Flannery brothers gave lives for region
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.
John Flannery with the medals of his father and two uncles who fought in World War 1.