Grandad, What did you do in The Great War?


Grandad Jack Moloney, World War One Veteran, in 1967 with my brother Peter

Tomorrow is November 11th, Remembrance Day. It is now 92 years since the guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, bringing to an end the unimaginable slaughter of World War One. The impact of the Great War was keenly felt in Ireland, both through the service of those men and women in the armed forces and the families they left behind on the home front. In the first of two special posts on this site about the Irish experience, Managing Director Colm Moloney outlines what he knows of his Grandad Jack’s service in the ‘War to end all Wars’.

Grandad, What did you do in the Great War? This is a question I never got to ask. My grandfather Jack Moloney died in 1972 when I was four years old. I always knew he was an old soldier, but knew very little more than he was in the British Army during the First World War. I recently decided to find out more about his experiences, and began the search for information about his service. My first port of call was with his only surviving child, who knew he served in the Dardanelles (Turkey) and that he had been wounded. Apparently the bullet holes he had in his arm and leg allowed Jack to perform ‘tricks’ to entertain the kids in later life! My next port of call was to obtain his medal index card, which filled in some more of the gaps in the story, by telling me where he had entered the war and in what theatres he served. I then tried to track down his military  service records, but unfortunately Jack’s papers were among the many thousands destroyed as a result of bombing during the Blitz. Despite this set back, through discussions with my extended family (and many hours of research and hard graft!) I was able to piece together a picture of Jack’s life in the army.

A button marked 'Indian Army' found amongst Jack's possessions

Jack Moloney was born in Clogheen, Monasterevin on the 14th of December 1886. His father died young, leaving his mother with the difficult task of raising 6 children alone. With no other opportunities Jack enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1905. After an initial posting in North Africa, Jack spent a number of years in India prior to the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914.

Jack entered the battle for Gallipoli on the 15th August 1915 with the 6th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Although the landings here have become synonymous with the Australian experience of the war, many Irishmen also served there in both the 10th Division and the 29th Division. Jack obviously did well, as he was promoted to Sergeant during this time. While in Gallipoli his battalion was involved in fierce close quarters combat with the Turkish Army, including the brutal battle of Kiretch Tepe Sirt. On the 29th September Jack’s division withdrew from Gallipoli and moved to Mudros.

Jack's Medals- The 1914-15 Star, Victory Medal and War Medal

In August 1916, while home on leave, Jack was able to enjoy a moment of happiness in the midst of the carnage. He took the opportunity to marry Abina O´Neil in Midleton, County Cork, where he settled after the war. Unfortunately Jack didn´t get much respite and was back in action in the Balkans by October 1916. Although this has now become one of the ‘forgotten’ campaigns of the war, it was one that Jack would never forget. His battalion was involved in a major battle in Macedonia in early October 1916 at a place called Yenikoi. Jack was seriously wounded during the fighting and evacuated to the 5th Canadian General Hospital at Salonika.

Telegram informing next of kin that Jack has been severely wounded

We know nothing else about Jack until he received an Honourable Discharge on 5th March 1919, holding the rank of Sergeant. He spent every winter for the rest of his life in Leopardstown Park Hospital which was established to care for disabled British servicemen in 1917. He had serious respiratory problems due to injuries inflicted during the war. Jack died in Midleton hospital in 1972.

I am continuing to try to fill in the gaps in Jack’s military career and find out more about him and what he experienced. This type of ‘family archaeology’ helps us to learn not only about the major events that shaped the past, but also to explore them through individuals in our own family like Jack Moloney, my Grandad, who was there when they happened.

Jack's Honourable Discharge from the army in 1919

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3 Responses to Grandad, What did you do in The Great War?

  1. Angela November 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    It is nice to see that your Grandad’s memory is in safe hands – perhaps you might update us on him in time for 11/11/11 ?

    • Soldier's Mail November 11, 2010 at 12:53 am #

      Hi Angela:
      Thanks for asking! In short, Sam Avery made it safely home and returned to civilian occupation. He ultimately worked for facilities management at Bridgewater State College, married and became a father. In 1943 after the U.S. entered the Second World War, Sam Avery reenlisted at the age of 49 and again served as a First Sergeant with the Massachusetts State Guard. He retired in the late 1960’s, and finally died in 1974 from the effects of a lifetime of smoking and the gassing he had received in 1918. Following is a link to read more of the Epilogue to his story: http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/epilogue/

  2. Soldier's Mail November 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Bravo on your search for your own family hero amongst what I call the “Most Gallant Generation.” Their sacrifice laid the foundation for the great courage shown by those who fought for freedom on much of the same ground not even 25 years later.

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