Corporal 9778 George Newman MONAGHAN – ‘C’ Company
Captured: 24 August 1914 Repatriated: 22 November 1918
Personal: George was born on 25th October 1893 in Seacombe, Cheshire. He was the son of Robert (Sailor) and Esther Draper (née Newman) Monaghan. He had an older brother, Robert, and three younger brothers, William Thomas Joseph, Frederick and John.
In 1901 (Census RG 13/3405) the family was living at 22 Hathersley Street, Poulton-cum-Seacombe, Cheshire. By 1911 (Census RG 14/21997) the family had moved to 14 Stoke Street, Birkenhead, Cheshire, where George worked as a “Mill Hand“.
It would appear from his Service Pay Book, that at the date of enlistment a year later he was an “Assistant Butcher“. Family history concludes that George was obviously a bright individual as he got a scholarship to grammar school, but was unable to take it up because of financial constraints. Like a lot of young men at the time he probably saw the Army as a means of opportunity.
When the war came all 5 brothers were involved. [See Footnotes below] A newspaper article at the time was headed ‘A Patriotic Seacombe Family‘ and had photographs of all the brothers together with details of them.
In the September quarter 1920 George married Annie Mumford, in Birkenhead, Cheshire. Their daughter, Dorothy, was born in the June quarter 1923.
On 6th December 1922 George found employment as a ‘Postman‘ in Liverpool. Phone Records show that in 1952 he was living at 9 Kingsley Road, Wallasey. He died in the March quarter 1976 in the Bedford District.
Military Service: George enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment on 9th January 1912, aged 18, and was posted to the 1st Battalion serving in Ireland. He was promoted to Corporal on 21st June 1914.
His period of service would have been for 12 years (7 on ‘Active’ service, followed by 5 years ‘Reserve’). After initial training George was posted to the 1st Battalion in Londonderry. With the rest of the Battalion George sailed from Belfast on the SS Massilia for Le Havre on 14th August 1914 and arrived in France on 16th August, confirmed by his Medal Index Card.
Verbal testimony from his family record a more personal account of the action: “I know that my Mother used to speak of him [George] lying on his stomach in a cornfield on a hot day in August 2014 and spending his 21st birthday in a p-o-w camp.”
At about 5.00 p.m., as the Company was withdrawing, George was captured and the Records of the International Red Cross chart his journey around various p-o-w camps over the next 4 years.
George was first listed as a prisoner at Soltau Camp on 24th July 1915 before Crefeld on 28th August 1915 and was among those at Hameln (Hamlin) p-o-w Camp on 27th August 1917
He was repatriated eventually to Scheveningen in Holland on 26th January 1918 and his treatment there gave him a lifelong love and affection for the Dutch people. Apparently he and his fellow prisoners were treated almost like Royalty and his grandson remembers George telling him of the young Princess Juliana (later Queen Juliana) (right) regularly coming down to the beach to watch them all play football.
George arrived back in England, at Hull, on board the SS Willocha on 18th November 1918.
Like many old soldiers, George was reluctant to speak about his wartime experiences. However, his family does remember him mentioning a few details such as: “.. the cavalry charge and the horses coming up against the barbed wire; the German artillery firing over the spoil heaps into them and the shells landing amongst them; the fact that in training they could fire off 10 or 12 rounds in a minute and with complete accuracy; and the fact that after the battle he was interrogated about their missing machine guns.
He [George] did mention that the order to withdraw did not reach them and all he would really say was that the Germans surrounded them and, as he put it, “picked us up like that” making a gesture with his hand.” about the Machine Guns, buried during the Battle.
It seems George had a number of Dutch girlfriends he had after being repatriated to Holland. “There is a letter I have to my Grandmother [George’s wife], which seems to indicate George may have been actually engaged to her at the time!
“One other thing he did mention was that when he came back home after the Armistice, he would walk through the town with his Father and people would come up to him and congratulate him, but would also comment upon how well he looked after having spent 3 years in a Prisoner of War Camp! And how his Father would immediately jump in and explain that he had spent the last 18 months in Holland repatriating and recouping.“
George’s brother, Private 13355 William Thomas Joseph Monaghan, enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment at Birkenhead, on 2nd September 1914, aged 19. He was posted to the 12th (Service) Battalion.
On 5th September 1915 William and his Battalion was posted to the BEF in France, concentrating near Flesselles. On 28th October 1915 he embarked from Marseilles for Salonika. Whilst serving in Salonika he received a shrapnel wound to his eye and a gunshot wound to his face and neck on 30th August 1917 during the Battles of Doiran. He was evacuated “seriously ill” to Malta, where he “slowly recovered“. William arrived back in England on 18th December 1917 and was discharged on 11th March 1918.
George’s other brothers also served (details not yet confirmed). Family history recalls that: “Robert enlisted in the Royal Engineers or Royal Artillery.
John and William, may have been in the Cheshires. I remember that one of them was gassed and the other one was blinded. Fred was too young to serve in the First World War, but he did join the Cheshires as a professional soldier and served with them in India throughout the 1930s.“
Sources: I am grateful to George’s grandson for the verbal testimony, family details and photograph of George – above.