Brennan, Edward Thomas

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DTM 1930 MB BS 1909 (Melb)

Edward Thomas Brennan was best known for his work as a peace-time surgeon and medical administrator in the Territory of New Guinea and for medical service during the World War I.[1] He was born in 1887 at Stawell, Victoria, and obtained his MBBS at the University of Melbourne in 1909.

After graduating, he took up a position as resident surgeon at the Ballarat Hospital, where he remained until 1910. The following year, he became medical superintendent at Fremantle Hospital in Western Australia remaining there until he left Australia for active war service in 1914. In June 1913, he had been commissioned to the Australian Army Medical Corps and in August 1914, joined the Australian Imperial Force as a captain. He was made Regimental Medical Officer of the 11th Battalion and sailed for Egypt in November. He went ashore with the covering force at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He received special mention for various acts of gallantry in the first 10 days and was awarded the Military Cross. He remained in Gallipoli until the ANZAC evacuation. He was promoted to Major in January 1916 and transferred to the 7th Field Ambulance, reaching the Western Front and serving in the battles of the Somme. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918 but resigned his commission with the AIF in 1920 to join the Royal Australian Navy as Surgeon Lieutenant on HMAS Sydney.

Three years later, he left the Navy to become a travelling medical officer for the Territory of New Guinea, a post which for its action and adventure suited him well. In 1923, he married an American, Ruth Todd, and they spent their next two years on a 45-foot (137m) schooner sailing around the coast on Brennan’s medical duties. He was made Director of Public Health for the Territory of New Guinea in 1928 and became a member of Legislative Council in 1933.[1] He held both offices until World War II when he sought another AIF post but was declared medically unfit for active service. In 1941, he was appointed Assistant Director of Medical Services for the 8th Military District (New Guinea), with the rank of colonel, but after a few months ill health forced him to evacuate and return to Australia.

Back in New South Wales, he became Deputy Director of Medical Services of the Allied Works Council until 1945, and for the next five years was Chief Medical Officer for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in the South-West Pacific.

Edward Thomas Brennan died in 1953.

Citation: Mellor, Lise (2008) Brennan, Edward Thomas. Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive, University of Sydney.

An alternate version appears in: Mellor, L. 150 Years, 150 Firsts: The People of the Faculty of Medicine (2006) Sydney, Sydney University Press.