Charles Frederick Kilroy was born in Oldham in 1885. At the outbreak of World War I he was married with three children and worked as a travelling salesman for a soap making company. He arrived in Egypt with the 1/10th Manchester Regiment on 10 September 1914 from where he sent a series of post cards including shots of Alexandria and Heliopolis.
Charles arrived in Egypt to join the 1/10th Manchester Regiment on 10 September 1914 from where he sent a series of post cards including shots of Alexandria and Heliopolis.
When I searched the references on the Oldham Evening Chronicle microfiche I was really surprised at what I did find: two letters Charles had written to the newspaper in July 1915! The first was sent on 2nd July 1915 from the Australia and New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Helouan, Egypt. At the end of it was the well-known-to-the-family poem mentioned earlier. The second was from the British Red Cross Hospital, Netley, Hants. This letter contained much information about the hospital ship Cecilia which tied in very nicely with a postcard of that very ship which was sent to my great grandfather, around the time he wrote the letter, from the ship’s owner, Sir Wyndham Murray.
I was shocked, amazed and in awe all at once at this discovery. I had to sit down with a coffee to take it all in. At this point I spotted my dad’s cousin Hilary – another surprise – who I had been with only one week earlier when we discussed the information we already had about Grandad Kilroy and what we could do from there. I was so excited to grab her attention and tell her what I had found. She too became very excited. The letters were quite difficult to read but I later typed them up as best as I could. A very interesting incite into a soldier’s life around this time:
Wednesday 7th July 1915
An Oldham Territorial’s Interesting Letter
Private C.F. Kilroy, 1/10 Manchester Regiment, well-known in Oldham as a vocalist, sends us this following interesting letter from the Australia and New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Helouan, Egypt, under date 2nd July :-
Having received no letters or newspapers from my own town through moving about lately, I was wondering if the people of Oldham are aware of the 1/10 Battalion suffering loss of a lot of good lads. We left Abbasia to go on serving along the Suez Canal and then we were packed off to the Dardanelles after nearly a fortnight on the Suez. We left Port Said with half the battalion on one ship, the remainder on another. C and D companies were the lucky ones to arrive first and A and B were not allowed to land, but put back to the naval base to await their chance. After a day or two’s waiting the lads got ashore and the first sight we got of the Dardanelles was men on stretchers being carried passed us to hospital ship along the improvised pier sand bags and stones. Before our company had been one minute ashore we heard a loud bang (not the first we’d heard, as we could see and hear the artillery duels before disembarking, also the big guns of the navy), and looking up we saw men jump in dugouts at a quicker pace than I ever saw a rugby player score a try. Quite a welcome reception, I can assure you! It was a Jack Johnson or something. We were told it was a shot from the Goeben the German warship. They were using their big guns to some effect as that shot counted four men and 14 horses of the British.
Our first questions were about the other half of our battalion and we were told they were in the supports having been sent in as soon as they landed. At that place they had one of their lads killed by a shell. The next day they put all the battalion together in the trenches. On going to join them we had one of ours wounded in the (foot/face(?)). He was sitting down having some grub (i.e. biscuit and bully) when he got potted(?). I judged it must have been a sniper as we were out of range of the Turks’ trench fire. We did fine to have no serious losses in the supports as we were well in range of their artillery, in fact, from the boat to the front trenches all was in range of their guns.
The escapes one sees every few minutes every day are marvellous and cast with a little humour I’ll mention. Soon after arrival, the morning after to be precise, a shrapnel shell burst near our company as the lads were getting ready to have their breakfast and one of the bullets went through the shirt of a lad named Mills, grazing his stomach and not even drawing blood, and as our lads have a habit of throwing a piece of dirt or stone at one another in fun, he thought someone had been throwing at him and the man who threw it was going to have a rough time. But when he found out what it was he was the most surprised lad I ever saw. We had a good laugh over it anyway. I’ve been pretty near them myself but have been fortunate in the way of wounds. I’ve been walking along when a shell has burst over our platoon and had it been a British shell none of us would have lived to tell the tale. As it was the shot counted for many men, some of them being from another lot who were near us. We lost out of our platoon four (that is the number I saw, there may have been more with that shot), one named Carre(?) who, I am told, never spoke after that, and three wounded, Dunkerley, Ross and McConnell. The last named got a bad wound on the throat but I am glad to say he has recovered somewhat since. The same lad had a narrow escape along with me a day or so before that. We had been sent along with our company to do a little fatigue work and coming back we had all our work cut out dodging shells. If you keep your eyes open you have a chance. I heard a whistling and shouted “Duck!” We threw ourselves flat on the ground in less time than it takes to tell and we were bespattered with earth all over us. The shell had gone in the earth about three yards in front and between us – a queer triangle. It failed to burst but owing to the exit nature in that part of the ground we didn’t go west.
One can go on for an indefinite period on the same subject, but if I can say I’ve seen more miraculous wounds than escapes – shots through the head, jaw, chest and stomach, etc., and nothing more than loss of blood in some cases, others, of course, more serious; how they’ve lived through it, I don’t know. After about three weeks there I had the misfortune to get in a bad way and the doctor sent me down to the base hospital. At this time I was attached to a battalion of regulars of the 29th Division as our battalion was split up and sent to different battalions. I have heard since that our lads have done some glorious work with losses I won’t try to give, but leave you as goes if news has not already reached you. Our lot was not at the storming of the Peninsula, though we went soon after. The landing party had a hard task and I have endeavoured to put the story in rhyme, a copy of which I enclose. It may be of interest to know, there are snakes on Gallipoli. I don’t know if they are dangerous or not. I broke the butt of my rifle on one. I didn’t give it the chance to let me know whether it was dangerous. I was told that our sergeant killed one. The one I smashed would be about 1½ yards long.
A TALE OF THE” DARD-IN-HELL”
There’s a tale to tell, and it’s worth it, too, of lads who’ve fought and died,
And others, too, who lived it through; good luck was on their side.
On April 25th it was, the year nineteen fifteen,
That a landing party made its way, ne’er dreaming what a scene,
To storm the fort at Sedd-ul-Bahr, and different points all round,
For the boys had got the order to take and keep that ground.
To reach the boats and run ashore to some it may sound well,
But at the first step in the game the lid was raised from hell.
The big guns spat their awful flame and rifles sent their sting;
And Turks with their machine guns had us central and each wing.
The blood was up of every man, ‘neath fire without reply,
He’d to chance his mit, jump in the sea, he’d to reach the shore or die.
All soaked wet through, yet on and on, theirs was a sorry plight,
For they lost full half their comrades e’er they got achance to fight.
There was wire to cut and cliffs to climb, yet everymother’s son,
He did it bravely, nobly, though in range of a Turkish gun.
Then all at once, from every point, like magic breaks a spell,
Came a lusty cheer and a wild ” Hurrah,” and they ran, nay dived, in hell.
Midst dying groans and shrieks of pain each side they fought and bled,
Till the Turks cried “Allah! mercy,” and in great disorder fled.
And when the first respite did come and a roll they’d chance to call,
‘Twas then, and only then, they found how many men did fall.
Men set to work with pick and spade to put in earth the brave,
And many a rough man shed a tear as they placed them in their grave.
There was not a man amongst them who had not lost a chum,
And many a mother now does mourn her loving, hero son.
Wives, too, will grieve, and children they, along with sweethearts true,
Will weep in silence when peace reigns, and the crisis safely through.
All honour to the lads who’ve fought, to none give special pride,
From Colonies and Motherland they fought there side by side.
Those who’re safe in peaceful homes, who’ve had no brunt to bear,
Just raise your hats and, if ashamed, in silence breathe your prayer.
They were lads, perhaps, and some were wild, but none at heart a craven;
They had forced themselves in Turkey; some had dived in hell to heaven.
Private C. F. KILROY,
1 /10 Manchester Regiment.
Oldham Evening Chronicle Saturday 31st July 1915
GOOD TIMES IN HOSPITAL
A LETTER FROM NETLEY
Private C.F. Kilroy, 1/10 Battalion, Manchester Regiment, writing from the British Red Cross Hospital, Netley, Hants, says:-
I should like to let you know for the comfort of the relatives of soldiers who at this time should have the misfortune to get wounded and be sent to this hospital, that it is as fine a place as anyone could wish to be sent to, the only drawbacks being the distance it is from Oldham, and thus you cannot see your friends as often as you would like. The food is most excellent and the cleanliness cannot be surpassed. You also get the best that can be done for you in medical skill and appliances.
To give you an idea of the routine here: We get up to a good breakfast – those who are able – and if it is not raining one can take a stroll through the grounds (as fine as any country place I have seen) and in about ten minutes one is down on the seashore with a fine view of the shipping backward and forward Southampton way, both transports and troopships daily. Then get back to see the doctor on his rounds and then dinner.
After dinner one is at a loss what amusement to take. There are golfing, skittles, billiards and games of all descriptions; whist drives and concerts to no end in the afternoons and at nights and occasional garden parties. Every ward possesses its own gramophone and records. Ladies and gentlemen in the vicinity send cigarettes, matches, flowers and try in every way to alleviate the monotony of waiting to get well.
My most enjoyable experience was as the guest of Colonel Sir Wyndham and Lady Murray who put their beautiful yacht Cecilia at the disposal of the boys who are in hospital here. His crew are fully occupied every day and Sir Wyndham Murray takes a keen delight in doing his best to help in every way and likes to chat with anyone of us. I have heard that he had the misfortune to get a nasty wound during the South African War.
Whilst aboard we were taken to all the interesting places between Southampton and the open sea, visiting Cowes and viewing the beautiful scenery which can be seen all the way. The Isle of Wight looks splendid when you get a view of it cruising by the sunlight. A most enjoyable tea helps to make one breathe the sea air with more delight.
As a compliment to Sir Wyndham and Lady Murray I penned the following lines on the yacht:-
In different climes, at different times
I’ve spent some days at sea.
But the sweetest hours I’ve spent are now
On the yacht Cecilia
And thanks are due to all the crew,
And their master who is so kind.
So where’er I go, while life does flow,
‘Tis a thought stocked in my mind.
Upon returning home that day I Googled some of the things in the articles and was surprised again to come across a blog containing the poem “A Tale of the Dard-in-Hell” by a man whose father had been a soldier in the area at the time. I sent him a message to ask him what the connection was to the poem. He wrote back saying that although his father had been there he had not fought and he had no connection with the poem. He had found it on eBay! The poem was a pristine postcard copy:
I was even more surprised when I came across Great Grandad Kilroy’s war medals for sale on eBay! It took me ages to find the actual page where they were for sale but I persevered only to find they had been sold, this year, 2nd February to be precise, for £67.00 – approximately 1 month to the day. I couldn’t believe it! It was definitely a day of finding things and it somehow felt like I was meant to find them and someone (or some entity, dare I say) was willing me on. I sent a message to the person who sold the medals asking if he could give me details of the person who bought them from him. He replied and there occurred an exchange of emails between myself and the purchaser of the medals. He was a very nice man who collected medals and researched their previous owners. He agreed to meet to discuss the medals.
On 11th April 2014 at 11 am, at The Tickled Trout, Salmesbury myself, along with my parents and my Dad’s cousin Hilary met with the purchaser of the medals. We exchanged information about my great grandfather and he produced three pristine WWI medals and kindly gave us a Manchester Regiment cap badge. He refused to take any payment from us as he regarded it as a pleasure to be able to reunite the medals with their owner’s descendants and he sees his research as doing his bit to keep the memory of these forgotten soldiers alive – I believe a very noble act. I will be forever in his debt.
Up to this point the research into my great grandfather’s army career is on-going. We have postcards relating to later on in his career and another relative, my Aunt Marie, has done much research regarding the movements of the 1/10th Manchester Regiment which gives some clues. We plan to visit Netley next year during their World War I commemorations.
It just goes to show that perseverance and searching in the most unlikely of places can sometimes turn up the most exciting additions to a story. Who knows what other exciting information we may be able to find to add to the story relating to our ancestor who we are extremely proud of.
This blog was compiled by Chantal O’Brien using post cards from her own collection.
Transcripts of letters are taken from the Oldham Evening Chronicle.
The medal roll was taken from Ancestry.co.uk