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6/1785 Serjeant William Stewart Brien M.M.

'C' Company, 2nd Battalion

New Zealand Canterbury Regiment

13th December 1917

pw32 Serjeant William Stewart Brien.jpg

Born in Waimate New Zealand on 28/10/1888. His parents were Robert William Brien

(22/11/1847-09/02/1922) and

Jessie McKay(1859-06/08/1927).

They were married in 1880.

William had 3 brothers, Robert Cuthbert(13/06/1881-11/08/1954),

Alfred John(1885-25/09/1962) and

Francis Stephen(02/02/1894-21/07/1973). 

He also had 3 sisters, Isabella Ann(1883-09/05/1922),Robina Jessie(1896-02/04/1981) and Violet Williamina(1898-13/11/1983).

In the 1914 NZ Electoral roll, William was listed as being employed as a carpenter and living on Shearman Street, Waimate.

He enlisted on 07/01/1915, but his medical had previously been carried out on 09/12/1914 and the details of it are as follows;  

Declared Age - 26 years, Trade or Occupation - Carpenter, Height - 5ft  8 3/4 inches, Weight 150lbs,

Chest Measurement - Minimum - 34 1/2 inches , Maximum - 36 1/2 inches , Complexation - Fair, Colour of Eyes - Grey, Colour of Hair - Brown, Religious Profession - Church of England, Condition of teeth - false in the lower jaw. 

William was sent overseas on 17/04/1915 to the Dardanelles.

He kept safe for 2 months before being admitted to No.2 Stationary Hospital in Mudros on the Island of Lemnos, Greece on 16/06/1915 with a sprained ankle, before being discharged back to duty on 23/06/1915. A day later, he was back with his unit in the Dardanelles.

A more serious injury caused William to be admitted to the Hospital Ship 'Neuralia' on 12/08/1915,as he had been wounded from a gunshot to his right knee, that had turned septic. After 4 days sailing William arrived in Egypt and was admitted to 1st Australian General Hospital in Heliopolis, spending nearly 3 months there before being discharged to duty in Zeitoun Camp, Cairo on 03/09/1916. His condition doesn't seem to have improved though, as a medical sheet written by Captain G.S. Sharp on 17/09/1915  states; " Disease GSW(gunshot wound)Right Knee Gallipoli on Aug.8 after being there 8 weeks. Wound is not healed and septic. General condition weak"; so it was that William was invalided back to New Zealand aboard S.S. Tofua on 23/09/1915.

In October William faced a medical board; " The board having assembled pursuant to order, proceed to examine the above named individual and find that; GSW left knee, Pain in back". It was their opinion that William was not fit for "general service" at present and recommended 28 days sick leave.

On 22/12/1915 William faced another medical board; "The board having assembled pursuant to order, to proceed to examine the above named individual and find that  he has old GSW right knee(not left knee).  No disability of the knee joint". The recommendations of the board were; " Recovered and fit for active service. Send to Trentham Camp".

William returned to duty on 15/01/1916 and was in New Zealand until his departure to the Western Front on 05/03/1916.

I could find no date for Williams arrival in France and the first entry in his records, is of him being wounded in the left knee and right thigh(no date was given as to when this actually occurred) and being admitted to No.2 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Boulogne on 18/06/1916.

He was transferred back to England on 20/06/1916 to the Military Hospital at Bagthorpe, Nottinghamshire, before being discharged to the Convalescent camp at Grey Towers, Hornchurch on 20/07/1916.

William reported to Codford Camp from Grey Towers on 21/08/1916, spending a month here before going to Sling Camp on 22/09/1916.

William re-joined his unit on 13/10/1916, before returning to France on 30/10/1916.

He was appointed Lance Corporal on 14/05/1917 and then Corporal on 07/07/1917.

The 16/07/1917 saw him detached to No.2  army rest camp near Bleville ,France, before re-joining his unit on 30/07/1917. 

Promotion to Sarjeant came on 04/08/1917 and just over a week later he was sent to bayonet training school on 12/08/1917. He was here until being sent to the reinforcement camp at Rouen on 09/10/1917 and then re-joined his unit on 26/10/1917.

He was killed in action on 13/12/1917.

He was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the 1914-1918 British War and Allied Victory medals, having already being awarded the Military medal on 15/01/1918.

Page 7 Advertisements Column 3

 Press volume LIII issue 16096, 29 December 1917, page 7

 Sergeant W.S. Brien (killed in action) was the third son of Mrs J. Brien, of Waimate. He was born in 1887 and was educated at the Waimate High School. He was subsequently engaged as a carpenter. He went into camp on January 3rd, 1915, and left

New Zealand with the Fourth Reinforcements. He was wounded at Gallipoli and was invalided back to New Zealand but returned in March the following year. He went direct to France, and was wounded again on June 16th, being the only survivor of six men in a dug-out which was struck by a shell. He lay out all night with a severe wound in his thigh before being found and bore eleven scars as the result of his experience. He took part in the battle of Messines and remained at the front all through the summer and autumn campaign. His younger brother is on active service with the 28th Reinforcements. His eldest brother is Constable Brien of New Brighton.


London Gazette, 13 March 1918 ,page3254,Rec.No.1797:

"Operations opposite Polderhoek 27th November to 1st December 1917. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the above period this N.C.O. was in command of the battalion carrying party bringing rations up to the troops in the front line. The enemy shelled the track at dusk and dawn with H.E. shrapnel and also with machine guns, but Sergt. Brien personally led his party through the barrage, where a less resolute leader would not have succeeded. He never once failed to bring up hot rations to the men in the trenches and in these duties showed marked powers of command, initiative and readiness to assume responsibility. He showed the greatest devotion to duty, and utter disregard for danger and his services were of the greatest value to his battalion".      



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