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australian rowers profiles and history

Edward (Teddy) J O'Reilly

Ballarat City Rowing Club (VIC)

Edward (Teddy) James O’Reilly was born in 1894 in Ararat. His parents were Patrick Henry and Susannah O’Reilly. Teddy was only 10 when his father died in 1906 in a tragic house fire at Meredith near Ballarat and his mother Susannah O’Reilly lived in Ballarat East and was his next of kin. He was educated at Urquhart Street State School in Ballarat along with his younger brother Patrick Henry O’Reilly and two younger sisters. 

He worked as a painter and was aged 20 when he enlisted on the 18/8/1914. He rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club probably around 1913 to 1914 and it is also likely that his brother Patrick also joined. He embarked on the HMAT A24 Benalla on the 19th of October,1914 arriving in the Dardanelles for that epic assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In the chaos and confusion of that first landing on Gallipoli he was one of the many Australians who simply went missing on the 25th of April, 1915 - the day that created the ANZAC legend. Their bodies were simply lay were they fell and became lost amongst the scrub and gullies of the broken hills and ridges around Anzac Cove.

He was first reported missing in June 1915, about a month after the landing. It was reported in the Star newspaper on June 3rd, 1915:

Mrs. O’Reilly of James Street, whose son, Signaller E.J. O’Reilly, 8th Battalion, was reported missing on Friday, has received the following telegram from Colonel Hawker:- "Officially reported that Private E.J.O’Reilly is missing. Kindly inform Mrs. O’Reilly of 21 James Street, Ballarat East, and convey regret and sympathy of King and Queen and Commonwealth.” The father of the missing soldier was Mr. Patrick Henry O’Reilly, late Headmaster of the Darling street Catholic school, who was burnt to death at Meredith some 10 years ago. Private O’Reilly will be 21 next August.

Teddy never made it to 21. It would be a further 2 years before another enquiry confirmed him to be killed in action and advising his next of kin. The news first appeared in the Ballarat Courier and Star in October 1917. His family arranged for a cross to be engraved on his headstone in the Lone Pine cemetery in 1920. 

His brother Patrick, enlisted in the 14th Battalion on the 8/7/1915 aged 20 just after the news that Teddy was missing was received. Patrick was captured at Bullecourt on the 11th of April 1917 and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. He survived and returned to Australia and died as a result of wounds received in the war at Heidleberg Repatriation Hospital on the 29th of November, 1948. Their mother Susannah had also died soon after the war and two younger sisters also died in the 1930’s. In 1967 Patrick’s widow Olga applied to have Teddy’s Anzac medals given to the family as after Patrick’s death as she became next of kin. Patrick and Olga’s eldest son also served in WW2.

No known grave-“Known unto God”. Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, Gallipoli.

Teddy was the first Ballarat City member to pay the supreme sacrifice and possibly one of the first of the Ballarat boys to be killed in action.

Lest we Forget

Kate Elliott
October 2021

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