Rare medals of WWI veteran presented to Penshurst RSL Club

The memory of WWI British soldier Dennis O'Connor will be permanently honoured at the Penshurst RSL Club after his daughter presented his war service medals to the club on the eve of Anzac Day.

Margaret Parr of Peakhurst presented her father's medals to be on permanent display in the Penshurst RSL Club's Servicemen's Memorial Medals Corridor.

Dennis O'Connor was born in Smethwick, Birmingham in 1899. He joined the 1/5th Lincolnshire Regiment Infantry of British Army and fought in the Somme in France, receiving the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

During his service he was gassed suffering permanent damage to his lungs. After the war he came to Australia with his wife, Annie in 1923 because of his health.

Their daughter, Margaret was born in 1938 and the family lived in Bexley North where Dennis worked as a commercial traveller.

Margaret described her father as a happy, jovial man despite his health problems.

Inspired by her father's stories of the war, Margaret joined the Citizens' Military Force as soon as she was eighteen.

She was following a family tradition of service.

"My mother's brother, William Bennett Cross was killed in France in WWI at the age of 19 and one of my father's sisters, Becky was a nurse," Margaret said.

"I felt I wanted to serve," she said. "The old saying is 'Like father, Like son', but in this case it was, "Like father, like daughter.'

"My mother said I could only join the CMF as long as I was a nurse. I did this but I had to give it up when I got married. That was the custom in those days."

Dennis O'Connor died in 1961 of complications due to his lungs and heart caused by his war service.

Until now, Margaret kept her father's medals in a drawer.

"I saw the display of WWI medals at the club and saw the British were included in the collection and I said that maybe the RSL would want his medals to also display.

"I rang the Penshurst RSL and asked if they would they like them.

"It was my children's request that we donate them to the club.

"I didn't want them to just lay in a drawer. I wanted them on display for others to see."

Margaret presented her father's medals to the club on April 10. The medals were still in their original packaging from WWI.

They were officially accepted by Penshurst RSL Sub-branch president John Hoban and will be mounted for display in the club's Servicemen's Memorial Medals Corridor which has the medals of 22 WWI servicemen and 21 WWII servicemen currently on display, along with medals of servicemen from the Vietnam and Korean conflicts.

"We encourage people like Margaret to come forward and donate their medals so everyone can see them," Mr Hoban said.

"We will have them appropriately presented and honour them and not let them lay forgotten in a drawer.

"They will be remembered and seen by all club visitors."

The Anzac Dawn Day Dawn combined service of the Penshurst, Mortdale and Oatley RSL Sub-branches will be held at Penshurst War Memorial in Bridge Street, starting at 6am on Thursday, April 25.

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