O’Brien, Terence Donough

Terence O’Brien was born in  1896, the only son of Brigadier General Edmund Donough John O’Brien (1858-1945), CB., CBE., JP formerly 14th Hussars, of Buxted Rectory, Buxted, Sussex and Florence, daughter of Frederick Wheeler of Worcester Park, Surrey. He was the grandson of Colonel Sir John Terence Nicholls (1830-1903) O’Brien KCMG, Governor of Heligoland, Newfoundland and Ceylon.  Terence came to Winchester in 1909 from St Peter’s, Broadstairs and was a keen sportsman, a good rider and skilled shot with both shotgun and rifle.

He obtained his commission in August 1914 and was posted to the 16th Queen’s Lancers, although due to his young age, he was not allowed out to the front until October. He saw action at Klein Zillebeke in the Ypres Salient in February 1915 when the Germans exploded a mine under the 16th Lancers’ trenches and charged their positions. Although the Germans captured part of the advanced trench, they were driven back by the machine gunners of 5th Lancers. The German gains were limited to a depth of 40 yards over a 100 yard sector but the regiment suffered heavy losses, which resulted in O’Brien taking charge of his squadron, as all other officers had either been killed, wounded or were missing.

In September 1915 he joined 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps as an observer and served in that capacity until his death, flying BE2 and FE2b aircraft. While flying as an observer in BE2c No 1784 on 21st September 1915 he was involved in combat with an enemy aircraft at 7,500 feet above Polygon Wood. Neither he, nor his pilot, 2nd Lt. Grey Edwards, was injured.

On November 5th 1915, whilst flying with Captain Ernest Leslie Gossage on artillery observation duties near Ypres in an FE2b, O’Brien was involved in chasing a German Aviatik which was spotted about a thousand feet above them, heading for the enemy lines.   The German plane evidently had no trouble in out-climbing the FE2B and was last seen some 2,500 feet above the British plane.

He was killed on 3rd March 1916 at the age of twenty, whilst on board BE2c No 4324 in an air battle near Poperinghe.  The pilot, 2nd Lieutenant R A Pierpoint was injured.

He is commemorated on a memorial tablet in St Margaret’s Church, Buxted.

When Captain Gossage returned home on leave, he brought with him O’Brien’s personal effects to return to his family and it was during this meeting that Gossage met O’Brien’s sister, Eileen.   They were married in 1917 and had two sons, one of whom was killed as a fighter pilot in May 1940.   Captain Gossage, later Air Marshal Sir Leslie Gossage, as Air Member for Personnel in 1940, was responsible for manning the RAF fighter and bomber stations for the Battle of Britain.    He died suddenly in 1949 aged 58.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: O'Brien
  • Forenames or initials: Terence Donough
  • House: E
  • Years in School: 1909-1913
  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Flying Corps
  • Date of Birth: 28th February 1896
  • Date of Death: 3rd March 1916
  • How Died: Killed in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer F2
  • Decoration: NA