Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Michael Henry O'Brien

Michael Henry O'Brien :

Michael Henry O'Brien : India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'

India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'

Michael was born in around 1870 in Liverpool. We don't know anything about his early life or family, except that he was a Roman Catholic.

On the 16th October 1888 Michael left his job as a labourer and joined the Regular Army in Manchester. He was already a member of the 3rd Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, a Militia unit. As a Militiaman Michael kept his civilian home and job and trained as a soldier for a short period every year. We don't know how long he spent in the Militia.

When he joined the Regular Army Michael chose the Manchester Regiment. He was 5 feet 5 1/4 inches tall and weighed 129 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and reddish hair. He was given the service number 2415 and began his training at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne.

On the 9th January 1889 Michael was posted to the 1st Battalion, based in Tipperary, Ireland. He obtained his 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education here on the 5th April.

Michael left Ireland in September 1890 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion in India. They were stationed in Sialkot in modern Pakistan at the time. He began to receive an extra 1 penny (1d) per day Good Conduct Pay on the 16th October.

The next year Michael went to war. The 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was one of the units ordered to put down a rebellion in the Miranzai Valley on the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. Michael was one of the 300 Manchester Regiment soldiers who took part in this campaign, called the Miranzai Expedition. It lasted from the 3rd to the 25th May 1891. Samana is the name of the mountain range that rises out of the Miranzai Valley. The British fought hard to capture it.

The 2nd Battalion left Sialkot for Meerut in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh during November 1892. They spent time in Chakrata in the foothills of the Himalayas, and arrived in Dinapore, now Danapur, Bihar State, in 1893. Michael would be based here until he returned to the UK on the 11th December 1896.

During his time in Dinapore Michael's Good Conduct Pay was increased to 2d per day on the 16th October 1894. He had passed a course of instruction in serving as Mounted Infantry during 1892.

After Michael returned to the UK he was transferred to the Army Reserve. This meant he could find a home and a job, but could be called back to the Army in an emergency. We don't know anything about his life as a Reservist.

On the 26th December 1899 an emergency arose and Michael was recalled. The emergency was the British defeats and casualties in the opening weeks of the Boer War, which had begun in October 1899. Michael was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He joined Number 4 Section, part of F Company. He was one of 11 men in his Section who could swim.

The 2nd Battalion arrived in South Africa in April 1900. Michael served there and took part in patrols of the countryside aimed at restricting the movements of the Boer forces until the 31st August 1901, when he was returned to the UK. He was discharged from the Army on the 15th October.

The Boer War ended on the 31st May 1902. There is no record of Michael being wounded or taken ill, so we don't know why he was discharged before the end of the war. Other Reservists called up at the same time served in South Africa for the length of the war.

Michael's life after his discharge remains a mystery. We believe he died in Farnworth, near Bolton in Lancashire, between July and September 1937, aged 66.

Michael's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 1949. As well as his India General Service Medal he was also awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen' and 'South Africa 1901'.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council