For a couple of months now I’ve been digitising the magazines of Tattersall’s Club, Sydney (I’m a member). They let me take the scanner and a lot of magazines home during the Covid19 lockdown.
Recently, I’ve been working my way through the Second World War issues and on Friday 24 April 2020 I came across the February 1944 magazine that had a short article about the remarkable O’Riordan family from Sydney, two of whom were Tattersall’s Club members. I dug these details of their service mostly out of various online databases and archives from the Australian War Memorial.
Four members of the O’Riordan family served in both the First and Second World Wars. All are related to Tattersall’s Club member John O’Riordan :
John’s brother Dr Sydney Michael O’Riordan, MC served as a Captain and then Major with the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in the First World War. He was awarded his MC in 1918 for:
conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During then later stages of an advance, when the infantry were under heavy fire, he established his aid post in an advanced position, and dealt very rapidly with the casualties. His initiative and coolness under heavy fire were an inspiration to all who came in contact with him.
He was serving as a Captain attached to the 13th Infantry Battalion in France. He again served as a Major with the AAMC in the Second World War between July 1941 and February 1942, attached to the 3rd Infantry Battalion. He died at Redfern in 1944.
Another brother of John, 403397 Flying Offr. Clifford Timothy O’Riordan was an Air Gunner with No 460 Squadron*, RAAF was killed in a flying battle over Germany on 30 July 1943. He is commemorated in the Becklingen War Cemetery, Luneburg, Germany and his name can be found on panel 108 of the Roll of Honour at the Australia War Memorial (AWM), Canberra. His name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on 12 May 2020 at 2:41am and on 3 August 2020 at 2:55am. He was a Tattersall’s Club member and had been admitted to the NSW Bar before enlisting in 1941. His own war diaries are held by the AWM and they’ve now been digitised. You can read a description of those diaries and also view or download them via this link: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C89812
One of John’s sons, NX113095 Sgt. John Michael O’Riordan served with the 1st Papuan Infantry Battalion, Australian Army. He was killed in action in New Guinea on 25 November 1943. John’s name is located on panel 76 of the Roll of Honour at the AWM. His name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on 2 June 2020 at 12:42am and on 2 August 2020 at 2:34am.
Another son was NX87133 Gunner James Clifton O’Riordan who served in the Army from February 1942 until December 1943, after which he transferred to the RAAF where he served as a 443862 Flight Sgt J.C. O’Riordan until October 1945.
I reckon that is very sad but also truly remarkable for the one family.
* Some hours after initially posting this I realised that 460 Squadron, RAAF was familiar to me. It was first formed as a heavy bomber unit in 1941 and is commemorated at the Australian War Memorial by the famous Avro Lancaster bomber “G for George”. 460 Squadron flew as part of RAF Bomber Command and was a multi-national unit with most of its personnel being Australian. It flew the most sorties of any Australian bomber squadron in the RAF bombing campaign against Germany and Italy, but lost 188 aircraft and suffered 1,018 combat deaths, 588 of whom were Australian. RAF Bomber Command represented only two percent of total Australian enlistments during the Second World War, but accounted for 4,136 fatalities (3,486 killed in action and 650 in training accidents). RAF Bomber Command sustained Australia’s highest casualty rates in the Second World War.
Nearly 50 years ago, in May/June 1968 Australian soldiers fought their largest, most sustained and arguably most hazardous battles of the Vietnam War. Units of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) confronted regimental-sized formations of the North Vietnamese regular army in fierce actions around Fire Support Patrol Bases (FSPB) Coral and Balmoral in what was then known as Bien Hoa province. The location of FSPBs Coral and Balmoral are marked by blue symbols on this satellite map.
The first of the battles occurred at FSPB Coral when massed enemy units attacked the base in the early hours of 13 May 1968. Australian units withstood heavy enemy attacks against their hastily prepared position during which a mortar platoon and two gun positions were partly over-run.
The Australians drove off the enemy after fierce close-quarter actions. The battle lasted over two hours. The task force suffered 11 killed in action and 28 wounded. In one mortar platoon five soldiers were killed and eight were wounded from a total strength of 18 men. One howitzer and two mortars were damaged. The enemy left 52 dead strewn throughout and around the fire support base.
On the Friday before ANZAC Day UTS Library will host a lunchtime presentation by two participants from that battle Ian “Scrubber” Ahearn who as a young Lieutenant was the Gun Position Officer for 102 Field Battery, and Tony Jensen, also a Lieutenant at the time, who was the second-in-command of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Mortar Platoon. This is a unique chance to hear from two real participants in this battle. They will use sound (music from the time) and visual imagery to tell their story. Both men have now retired from active duty in the Australian Army and are great raconteurs. Tony and Scrubber did some oral history interviews with some of those involved in this battle, such as this one with Lieutenant General Sir Donald Beaumont Dunstan (from 2007) who was in 1968 the Deputy Commander, 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF), South Vietnam.
Tony and Scrubber were classmates from RMC Duntroon, graduating only 16 months before this battle in 1966, so at the time they were not much older than many of our undergraduate students at UTS. The youngest soldier on the gun position that night was Bombardier Andy Forsdike (pictured below) who was just 19 years old.
If you’d like to attend this talk, but you are not a member of the UTS community, just let me know.