No.2732 Private John (Ernie) O’Keefe
John O’Keefe was born at Ballarat Victoria in May 1891. His parents were Daniel O’Keefe and Margaret O’Brien. His parents had 14 children:
- Catherine O'Keefe (1876-1950)
- Michael O'Keefe (1878-1880)
- Daniel O'Keefe (1880-1945) (AIF No.4192)
- George O'Keefe (1882-1882)
- James (Jim) Matthew O'Keefe (1883-1939) (AIF No.4859)
- Thomas O'Keefe (1886–1964)
- Laurence Peter O'Keefe (1888–1947)
- John (Ernie) O'Keefe (1892–1944)(AIF No.2732)
- Peter Timothy (Herb) O'Keefe (1893–1945)(AIF No.2728)
- Edward Henry O'Keefe (1895–1950)(AIF No.4858)
- Margaret Ellen O'Keefe (1898–1972)
- Michael O'Keefe (1900–1906)
- Joseph O'Keefe (1902–1972)
- Eileen O'Keefe (1905–?)
John O'Keefe, was one of the seven brothers who enlisted for active service in the Australian Infantry Forces, five of whom were accepted.
On 28 July 1915, John enlisted in the AIF at Melbourne. He was 24 years and 2 months of age. After completing his initial training at the Broadmeadows Camp his unit the 24th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A38 Ulysses on 27 October 1915.
John joined the 6th Training 7th Battalion on 24 February 1916 ex Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt. His unit travelled to Serapeum which was about 120 kilometres away at the Suez Canal. After a short period of training at Serapeum, in Egypt, he joined the 1st Battalion. In late March 1916, the Battalion embarked on a troopship from the port of Alexandria on 26 March 1916, bound for Marseilles where he disembarked on 2 April 1916.
After landing in France, they boarded a train and were subsequently transported to the Somme. From there, the 1st Pioneers moved to Armentieres where they established a camp, in an area which was dubbed a "nursery" sector by the Allies, where newly arrived units could gain their first experience of fighting on the Western Front.
John was admitted to hospital in France with a sprained thumb on 14 June 1916 and then dental issues on 15 June 1916. He re-joined the Battalion from hospital on 30 December 1916.
For the next couple of years there were no major incidents except leave, they had approximately two weeks every year.
John marched out of war zone to return to Australia on 19 January 1919, departing France 24 January and arriving in England on 28 January 1919. He embarked from Southampton on 28 March 1919 on board City of Poona and disembarked in Melbourne on 14 May 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 6 July 1919.
John married Anastasia Flaherty at St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church, Werribee, on September 15 1920. His brother, Edward, was in the bridal party. Werribee Shire Banner, 4 November 1920, p.3.
Australian Electoral Rolls for Victoria, Corio, Werribee have John in Werribee as a labourer from 1912 until 1914.
He is listed again in 1919 to 1942. His wife Anastasia is listed from 1921 onwards.
John's brother Peter Timothy is also listed on the 1914-1919 Census records c/o Mrs Brien. There is no record of Mrs Brien in the Census records for Werribee.
John (Ernie) O'Keefe died at St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, on Saturday 14 August 1944. He had been a resident of Werribee for 34 years.
Werribee Shire Banner, 17 August 1944, p.3.
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star Medal
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal