The focus of this particular Special Group is Military Ancestors. Read on to learn about some of the brave Irish people who are already in this group, and be sure to add your Military Ancestors so that their service can be recognised once more.
Charles Fitzclarence was born on the 8th of May 1865 in the civil parish of Oughterard, County Kildare. A member of the aristocracy, he was the grandson of the 1st Earl of Munster.
At the age of 21 he enlisted in the British military forces, but a number of battles with illness meant that he was forced to spend the early years of his military career in mostly administrative roles. This changed in 1899 when he went to Mafeking, South Africa with the special forces. In this role, he trained squadrons.
During the Second Boer War, Fitzclarence was involved in active service. On the 14th of October 1899, Fitzclarence led his squadron on a mission to relieve an armoured train. Though they were surrounded and outnumbered, Fitzclarence managed to keep the men cool and collected, and led them to succeed in their mission and also to defeat a large number of enemy soldiers.
Fitzclarence proved his worth once more on the 27th of that same month when he led a squadron across open ground to attack the enemy trenches in a nighttime assault. They took on the enemy forces in hand-to-hand combat. Fitzclarence was at the very front of the action as he led his men to victory.
For these acts of bravery and gallantry, he was awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross.
Fitzclarence also fought in World War I where he distinguished himself in the First Battle of Ypres. His prowess in battle earned him the nickname 'The Demon'.
He was killed in action in a night attack on the 2nd of November 1914 and it was remarked that he would be a great loss to the British forces.
Richard Kelliher was born in Tralee, County Kerry on the 1st of September 1910. In 1829, Kelliher emigrated to Australia with his sister Norah. There he picked up work where he could as a travelling labourer.
In 1941 he enlisted in the military forces. He spent time in Syria before being deployed to New Guinea where he was court-martialed for running from battle, though he claimed that he was sent by his commander to convey a message. Since his battalion was killed there was nobody to corroborate his story. Although he was convicted of cowardice, Kelliher, determined to prove his innocence, succeeded in having the conviction quashed and returned to active service.
Kelliher was deployed to New Guinea once more where he was involved in action at the Battle of Lae. His platoon came under heavy fire from a concealed machine gun. Without any instruction, Kelliher rushed forth and launched two grenades at the gun. He then went back to safety to get a gun before returning to destroy the machine gun. He returned under open fire a third time to rescue wounded men.
Kelliher had proven once and for all that he was not a coward. He was awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross for his gallantry and selfless bravery at the Battle of Lae.
Kelliher managed all this while suffering terrible health issues. He was fighting his own battle with both typhoid and meningitis before the war ever began. In 1944 he was deemed medically unfit for service and was discharged accordingly.
He returned to Australia where he worked as a gardener in Melbourne. He died on the 28th of January 1963 after suffering a stroke.
James Magennis was born in Belfast, County Antrim on the 27th of January 1919. From a working-class Catholic background, he attended school on the Falls Road.
Between the years 1935 and 1942, Megennis served on a number of different warships before joining the submarine branch. One of the ships which he served on was a destroyer called Kandahar. Whilst the ship was off the coast of Tripoli in Libya in December 1941, it was irreparably damaged and was scuttled the following day.
In March 1943, Magennis, now in the submarine branch, volunteered for special and hazardous duties, which required him to operate smaller submarines known as X-craft. His first major mission involving the X-craft occurred in September 1943 when he penetrated the Kåfjord in Norway and disabled a German warship. He received a special mention for his bravery in the dispatches of this event.
On the 31st of July 1935, Magennis was involved in an attack on a Japanese cruiser. His role was that of diver. The mission was to place limpet mines on the hull of the ship. Whilst in the X-craft, the men found that the hull of the ship was heavily encrusted with barnacles, which had to be scraped off before the limpets could be placed. They were also hampered by a lack of space and experienced great difficulty navigating the hull of the ship. Magennis set to the task but was leaking oxygen at a steady pace. When it came time for the X-craft to depart, it was discovered that it was entangled. Magennis volunteered to go out once again and untangle them. Once again he was in grave danger of running out of oxygen or of being spotted by the enemy as his leaking tank was sending bubbles to the surface. Nevertheless, Magennis persevered and succeeded in untangling the craft.
Magennis was awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross for his bravery on that day. He was the only man from Northern Ireland to receive the medal for services in the Second World War.
When he returned home to Belfast, Magennis was met with a frosty reception as his bravery was not accepted by either the staunch Unionists who did not like the fact that a working-class Catholic had been awarded Northern Ireland's only WWII VC, nor by the Nationalists who downplayed any Irish involvement in the British military forces.
He relocated to England and died in Halifax, Yorkshire on the 12th of February 1986. His remains were cremated and scattered.
The Irish Military Today
Since the 1930s Ireland has been a politically neutral country, and so our military does not actively engage in conflict. They are more often deployed on peacekeeping and defence missions. However, the brave men and women of Ireland’s military services have a proud tradition behind them of those who joined the British Army in order to stand against the atrocities which occurred during World War II.
Add your Military Ancestors to the IrelandXO Chronicles and connect them to this Special Group so that they can be counted amongst the heroic soldiers of the past.
Charles Fitzclarence 1865
Richard Kelliher 1910
James Magennis 1919