ROLL OF HONOUR
RIFLEMAN G. O’BRINE.
Mrs M. O’Brine has received advice that her eldest son, George, has been reported missing. He is 23 years of age and was born at Wyndham, receiving his education at the Wyndham School. Before enlisting he worked on his mother’s farm. He was a prominent member of the Territorials and was one of the crack shots of Wyndham. Also a keen and successful angler, he was one of the most popular men who whipped the local streams. A great reader of good solid literature, he collected a library that was envied by all who had the pleasure of inspecting it. -Southland Times, 30/5/1918.
George O'Brine was one of the men of the NZ Entrenching Battalion who were captured by German troops during "Operation Michael" - their last-ditch throw of the dice which would win the war or see the end of their hopes. The Battalion were sent up to Meteren to plug a gap in the lines and were expecting to dig trenches rather than defend them. Their capture was a small but ignominious chapter in New Zealand's military history.
George was kept at Lamsdorf POW camp in Germany from May, 1918, to his release at the end of the year. He was then sent to the King George Hospital in Liverpool and eventually repatriated, arriving in New Zealand at the end of 1919.
A Medical Board determined George to be physically unfit for further service due to the illness he contracted in the camp in Germany. It was an easy diagnosis and it was easy to blame his captivity for his condition. Earlier medical details in his miltary records, however, show several admissions to local field hospitals for diarrhea, which probably prompted his transfer to the second-line Entrenching Battalion.
He was listed as having a 100% disability due to the war - tuberculosis had ulcerated his intestines.
His medical report includes the details "Present weight 9 stone. Very emaciated. Marked hollowing above clavicles. Poor expansion." It attributes his condition to "stress and strain of imprisonment plus infection."
George spent his last months in the Waimate Hospital. One can only imagine the pain and hopelessness of those days.
Private George O’Brine, a native of Wyndham, died at Waimate on Wednesday. Private O'Brine was a prisoner of war and returned home in a shattered state of health. Mrs O'Brine made her home in South Canterbury, in the hope that the northern climate would benefit her son's health, but he gradually sank. Much sympathy will be felt for the bereaved family. The interment took place yesterday at Wyndham. -Mataura Ensign, 10/4/1920.