoted to Lance Corporal and to Corporal in July. During October he spent time with the 12th Training Battalion in Codford, England before moving to Deverill in Wiltshire in November 1917.  At home, Percy’s father had received Percy’s Military Medal in the mail for safe keeping, Percy.

Percy arrived back in France in early February 1918 and was back with the 46th Battalion on 16 February after four months away. In late March 1918, the 46th Battalion moved to Millencourt, France, west of Albert and went into the front line.  At 8.10 am on the morning of 3 April, the enemy launched a heavy attack.  It only lasted around ten minutes but around fifty men from the 46th Battalion were wounded or killed.  One of those to lose their life was Percy Friend.  He was twenty-two.

On 28 April 1918, a joint memorial service was held at the Holy Trinity Church in Coleraine to remember Percy along with Arthur Trangmar from Coleraine and Nareen’s Percy Elliot.  The church was full.

J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/216987

Percy was remembered on Hamilton’s Christ Church Honour board.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Australian War Memorial – 46th Battalion Unit Diary

Australian War Memorial – Honours and Awards – Percy O’Connor Friend

Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – Percy O’Connor Friend

Australian War Memorial – WW1 Embarkation Roll – Percy O’Connor Friend

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Millencourt Communal Cemetery Extension – Percy O’Connor Friend

Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – Percy O’Connor Friend

Newspaper Articles from Trove – Percy O’Connor Friend 

The AIF Project – Percy O’Connor Friend