Flan­nery broth­ers gave lives for re­gion

Central Otago Mirror - - OUT & ABOUT - RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

A trio of broth­ers were up­lifted from farm­ing harsh Cen­tral Otago land to fight in a harsh Euro­pean land. Only one re­turned.

De­tails of Martin Flan­nery’s in­volve­ment in World War 1 are few, but Martin’s son John Flan­nery re­mem­bers his fa­ther and his two un­cles, Peter Flan­nery and Michael Flan­nery, each An­zac Day.

John ,79, spoke to the Mir­ror fol­low­ing An­zac Day com­mem­o­ra­tions at Omakau which drew about 100 peo­ple.

The broth­ers - three of 10 chil­dren of Thomas and Ann Flan­nery who farmed in the Ida Val­ley - all joined the fight­ing about 1917.

Peter Flan­nery went miss­ing in Bel­gium in Oc­to­ber 1917 aged 24. It was about six months after he ar­rived and fought at Paschen­dale.

The el­dest, Michael Flan­nery, didn’t even get to fight, dy­ing of ill­ness ‘‘on the way over’’ aged 30. He con­tracted measles, scar­let fever and pneu­mo­nia.

In a cruel twist, John says when his fa­ther ar­rived in France he was also sick.

‘‘He went to hospi­tal and when he got there they gave him the wrong bag,’’ John says. ’’It was his brother’s [Michael’s]. He had just died.’’

His fa­ther Martin went on to par­tic­i­pate in the March to Rhine be­fore head­ing home about 1920 after vis­it­ing rel­a­tives in Ire­land. He died in 1954 aged 59 when John was 17.

‘‘They never talked about it much,’’ John says, when asked what his fa­ther told him of war.

‘‘It must have been shock­ing.’’

What John does have is diary en­tries and wartime doc­u­men­ta­tion which he’s been able to piece to­gether over the years.

One diary en­try from his fa­ther’s March to Rhine reads: ’’Rain­ing all day in fair bil­lets. Vil­lages much knocked about.’’

He and wife Mon went to Europe in 2000 to trace the steps of ‘‘where we thought’’ Martin had been.

John, who did com­pul­sory mil­i­tary train­ing, says he reads the diary and thinks about ‘‘what they must have gone through’’ about once a year around An­zac Day.

‘‘They must have seen some ter­ri­ble things.’’

Oth­ers shared sim­i­lar sto­ries and mem­o­ries in well­rep­re­sented ser­vices around Cen­tral Otago in­clud­ing at Cromwell, Tar­ras, Ban­nock­burn, Clyde, Alexan­dra, Ran­furly, Patearoa, Roxburgh and Millers Flat.

RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

John Flan­nery with the medals of his fa­ther and two un­cles who fought in World War 1.

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