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A Hero Unknown

I am sure I am not alone in having had a father that managed to turn almost any conversation into an anecdote from his time as a soldier in the second world war. As he got older, he started to repeat those anecdotes more frequently, but there was always one that I never grew tired of hearing. Even sixty years after the event, there were still tears in his eyes when he told it.

My father took part in the liberation of Italy in 1945. The captain of his division was a man called Timothy O’Brien, and never was an officer more loved and respected. One dark night they were sheltering terrified in a trench while German mortars fell all around them. From a distance, O’Brien saw what was happening, and with no thought to his own safety, he ran over and shouted, “if you move from that trench, some of you will be killed; if you stay there, you will all be killed.” They moved, and shortly after, mortars destroyed the trench. Dad used to say that being a religious man, O’Brien was “touched by God” as he seemed to know instinctively what was going to happen.

One day towards the end of the war, their regiment was holding a position at Monti Casino when O’Brien noticed two of his men walking along the skyline. He stood up and shouted at them to get down but was himself shot and fatally wounded by a sniper.

O’Brien held a special place in my father’s heart, and there was no doubt in his mind that if it were not for O’Brian, he would never have survived the war, which means I also owe him my life. Like many ex-soldiers, my father spent the rest of his life feeling guilty for leading a long and happy life when such great men like O’Brien were killed, and his family left without a father.
No one has ever heard of O’Brien. He was not awarded any medals for valour, and he was buried in a military grave in Faenza in Italy. It is a shame that for every hero that is acknowledged, there are many that die without anyone knowing of their bravery.

It was always my father’s greatest wish to contact the relatives of Timothy O’Brien and tell them what a great man their grandfather was, but despite a great deal of effort, I have been unable to trace them. Since my father passed away in 2013 aged ninety-three, I have made some headway by applying for his service records, but as his wife’s name was redacted, I hit a dead end. So I would like to make a public appeal for information about this fallen hero. His details are as follows:

Name: Timothy Joseph O’Brien
Born 15th January 1917 in Ireland
Died 25th October 1944 in Italy
Father – Dennis O’Brien, Adrigole, Bantry Cork
Mother – Margaret
Brother – Desmond
Wife – Mrs E.M. O’brien
Married 27th October 194
Children: One known child
Uncle Henry Wills 4805 Ave. M Brooklyn, New Jersey
Profession: Labourer
Previous Address – 46 Portfield Avenue, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

Grave: Faenza War Cemetery
Regiment: West Kent Regiment (The Buffs)
Rank: Lieutenant (acting captain)
Service number: 294236

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