Documentation on the early life of Cornelius Edward O’Brien is pretty scarce, so it is impossible to build a picture of him before the First World War. He was born in the late 1890s in Whitechapel, East London and was working as a carman when he received his enlistment papers.
Cornelius joined the Royal Navy as a stoker on 27th November 1915 and was sent to HMS Vivid II, the shore-based establishment in Devonport that served as the Stokers and Engine Room Artificers School. He trained there for a couple of months before being assigned to HMS Drake, where he spent most of 1916.
Returning to Devonport, Stoker O’Brien spent a further year on board HMS Vivid II, gaining the rank of Stoker 1st Class. By the end of 1917, however, he was back at sea, having been sent to HMS Vixen, a naval destroyer that served in the Thames Estuary, performing anti-submarine patrols and counter mining operations there.
In mid-November 1918, with the war officially over, Cornelius was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Chatham, suffering from influenza, pneumonia and pleurisy. Sadly these were to prove too much of a challenge for him and he passed away on 21st November 1918.
Cornelius Edward O’Brien was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, not far from the Naval Dockyard in Chatham.