Two brothers, Peter Christopher Byrnes and Daniel Terence Byrnes, sons of Peter Byrnes and Jane Maria Byrnes (nee Sherry) and a well-known family of Burdett, near Canowindra, saw service in France during World War I.
Peter Christopher was born in Orange in 1883 and up until his enlistment at Marrickville on 1 May 1916 worked as a farmer in the Burdett district on his father’s property. It is stated in the Molong Express and Western District Advertiser on 11 March 1916 that he and his brother were on the eve of enlisting and that Percy Doust and Percy Taber were also volunteers from the area. All four gentlemen were members of the Cranbury Rifle Club.
On 25 October 1916 Peter embarked at Sydney on board HMAT A11 Ascanius, bound for Plymouth in England. On 12 December 1916 he joined the Reserve Brigade Australian Artillery. On 9 May 1917 he was transferred to France and was taken on strength from the Australian General Base Depot to be posted to No 2 Section as a Driver.
Almost a year to the day later, on 24 October 1917, Peter’s family received the dreaded telegram reporting that:
Driver Peter Byrnes dangerously wounded will furnish progress report
Driver Byrnes’ war record states that he was wounded on 8 October, sustaining gunshot wounds to the chest, thigh, hand and foot. He was taken to the Canadian Hospital Clearing Station and then removed to England for treatment.
Peter returned to Australia via HMAT Orontes on 13 May 1918 and was accorded a hero’s welcome at the local Burdett Hall. He was presented with a richly engraved gold watch by the local community as a token of their thanks. He was discharged from further service with the Australian Imperial Force on 23 August 1918 due to medical unfitness.
In 1923 Peter married Josephine Begley in Cowra and together they raised a family of seven children in the Canowindra district.
Peter Christopher Byrnes died on 20 August 1956 at the Canowindra Soldiers Memorial Hospital. His cause of death was given as congestive cardiac failure. He was laid to rest in the Canowindra Cemetery.
Peter is remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Canowindra Memorial Hospital.
* Sharon Jameson, October 2018