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Alban Peter ‘King’ O’Malley. Image courtesy Dinah Fisher.

Alban Peter ‘King’ O’Malley, well-known and highly respected local identity in the Orange district, served his King and Country during the First World War. A newspaper article in the Leader on 17 August 1914 stated:

Mr AP O’Malley, of the clerical staff of Bedford, Taylor and Weston, received a wire on Saturday night to proceed to Sydney and report himself for duty.

On 4 September 1915 at the age of 26 years and 6 months King attested at Sydney, New South Wales, and joined the 1st Australian Imperial Force.

On 24 September King was farewelled by the OP (Orange Players) Club and was presented with an inscribed silver cigarette case.

He was attached to the Artillery which was located at Paddington. There he was offered a permanent clerical post in the barracks. King, however, preferred to be in the firing line.

King’s unit embarked from Sydney via HMAT RMS Osterley on 15 January 1916. The Leader reported that both King O’Malley and Gordon Lindsay were lucky enough to be able to travel via this palatial ship and were spared the “inconveniences of a congested trooper to carry them over to the big argument”. In Cairo King was taken on strength with the 1st Divisional Artillery Column. On 22 February 1916 he was appointed Acting Corporal. By 19 May 1916 he had been transferred to the 21st Army Brigade in France.

His military record does not record King’s overseas activities in depth, however snippets have been gleaned from articles appearing in the local press back home. Dr Arthur Edmund Colvin met up with King in September 1917 and reported that King was well and sent his regards to those left behind.

Veterinary-Sergeant Keith McClymont in a letter to his mother published in the Leader 30 January 1918 jested:

In August I was transferred again to an Artillery Battery …. I was fortunate in joining a unit in which another Orangeite was also contained. Sitting in a little home about the size of a spacious dog’s kennel was a familiar figure, stripped to the waist. He was busy – the occupation in general among soldiers; it could well be called a pastime. He was searching closely portions of his garment. I asked him if he would mind giving me one if he caught two. He looked up in surprise. It was A P (“King”) O’Malley ….. Gunner O’Malley, number something, hardened soldier, cheerful, enthusiastic – an Empire-builder!

Again, King’s war record did not report any form of injury. The Leader in July 1916, however, recorded that he was with the Forces in France and had been gassed and wounded in the leg. The injury must have been slight as it was also reported there was no cause for concern. In what appeared to be an unblemished career, Corporal O’Malley forfeited three days’ pay in August 1917 for being absent from parade in France.

His military papers show a very mobile soldier with transfers to various units at different times. However, for the majority of his time in the military King was stationed in France or Belgium. In 1918, during the 1st Division’s stand against heavy German activity at Strazeele in Belgium, a recommendation went through to award the Military Medal to Sergeant O’Malley. On 10 October 1919 the Commonwealth Gazette no 115 records that the Military Medal was awarded to Sergeant Alban Peter O’Malley No 11381 along with Gunner Conrad Alwyn Wilksch with the following commendation:

On the morning of the 29th September, 1918, the 117th Infantry Regiment (American) attacked East and South of Bellicourt near St Quentin Canal. Owing to heavy traffic and shelling the telephone wires were cut and communication with the 59th American Infantry Brigade practically ceased. Sergeant O’MALLEY and Gunner WILKSCH immediately went forward and patrolled and repaired the lines, and worked continuously on them during that day and the next night. Their work was done so well that they were at times the only avenue of communication available to the 59th American Brigade. They worked conscientiously and energetically with the sole object of opening up another avenue of communication for the Brigade, at a period when accurate information was not forthcoming. They set a fine example of devotion to duty.

Ruins of the village of Strazeele, April 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

The WE Agland RSL MBE Memorial Museum in Orange holds a copy of King’s Recommendation for the Military Medal, the Army Orders where he was awarded the Military Medal, his Certificate of Discharge and identity discs.

King O’Malley spent a short time in Britain before embarking on 22 January 1920 for return to Australia. He received his formal discharge from the AIF on 10 June 1920.

Alban Peter O’Malley was born in Narrandera in 1889, the son of Peter and Mary Ann O’Malley. He was one of six children born to the family, five daughters and one son. His father was a farmer and a hotel licensee for most of his life. Peter snr’s obituary appeared in the Narrandera Argus in 1931; it noted that Peter O’Malley jnr was nicknamed “Bossie”.

Alban received his education in Narrandera and the surrounding district and then went to Brisbane. In 1912 he came to Orange. At that time there was a famous Brisbane parliamentarian King O’Malley at the height of his career. His Orange associates were quick to dub him “King” because he had come from Brisbane.

After his return from the war King married Maud Corbett in 1921 in Sydney. They had five sons, Owen, Dennis, Tony, David and Terry.

Mr O’Malley returned to Orange in 1924 where he took up a position with Mr J Gordon Leeds, a stock and station agent. He remained there until he started his own business in Lords Place in 1927 – AP O’Malley & Co.

Mr O’Malley was active in local affairs. He was appointed organising secretary for the “Back to Orange Week” in 1929 and was a foundation member of the Canobolas Club. In 1936 he and Mr J Gallagher formed the first Orange Building Society. He was secretary of the Orange Branch of the Liberal Party and very active in local RSL activities. He was also a member of the Real Estate Institute.

His interests stretched to amateur theatre. In 1908 he was on the committee of the Eisteddfod Society, even having a part in the play Aladdin. He was a member of the OP (Orange Players) Club which performed in the old Australia Theatre in Lords Place.

Alban Peter ‘King’ O’Malley died in Orange Base Hospital on 26 October 1963 at the age of 74 years. He was buried in the old Roman Catholic Section of the Orange Cemetery. His wife Maud died in 1987 and was buried next to him.

* Sharon Jameson, November 2018