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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Gunner Patrick Brien, Royal Garrison Artillery

Today we look at Gunner Patrick Brien of the Royal Garrison Artillery who is buried in Killoughy Cemetery, County Offaly. Killoughly Cemetery is similar to many rural Irish cemeteries, it contains many eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century memorials. There is also a ruined medieval church. To the west of the church ruins is where Gunner Brien is buried. Within County Offaly, only 19 (out of 189) burial grounds contain Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) burials.

View from the east of Killoughy Cemetery, Gunner Brien's headstone visible to the right of the ruins.

Patrick Brien was born on 24 March 1883 at Castlecuffe, which is just outside of Clonaslee, Queen’s County (Laois). He was the son of Patrick and Bridget Brien. His father was a labourer.

Patrick enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery at Maryborough (Portlaoise) on 1 December 1904, for a term of service of 3 years with the colours and 9 years in the army reserve. Upon enlisting Patrick was recorded as being 5 foot 7 ¾ inches tall, having brown eyes, black hair and of the Roman Catholic faith. Prior to his enlistment Patrick worked as a servant for 3 years. Sergeant David Roche of the Royal Irish Constabulary provided Patrick’s character reference for enlisting; Patrick was described sober, honest and respectable.

Gunner Brien served at home from December 1904 until August 1905 and then in Malta from August 1904 to October 1907. After this period of service, he was transferred to army reserve, which meant he could be mobilized for service in the event of war. When war broke out in August 1914 he was mobilized for service at Dublin in November 1914. During the Great War he served in Gallipoli from March 1915 to January 1916, Egypt from March 1915 to June 1917, Palestine from June 1917 to November 1918 and Egypt from November 1918 until 31 January 1919. For his service during the Great War he was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, although he would not live to receive them.

Gunner Brien’s service seems to have been irregular, his service papers recording him occasionally missing from duty, drunk, yet he was still awarded good conduct badges!

Discharged in February 1919, Patrick reenlisted at Helmieh, Cairo, Egypt to complete further service with the colours, agreeing to service until 1923. While at home in Annabrack he died from influenza meningitis and bronchial pneumonia on 4 April 1919 (likely the Spanish flu). His brother was present at his death.

Patrick’s mother Bridget received her son’s medals in July 1921, and also a bronze memorial plaque and King’s scroll. Interestingly his brothers and sisters are recorded as living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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