William Henry O’Bree
William Henry O’Bree was born in Moulemein in southern NSW in 1887 to William and Elizabeth Margaret O’Bree (nee Hart). A sister – Isabella – was born the following year. Elizabeth died in 1890 and, in 1899, William married Emily Eliza Brown and a step-brother – Eric – was born in 1901.
William was educated at Balranald and Swan Hill in Victoria, and was well-known in the area for his athleticism. Following his education William worked as a farm labourer for his uncle, John O’Bree, at Piangil near Swan Hill. In October 1914 William enlisted in Horsham, joining the 14th Battalion as a Private. He was promoted to Lance Corporal the following month.
On his attestation papers William nominated his father as his next of kin. William’s parents lived in Clinton Street, Orange, where William Snr worked for Massey Harris tractors. Both parents were active members of the Orange community and were involved church activities, fundraisers and the war effort.
William embarked for overseas service from Melbourne in December 1914, arriving in Egypt in late January. He served in Egypt and Gallipoli however, according to a letter written by his step-brother to the Army in 1967, William did not take part in the initial landing at Gallipoli because he was in hospital at the time with pneumonia.
Lance Corporal O’Bree was killed in action at Gallipoli on 2 May 1915; he was buried the same day. Over a year later, on 3 June 1916, his father received one brown paper parcel containing his personal effects: a wallet, two notebooks, a Testament, a safety razor, two knives, badges and coins. The O’Bree family left Orange in early 1919, returning south and settling in Swan Hill.
William Hebry O’Bree is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll and on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph. He also is remembered on the Horsham Roll of Honour and the Swan Hill War Memorial.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “L Cpl W O’Bree”; it was donated by WEG Satchell. Very few of the trees are still standing today.