|Above: Three British infantrymen are pictured in front of their blockhouse - one in an extensive chain of fortifications set up by General
Roberts to hamper the free movement of the Boer Commandos. All three men pose in shirtsleeve's and it is interesting to note that all three
have different pattern bandoleers. The man standing on the right is identified on the reverse of the card as Joe Breen.
No. 7044 Private Joseph Breen was born about 1880 in Halifax, Yorkshire the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Breen. A mason by trade he
attested with the 2nd Service Company, the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment on 18 February 1901 having previously served with
the 1st Volunteer Battalion of that same regiment. Standing 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches tall and weighing 133 pounds at the time of his enlistment
Breen was described as having s fresh complexion with grey eyes and brown hair.
Breen deployed to South Africa with his regiment 16 March 1901. His time with the colours during the Anglo-Boer War was somewhat limited
and he took his discharge on 24 June 1902 having served for a total of 1 year, 101 days. His service papers state list his entitlement to the
Queen's South Africa Medal with no clasps being specified. The roll for the Queen's South Africa Medal confirms Breen's entitlement to the
clasps "Cape Colony", "Orange Free State", "Transvaal", "South Africa 1901", and "South Africa 1902".
With the outbreak of World War One, Breen re-enlisted this time with the 3 Coy., Army Service Corps on 7 September 1914. Not long
afterward - an perhaps living up to the term short service, Breen was quickly discharged on 6 November 1914 with the note "Not likely to
become and efficient soldier." given as the reason. During his short stint with the ASC Breen held the rank of driver with the regimental
number 3321. One has to go through several pages of Breen's Great War service papers before the notation "...Recommended for discharge by
the medical officer..." is found. A bit further on the actual medical cause is finally mentioned and in Breen's case this included "Varicose veins
on inner side of right thigh..." and "...swelling on the inner side of right knee.". Another note in his papers states that Breen was fit for
discharge on medical grounds and not for transfer to the Royal Engineers. The obvious implication of this statement is that Breen was actively
seeking a way to stay in the war.
In a classic case of not keeping a good man down Breen seems to have finally gotten his wish and an note dated 4 July 1916 states that Breen
had by that time re-enlisted and was now No. 49557 Private in "B" Section, 68th Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Medical Corps, British
Mediterranean Forces, the Balkans. The 68th was attached to the 22nd Division. Breen's medal index card shows him being entitled to the
1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals. It also shows him having been appointed acting corporal.
At the time of his initial re-enlistment in 1914 Breen was mentioned as being married with his wife's name being Adeline. The couple was shown
to have three children: Dora, Philip and Joseph, Jr.
Although the photo's back mark indicates Halifax photographer W. Bottomley, in all likelihood Bottomley reprinted this image from an original
produced by a South African photographer. The bright mark in the upper right hand side of the photograph is a reflection that occurred when
Bottomley rephotographed the original image.
W. Bottomley - Photographer
|Above: This real photo postcard and the items shown below were all acquired from a source different than that of the blockhouse cabinet
photograph at the top of the page. They were also found a number of years latter. This postcard bears an ink inscription on the reverse side
that reads: "Joseph Breen in the Boer War. (Brother of Lewis.)". All of the inscriptions on all of the photographs are in the same hand.
Real Photo Postcard
|Above: Joseph Breen as a young man sometime before the Anglo-Boer War. Inscribed on the reverse: "Joseph Breen (Brother of Lewis) (eldest)".
A. Vincent Wild - Photographer
2 Waterhouse Street
Halifax, Yorkshire, England