Private Edward Pearce Hanrahan was born on 6 September 1895 to Emily Eliza (nee Daw) and Edward Ernest Hanrahan in Port Augusta West, South Australia. He enlisted on 11 January 1916 when he was 20 years old and embarked for war two months later, on 16 March, on HMAT Anchises A68, from Adelaide.
Hanrahan served with the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment and was a well-regarded soldier; one witness stating that he was ‘ one of the most popular men in the regiment’. The Red Cross searchers collected several fulsome witness statements that provide details of what occurred to Hanrahan during battle.
On the evening of 29 September 1918, Hanrahan’s regiment was part of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade advancement at Sasa, 30 miles south of Damascus, Syria. During a retreat from the ‘severe fight’ and enemy fire he was wounded by machine gun fire and his horse shot. An eyewitness, who knew Hanrahan from childhood and was in the advancement alongside him, stated that ‘nearly all the horses where killed and eight of us were taken prisoner’.
The 3rd Brigade advanced again later and took the position, recapturing the POWs on 1 October 1918. Hanrahan was admitted to the German Military Hospital on 4 October where he was looked after by a German doctor and two nurses who, as stated in several witness accounts, did ‘everything possible’ to care for Hanrahan. Medical supplies were limited as the ‘hospital had been ransacked by the retreating’ enemy, which impacted on the care and pain relief that could be provided to the wounded.
One eyewitness stated that Hanrahan ‘was in too much pain’ for the witness to talk to him and that he died of his wounds on the evening of 9 October ‘after suffering much pain’. These explicit details are bracketed to indicate that they should be omitted from correspondence with his family to spare them the upset of knowing the agony he suffered in his last days. These words where indeed left out of the letter to the family.
Hanrahan was buried in the English Hospital Cemetery, Damascus, on 12 October 1918.