Patrick O’Keeffe was born on 25 April 1887 in Tocumwal NSW. He was the second of thirteen children of James O’Keeffe and Emily Godier. James was born in County Cork and Emily was born in a tent on the Victorian Goldfields.
Patrick started his working life as an employee of the Post Master Generals Department. He rose to the rank of Telegraph Operator. While working in northern NSW he met Violet Irvin in the small town of Tooraweenah. Violet parents ran the only hotel in the town. The Irvin family sold the hotel in Tooraweenah and purchased a hotel in Beechworth Victoria sometime after 1911.
IMAGE RIGHT: Sergeant Patrick O’KEEFFE, M.M. who served with the 4th Infantry Battalion, AIF during the Great War. His war service medals are missing and his family would desperately love to find them. Can you help?
Patrick enlisted on 22 November 1915 at Casula NSW. Surprisingly, his service record as per the National Archives of Australia indicates that Patrick had been previously rejected for service with His Majesty’s services for being “physically unfit”. Patrick must have shown skills in leadership, as by the 2 February, 1916 he was acting Sergeant with the 4th Infantry Battalion. By the 18 April 1916 he was acting Company Sergeant Major. According to the First World War Embarkation Roll, number 6064 Patrick O’KEEFFE embarked aboard the transport ship (A18) HMAT Wiltshire on the 22nd of August, 1916 from Port Sydney. He disembarked at Plymouth on 12 October 1916. Whilst the First World War Embarkation Roll indicates that he held the rank of ‘Private’ at the date of boarding ship, his records would confirm his rank as ‘Acting Sergeant’ in December of that year. Patrick took part in more training, including a Platoon Commander course. Showing his aptitude with automatic weapons, he qualified as “Very good” at the Lewis Gun Training School.
In April 1917 he was transferred for a month to the Cold Stream Guards at Windsor. In June 1917 he was transferred to the 4th Battalion in France. In early October 1917 he was wounded by shrapnel in the Battle of Broodseinde. He was sent back to England to recover from his wounds. In late November in 1917 in was back in France with the 4th Battalion.
IMAGE LEFT: The ‘white over green’ colour patch of the 4th Infantry Battalion, AIF.
In June 1918 he was promoted to Lance Sergeant. In September 1918 he was wounded again and sent to General Hospital Portsmouth. He was back to strength in October 1918 in Army Head Quarters in London. Patrick was granted leave in June 1919 to attend the Central Telegraph School in Glasgow. He was awarded the Military Medal on 17 June 1919 for his actions at Hargicourt in September 1918.
His citation for the Military Medal read “Sergeant Patrick O’Keeffe, 6064. 4th Battalion AIF. For Conspicuous bravery and coolness during operations near Hargicourt on 11th September 1918. When his platoon was surrounded by the enemy he set a splendid example to the men and ably assisted to extricate the platoon from a difficult situation. Previously he led a daylight patrol under machine gun fire about 1000 yards from our line and when surrounded he gallantry led his men and fought his way back to our lines with very useful information. He set a splendid example to the men under him.” The citation was signed by Major General Commanding 1st Australian Division.2 October 1918.
IMAGE RIGHT: An example of the war service medals, awarded to Sergeant Patrick O’KEEFFE of the 4th Infantry Battalion, AIF. From left to right:- Military Medal, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These missing medals are sought by the family of Sergeant Patrick O’KEEFFE. If you have these missing medals in your collection or know of their whereabouts, they would be most grateful to hear from you.
Patrick returned to Australia on 15 November 1919 aboard “Ypuanga” arriving in Sydney on 9 January 1920. He was discharged from the army in March 1920. He and his brother law opened a General Store near Five Dock. He later opened a small Post Office at Wareemba where he worked for the rest of his life. Patrick became a founding member of Five Dock RSL Club and worked for many years helping many returned soldiers.
In July 1921 he married Violet Irvin and they settled in the back of the shop they owned. They had two daughters born in 1922 and 1926. Both daughters married and moved to Kingsgrove. Mollie the eldest daughter married James Kelly. Patricia the youngest daughter married Gordon Parkinson. Patrick and Violet had ten grand children. Patrick enjoyed going to the races or watching the local Australian Rules Team in his spare time.
The spelling of his surname is unusual in that it contains a second letter ‘f’. His missing war medals will reflect this in the stamping of his name on the edge of the awards. Patrick was always very concerned his surname was spelt correctly. “Its eeffe” he would always say.
6064 Sergeant Patrick O’KEEFFE M.M. died in July 1982 at the age of 95. For the last few years of his life he was living in a nursing home in Drummoyne.
9 February 2012