Edward Thomas BRENNAN MC, DSO, MiD

BRENNAN, Edward Thomas

Service Numbers: Officer, P999
Enlisted: 17 August 1914, Perth, Western Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Last Unit: 1st Field Ambulance
Born: Stawell, Victoria, 13 April 1887
Home Town: Fremantle, Fremantle, Western Australia
Schooling: Beechworth Grammar School
Occupation: Medical Practitioner
Died: Natural causes, Cronulla, New South Wales, 18 August 1953, aged 66 years
Cemetery: Woronora Memorial Park, Sutherland, New South Wales
Memorials: Crawley University of Western Australia Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

17 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, Officer, 11th Infantry Battalion, Perth, Western Australia
2 Nov 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Captain, 11th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Fremantle
2 Nov 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 11th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 11th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC / Gallipoli
1 Jan 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Major, 6th Field Ambulance
24 Jan 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Lieutenant Colonel, 1st Field Ambulance

World War 2 Service

23 Dec 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lieutenant Colonel, P999

Further information


D.S.O., M.C., M.B., B.S. (Melb.), M.L.C. : Diploma in Tropical
Medicine : Lieutenant-Colonel, A.A.M.C., A.I.F., Gallipoli,
Egypt and France.

Enlisting 20th August, 1914, and sailing 3rd November, served
as R.M.O. n th Battn. at Gallipoli from the Landing to the Evacuation.
Joining 7th Australian Field Ambulance 18th January, 1916, in Egypt
and, crossing to France, was appointed O.C. 1st A.F. Amb. 21st March,
1917, serving with it until September, 1918, and returning as S.M.O.
of the first “ 1914 Leave ” Unit in November.
On several occasions during 19 17-18 was Acting A.D.M.S. 1st Australian Division. Promoted major, 18th January, 1916 ; lieutenant-colonel, 21st March, 1917.
Awarded D.S.O. 3rd June, 1918, and M.C. 2nd February, 1916,
and Mentioned in Despatches four times.

Director of Public Health and M.L.C., New Guinea, 1928.


Letters from Gallipolli to friend back in Australia

Captain Edward Thomas Brennan - 11th Australian Infantry Battalion

Posted by blacksmith, Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Australians At Gallipoli. Story Of The Landing. Caring For The Wounded.

Interesting Letter From Dr. Brennan. The following letter from Dr. Brennan, the well known Fremantle medical practitioner (who left with the first contingent), giving an account of the memorable, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and the care of the wounded soldiers, has been received by a friend at Fremantle. The letter is all the more interesting in view of the fact that the doctor has been highly praised by those who saw something of his own personal bravery:

"At last the 'heads' seemed to get suddenly busy after Sir Ian Hamilton arrived and there were daily confabs; and at last the 3rd Brigade had been allotted the honour first place in the attack on the peninsula. We had practice landings in daylight and dark-practice embarkations on to and disembarkations from warships, and altogether a busy time. On the day of departure from the island (Saturday, April 24) half our battalion embarked on destroyers and were taken to H.M.S. London, and started out, all the battleships and cruisers in line, the transports (with the remainder of the troops) following, and the destroyers buzzing about like bees. The Queen Elizabeth went on ahead. We cruised about the Aegean Sea all the afternoon, and at dark started slowly up the Gulf of Saros. The officers of the London were awfully good to us; they gave up their beds to us and fed us up like fighting cocks. If you ever hear anyone saying anything derogatory about the Navy in future just plug him and explain it's from me. They really are the finest lot of men I have ever met. After a few hours sleep we were called at 12.30 a.m., and had another feed. By this time we were just in sight of land, and the night was glorious; but as the moonlight was so bright we had to keep well away from the land. About 1.30 a.m. we embarked in boats which were towed by the battleships packet boats on the opposite side of the ships from the land, so that only the battleships could be seen, and then started slowly in diagonally towards the part of the shore where we were to land. Of course, there were no lights, and the silence was absolute, except for an occasional low-voiced order from a naval officer. By this time the moon had gone down, and we had just an hour before dawn. Then all at once the battleships stopped, and we turned half-right and started hell for leather for the shore-six packet boats (off three battleships), each towing four or five big pinnace launches and cutters. Our tow was on the extreme left. A few hundred yards behind us came seven or eight destroyers packed with the remaining companies of our battalions, which they had collected off the transports; then behind them again came the transports carrying the troops of the other brigades waiting until we were landed for the picket boats and destroyers to return and land them. 'The land loomed closer and closer, and there was still no sign of the enemy having discovered us, but all at once it struck me that the look of the land ahead of us was distinctly different from what it should have been by the maps which were issued to us: the hills were steep right to the beach, instead of the ground gradually sloping as we were told. Evidently others made the same discovery, for presently I heard a navy chap say in a drawly way. 'I believe we're A Mile Too Far North". But it was too late to mend the error - dawn was just breaking so after turning still further north for a couple of hundred yards about quite close to the shore we made straight on. Just as the picket boat cast off and we were lowering the oars to pull in the last 40 or 50 yards a single rifle shot rang out in the stillness, and everyone jumped about a foot off his seat. But we all soon got over the jumping business, as within about five seconds the fire opened from the whole hill in front of us, and then a machine gun opened fire. I was in the second boat of the tow, and being a fairly light boat we ran well into the beach. The first boat of the tow was a big pinnace, and having 50 men on board she grounded a fair distance out, and when the troops got out they were up to their shoulders in water; we were only up to our waists. There were only a few casualties in our boats - the machine gun didn't get into it - but there were more in others especially those who didn't get rowing while they still had way on from the picket boat. As you can imagine, there was no time wasted in getting out of these boats and across the beach (only about 15 yards wide), to the shelter of the bank; but even there we found we were not safe, as they were enfilading us from a bit of a cape about 200 yards to the south, so we had to crawl round until we found a little depression in the bank. Of course, all this was a matter of seconds. Soon there were a good number of men ashore. I heard an officer sing out "Fix bayonets lads and up we go" and with a yell they started up the hill, which was very steep. They had to crawl up on hands and knees. More men were coming all the time, following the others up. "Suddenly the shrapnel started. They were firing from a battery on the Gaba Tepe, a cape about l½ miles south of us, and at once the battleships opened in return, and the din was tremendous. There seemed to be shrapnel bursting over and all-round the boats. I was busy dressing all kinds of bullet wounds. An engineer was shot through the chest just beside me, and died in a few minutes. Suddenly there was a cheer from the top of the hill; our boys had captured the machine gun and driven the Turks out of their trenches. All this time there was not a rifle fired by our side. Coming ashore the rifles were not even loaded. I followed them up, dressing the wounded and leaving them to be picked up by bearers. As soon as our fellows Got the First Hill they got the Turks on the run and kept them going down, the other side of the hill they went, and up the next very stiff climb; a hill or a ridge rather about 400ft. high. The whole country is covered with low scrub, and in the rush forward lots of the Turks lay down under bushes and sniped our men off after they had passed them. They crossed a plateau 100 yards wide, and followed down another dip into a big gully with a creek in it, where we found five tents, evidently having been occupied by supports for the trenches. There were a lot of wounded Turks about, but as there were so many of our wounded I hadn't much time to look at them. Besides, they had no field dressings like our men carry. I gave some morphine to a few of them, but most of them spat it out. Everyone was as cheerful as possible in spite of everything. Coming up the first hill I heard one fellow say, (the bullets were very thick at the time), 'If they're not careful they'll fire one shot too many, and the bullets will `chock in the air'. On the plateau I met my. A.M.C. sergeant and it was very fortunate, as two can do better than one, especially with fractures and bad haemorrhage cases. We fixed a couple of shattered legs, and went on down into the big gully, along that for a bit, and then up on to the top of the main ridge which our fellows had just taken. The first wounded man up there that I struck was Peck, our adjutant; he had a bullet through the shoulder. It had just missed the bone. Our men had gone on still further, but by this time (about 10 a-m.) the Turks were reinforced strongly. Although during the morning and early afternoon some of our sections got out more than a mile further, they had all eventually to fall back to the main ridge. During the later afternoon this position got very warm. We were on a knoll on the left of the centre of our line (which by this time was about 2½ miles long) overlooking the left flank. Then some Turks got round a ridge about 500 yards away on our left, from which they could get the back of the hill we were on, as well as the front, and we had to dig in as quickly as possible. Of course, all the units were fearful mixed up by this time. Major Denton was close to me and about half a dozen of our men; all the other men were a mixture of battalions. I found myself in a trench with some machine gun supports, and borrowed a bit of their trench to haul wounded into and dress there. My sergeant was a little further along the line. When darkness came yon could move about a bit as long as you kept off the skyline, and I went and visited Denton and found Barnes Brockman, and Everett along the line with a mixed command. There were not so many casualties now, but every now and then a man would be wounded while digging trenches just over the hill. Altogether it was a very anxious time from the middle of the afternoon until next morning. The firing was continuous, and very heavy. The Turks Are Wonders at Taking Cover, and would worm their way right up to within 10 yards of the trenches and pot at anything they saw move in the darkness. About midnight, to increase our dis comfort, a drizzly rain started, and before long we were wet to the skin. The men in the trench with me had their bayonets fixed all night, and I had my revolver ready. I had already taken off my red cross, as it wasn't much use in such a situation. We all had a few pots at apparently moving shadows during the night. The snipers from the hill opposite came round during the night, and our knoll and the left flank were surrounded, except along the ridge towards the centre. We were all very glad when morning dawned. Time after time during the night the enemy had come right up to the trenches, but they would not face the bayonets, and always retired. The following five days saw continuous fighting, we holding the position on the top of the ridge, and they trying to break through. Of course, if they had broken through our line anywhere it would have meant that the whole line would have had to retire. An Indian mountain battery got busy on Sunday afternoon, and in spite of severe losses caused, by the concentration of the enemy's shrapnel on them, they did wonderful work. Then on Monday, as soon as our line was established, the battleships opened fire over our heads. The 'Lizzie's' shells were a revelation; they would whistle over our heads, and the next, there would be a terrific explosion on the big hill on our left front and when the smoke and dust cleared the whole contour would be changed. Every time that the Turks massed in any spot the observers would pass along the word by field telephone and the ship's shells would be on them. Of course, they were not quiet either, and there was shrapnel bursting continuously over our trenches. "On Monday and Tuesday our batteries were landing and soon opened fire also. On Monday morning Denton, Everett and Selby formed an observation post on our knoll, a telephone was brought along to my dugout, and they got a dugout just over the hill 10 yards away. They could observe the whole left flank, and shouted messages down all day, which Denton sent on by telephone until he got wounded (not severely) on Tuesday afternoon, and then I sent them on after that. There was a fearful shortage of officers; one after another came over the hill wounded, and some were killed, including Charlie Barnes, while observing for a machine gun. Croly also got a severe wound through the elbow. Later Everett, Selby, and I were the only three left in our section of trenches with a couple of hundred men - all under the few N.C.O's. left. Everett and Selby were kept busy in their posts, and as the wounded were diminishing I took on a bit of army service business, sending down parties for water, food, rum, ammunition, etc., and sent their messages to the headquarters by telephone. Altogether we were going from morning till night, but after dark we could do a bit of a crawl round. On Monday night I took a stroll down to the beach to get my pack, which I had dropped there as soon as we landed, and luckily found it, and got an overcoat and waterproof sheet out, and took them back. The greatest trouble we had in our part was the removal of the wounded. We could do practically nothing till dark, and even then there were snipers about. Many stretcher-bearers were wounded, and to make matters worse all day and part of the night the valley was swept by shrapnel - in fact, the valley was called 'Shrapnel Valley. In the dugouts around me were my sergeant and a pioneer sergeant and two assistants looking after the ammunition supply. One of these last was a trick of a kid. He would duck down the hill to the valley to fetch up water and sometimes tea for us, and if a sniper got closer to him than usual he would put down whatever he was carrying, turn in the direction from which the bullet came, and put his fingers to his nose, and then come on again. There were examples of wonderful bravery all round us. One Boy of 19 and a Corporal the only two left out of a machine gun crew the gun for four days and nights with practically no sleep and in spite of splinters from bullets which had hit the gun and had embedded in their arms and hands. They only left when the gun was ruined. I could tell you dozens of equally courageous things. On Thursday we heard a rumour that our Battalion was reforming on the beach, so I went down to see and found that they had been down resting since the previous afternoon. I went back to tell Everett and Selby to collect my things. They couldn't leave until officers could be spared to relieve them, so I got together the sergeant and the only one I had left of five stretcher-bearers I had managed to collect (all the others were wounded), and I went down to the valley and slept my first decent sleep with Joe Kenny, who had a section of the 4th Field Ambulance there. I arranged with him to see that the section of trenches I had been looking after were evacuated of wounded and went and joined the battalion. Met Dixon Hearder on the beach; he had been doing great work with his machine guns in the centre. When the Battalion reformed there were 11 officers killed, wounded, or missing, and between 500 and 600 men out of the 1,000 odd - of the men who had landed. I am writing this in my dugout and as there is a good deal of shrapnel kicking and whizzing about just outside us we are sitting tight. The food is pretty good; we have tinned meat, bacon, jam, cheese, and biscuits, besides tea and sugar, with rum twice a week; also spuds and onions. The chaps on the London have been great. Nearly every day a hamper comes over with the bread, tinned milk, butter, cigarettes, tobacco, matches, chutney, sauce and chocolate, golden syrup, and bootlaces. So we are very happy, even when it rains we rig our waterproof sheets for a roof. "Just a line in conclusion about the effect of being under fire on oneself. You read of men crying and laughing and getting hysterical. I have seen a little of that amongst our reinforcements who were not in the first flutter. But I saw none at all in our lot. Everything was so crisp and sudden, and it seemed just as safe to keep going forward as it did to stay where you were. The different sounds of bullets, shells, etc., we are now experts in. There is the sharp crack of the bullet overhead, with a 'ping' when it hits anything. There is the nasty, unfriendly swish of one that passes close to your ear. Then there is the 'crackle' of a machine gun, changing to a mournful disappointed 'whisk whisp' when the bullets get closer. Lastly, there is the cheerful whistle of the shrapnel shell well overhead, and at which we all used to duck (we don't now, we know they're' safe). It’s the vicious brute that is just past you as you hear it that makes you take cover in case there's another following it. I heard one fellow in the trenches the other day say to another, One of these days well be standing at the corner of Hay and Barrack streets and a motor tyre will burst close by, and the people around will be wondering why we're lying on our stomachs. And, when a barmaid opens a bottle of soda we'll all be down under the counter, replied his mate."

The West Australian Tuesday 13 July 1915.

Captain Edward Thomas Brennan - 11th Australian Infantry Battalion

Posted by blacksmith, Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Operations At Gaba Tepe Described By Dr Brennan. An Interesting Narrative. The following is a copy of a second letter received from Captain Brennan, the Fremantle medical officer at the front with the Australian forces. The letter follows on from a former communication which was published in Tuesday's issue of the "West Australian" :- "When I finished up last week I had recorded events up to April 30. For the next few days things were quiet in comparison with the first five days. There was little doing in the day time, with lots of fighting at night, but once the trenches were well dug down our casualties were reduced to very few daily. Then one day news came up that our battalion had been chosen to go out on a skirt and take Gaba Tepe, a cape to the south, about a mile from the right of our position. Captain Ray Leane was chosen to command the party, which consisted of Leane, Rockliffe, and 100 men, an officer, and 10 engineers, a medical officer, and six stretcher bearers, for which, of course, I volunteered with six of my men, including my sergeant, who would not hear of being left behind. It was thought that this cape or promontory was only being used by the Turks as an observation post, and had only a few men on it. The guns on the cape had all been silenced on the day we landed. We embarked on a destroyer at 330 in the morning and at 4.30 we were towed ashore in boats, with machine guns mounted on their sterns. Well, it was a repetition of the first landing, only worse. About 150 rifles opened on us when we were about 40 yards from the shore. Six of our men and five of the Navy crew were wounded, and one Navy man killed in the boats. The rest of us splashed out to the beach to the bank, losing four killed and about 10 wounded in the process. As on the first landing the bank wasn’t safe, as they could get us from the end of the cape (we were on the north side), but by crawling along the bank we found a bit of a depression, into which we all packed and dragged in the wounded, and were safe for the time being, but helpless. On crawling to the top of the bank we found that there, was 40ft of barbed wire between us and the Turks on the point, and that this barbed wire was covered by a machine gun and a pom-pom ; also that as soon as a, man showed himself above the bank the machine sun started popping at him. Under the circumstances it was impossible to get at the enemy with anything less than 1,000 men or more, so the next thing to do was to think of how we were to get back. As there were some severe wounds. I was kept pretty busy for the first half-hour or so. All the time three destroyers were lying in close to the cape end peppering it with their 12-pounders but as the high end of the cape was riddled with tunnels they could not do much more than make them keep their beads down. As the stretchers had been dropped on the beach two of us had an exciting gallop out for them, and then back to our holes like rabbits. We put the worst two of the wounded on stretchers, and then, while I went out to see a man who was moving, my sergeant collected the identity discs and pay books of the dead. I found that the man I went out to see was shot through the head, and moribund, so we left him and got back safely in spite of a few shots. Then we signalled the destroyers to send a boat to take off the wounded, which they did, and, though the range was only 100 to 150 yards, the Turks let us carry them across the beach and put them in the boat without potting at us, which was very decent of them, as they could have got us all quite easily. We found out afterwards that there were some Germans there, too. Of course, the destroyers were firing pretty heavily, and we had two or three good shots watching for Turks bobbing up to shoot, but they (the Turks) certainly could have had a few shots if they had liked. After pushing off the boat we ducked back and then started wondering how the rest of us were to get away. There was a mile of beach between us and our trenches, but when a few men volunteered to try to get back that way they found the machine gun could get them as they went, so they had to dive into the creek and stay there. The only thing to do was to go away by boat under fire. We signalled this to the destroyers, and presently saw two picket boats, each with three boats in tow, start out. At the same time the three destroyers opened a hot fire on the cape, and a couple of warships also chipped in. As soon as the boat got close in they rowed the last few yards) we all made a mad rush through the water and climbed in I got caught on a rowlock, with my head in and my feet out, expecting every second to get a bullet. Then the sailors rowed, hell-for-leather, the picket boat picked up our lines, and of we went to the destroyers. It was a hot ten minutes. We had only three men wounded on the return, owing mainly to the fact that the smoke and dust caused by the shells obscured their view and aim. Getting back very wet and cold, I went straight to the cleaning hospital, took off my things and dried them, and had a good taste of rum. I then had lunch at H.Q. with the 'heads,' and went back to my dug-out, and slept for 12 hours. Since then things have been pretty quiet except for one good scrap, the details of which I cannot tell you, but in which the Turks lost very heavily and our casualties were small. Yesterday we had fresh meat, for the first time for a month." Western Mail Friday 16 July 1915.

Captain Edward Thomas Brennan - 11th Australian Infantry Battalion
Posted by blacksmith, Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Personal Captain E. T. Brennan, upon whom the Military Cross has been conferred, as announced in the "West Australian," was the medical officer' attached to the 11th Battalion. He left with the first expeditionary force from this State, and his name was frequently mentioned by soldiers writing from Gallipoli for his gallant conduct following the historic landing at which he was present. He was at one time the resident medical officer at the Fremantle Public Hospital, and at the time of joining the expeditionary forces was practising his profession at Fremantle in partnership with Dr. Campbell. Western Mail Friday 11 February 1916.


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"Edward Thomas Brennan (1887-1953), surgeon and medical administrator, was born on 13 April 1887 at Stawell, Victoria, son of Edward Thomas Brennan, surveyor, and his wife Anne Mary, née Powell. Educated at Beechworth Grammar School and the University of Melbourne (M.B., B.S., 1909), he was resident surgeon at the Ballarat Hospital in 1909-10 and medical superintendent at Fremantle Hospital, Western Australia, in 1911-14. In June 1913 he was commissioned in the Australian Army Medical Corps.

On 31 August 1914 Brennan joined the Australian Imperial Force as a captain and was made regimental medical officer in the 11th Battalion. He sailed for Egypt in November and went ashore with the covering force at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. His unit fought at Steele's Post where Brennan had to set up his aid-post on top of a steep cliff; he overcame the problem of evacuating wounded by easing them down a sand-slide to the beach. He received special mention for 'various acts of conspicuous gallantry' in the first ten days at Anzac. Later, at Leane's Post, he risked his life by crawling along a shallow communication trench under heavy fire to attend wounded. He remained at Anzac until the evacuation and was awarded the Military Cross. Promoted major in January 1916, he was transferred to the 7th Field Ambulance and reached the Western Front in April and served in the battles of the Somme. In February next year he was made temporary lieutenant-colonel and commander of the 1st Field Ambulance and took part in all the 1st Division's major operations in 1917-18. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June 1918 and was mentioned in dispatches four times during the war..." - READ MORE LINK (adb.anu.edu.au)