Lest we forget


FRED OCONNOR PHOTO SmallBy Mr Murray Poustie

An exceprt from 'Chaplains at War, the service and sacrifice of bendigo chaplains in World War One'. (2014)

Reverend Frederick Charles O’Connor was born in Ireland in 1887, the son of Mathew O’Connor. He studied at All Hallows College, Dublin, was ordained a priest on 22 June 1913 and arrived in Bendigo on 2 October 1913, where he was attached to the Cathedral staff for two years. Father O’Connor was then an assistant priest in the Chiltern parish for ten months.

On 17 October 1916, Father Frederick Charles O’Connor applied for Commission in the AIF giving his postal address as Chiltern and, on 20 October 1916, volunteered to serve overseas, giving his permanent address in Australia as Bishop’s Palace, Bendigo.

Chaplain Captain O’Connor embarked on 20 October 1916; on 5 March 1917 he was posted to 2 Australian Stationary Hospital in Egypt. He subsequently served in England and France and was granted leave without pay from 8 May to 8 July 1919. Chaplain Major O’Connor returned to Australia and his appointment was terminated in Sydney on 23 October 1919.

Chaplain Major O’Connor was welcomed home at Chiltern on 15 October 1919 where he said ‘he did his best for the soldiers and he would do it again. He was always happy with the boys in Egypt, England and France, as they were the most lovable company. There was no bigotry in the Australian. One of his greatest friends on the battlefield was a Wesleyan minister, and he trusted to remain friends with him to the end of his life.’

Father O’Connor was at Beechworth in December 1919 when he had an exchange of correspondence with the Bishop of Sandhurst regarding the possibility of applying for a position as Chaplain in the Royal Australian Navy. The Bishop wrote, “I will not hinder you. Your work amongst the soldiers of the AIF in Egypt, England and France was so satisfactory and beneficial to the men (who spoke well of you) that I hope if you realise an appointment in the R. A. Navy, you will give equal satisfaction to officers and men. Your three years with the AIF should be a good preparation for a chaplaincy in the Navy.”

Father O’Connor did not obtain a Navy chaplaincy and was appointed to Beechworth in February 1920, Yarrawonga in 1921, Heathcote in 1924, Elmore and then Wangaratta in 1927, Eaglehawk in 1932, Kerang in 1936 and Pyramid Hill in 1939. He died at Pyramid Hill in April 1951.