Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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9197   Private Matthew James McAnary M.M.
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 01/05/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Died: 20/11/1917 (Killed in Action)
Age:
Summary      
James McAnary was born and lived in Desertmartin, County Londonderry. He enlisted in Cookstown and served with the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was killed in action during the battle of Cambrai on 30th November 1917. Private James McAnary M.M. has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel 5-6 of Cambrai Memorial. He is also commemorated on Castledawson War Memorial.
Private Matthew James McAnary M.M.
Further Information
Matthew James McAnary was the son of Matthew and Jane McAnary. Matthew James McAnary and Jane Palmer were married on 12th November 1869 in the district of Magherafelt.
Matthew McAnary was born in Desertmartin, County Londonderry.
Known family: Matthew McAnary, Jane McAnary, Mary / Bessie McAnary (born 16th August 1872), Annie McAnary (born 18th December 1874), Rachel McAnary (born 21st February 1877), Matthew James McAnary.
Matthew was living in Desertmartin when he enlisted in Cookstown. He joined the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers about 1907.
The 1911 census lists Mary Johnston, Matthew’s sister, living with her family in Castledawson Town. The 1911 census lists Rachel Mawhinney, Matthew’s sister, living with her family in Leitrim, Castledawson. Both sisters had sons named Matthew James.
Medal card
1915
This report is remarkable in that both Matthew McAnary and Robert Irwin went on to win Military Medals. Edward Harte’s brother, Jack Harte, also won a Military Medal. All three medal winners died in the war.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 6th February 1915:
Signaller Edward Harte and Privates Robert Irwin and Matthew J McAnary, all natives of Castledawson and members of the 1st Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers, which has recently returned from India for service in France, were given a few days leave last week and visited their homes in the village. When the three joined the colours eight years ago the first battalion was on the point of leaving for foreign service, so they have been absent from their home for that time, and have been stationed in Malta, Crete, China and India. Signaller Harte has gained a number of proficiency certificates in his special branch, and all three look fit, and are looking forward with the professional soldier’s eagerness to active service.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 5th June 1915:
Private M J McAnary, brother of Mrs Johnston, Leitrim, Hillhead, both of whom were wounded in a bayonet charge at the Dardanelles with their regiment 1st Inniskilling.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 7th June 1915:
Amongst the latest notifications of me from the Castledawson district who have been wounded are :- Private M J McAnary, brother of Mrs Johnston, Leitrim, and Private Robert Irwin, son of Mrs Irwin, Hillhead, both of the 1st Inniskillings, wounded at the Dardanelles. Private Alex Loughrey ( a well-known South Derry footballer), son of Robert Loughrey, Bridge Street, and Private James Pickering, son of Mr Robert Pickering, Aughrim, are also wounded.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 7th August 1915: Castledawson
To the Roll of Heroes which the war has made, must now be added the names of two Castledawson men. Privates MJ McAnary (No 9197) and Robert Irwin (No 9214), both of the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, have been recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Private McAnary is a brother of Mrs J Johnston, of the townland of Leitrim, and Private Irwin is a son of Mrs A Irwin, Hillhead. After giving particulars as to the dates and place (Gallipoli Peninsula), the official recommendation states:-
‘In face of a very heavy fire these two men ran out of a trench and brought in a Royal Engineer officer who had been wounded in both legs and was unable to move. The officer’s life was saved by their action.’
McAnary and Irwin were both wounded shortly after landing at Gallipoli, and shortly after their heroic deed, Private Irwin was shot, the bullet lodging near the spine, making it’s extraction difficult. He is at present in hospital in Alexandria, and in a letter to his mother says that he is doing well, and that it may not be necessary to extract the bullet.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 27th November 1915: Castledawson Soldiers Mentioned in Despatches
Among the names mentioned by Sir Ian Hamilton in his recently published despatch, were those of two Castledawson men, Private (now Lance Corporal) Matthew J McAnary and Private Robert Irwin, both of the 1st Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers.
‘On the night of 6th June, a company of Royal Engineers were engaged in putting up wire entanglements in front of the trench occupied by the Inniskillings. Dawn came before the work was completed and the Engineers out there on the coverless knoll at once became targets for the Turks, scarcely thirty yards away. The first man to fall was the officer in charge, and heedless of the murderous fire, Private Irwin leapt from the trench as he fell and ran to his assistance. The only other Castledawson man in the battalion was Lance Corporal McAnary, and it is a remarkable fact that although separated by a number of sections, and without either knowing the other’s intention, these two should so gallantly risk their lives at the same instant. It was only when they reached the fallen officer that they recognised each other. The officer had been shot through the leg, and just as McAnary and Irwin lifted him, a second bullet severely wounded him on the other leg. The official account of the incident says:- ‘In face of deadly rifle fire, these two men ran from the trench and brought in a wounded Royal Engineers officer. Their actions saved the officer’s life.’
Lance Corporal M J McAnary is a brother of Mrs Joseph Johnston, Leitrim, Castledawson, and had eight years’ service when he came with his battalion from India. Previous to the deed recorded above, he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel; and subsequently while leading his company of bomb throwers, he was shot in the knee, from the effects of which wound he is still suffering. A few minutes before being hit, a bullet passed through his helmet, grazing the hair. He is at present on leave at Castledawson.
Private R Irwin, who is a son of Mrs A Irwin, Hillhead, Castledawson, also came from India to Gallipoli. He was twice wounded, once in the head by shrapnel and next by a rifle bullet which he still carried embedded in his body. On one occasion he risked his life to succour a German officer who had laid between the trenches for three days. After binding up his wounds, he managed to bring him safely into the British trench as a prisoner. He is at present at the regimental headquarters in Derry City.
Private James McAnary was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers awarded the Military Medal for his part in the rescue of an officer.
Both he and Private Irwin won the Military Medal in the incident. Private Robert Irwin was from Castledawson. He was with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
1916
A local newspaper from August 1916 reports that Private McAnary was home on leave at his sister’s, Mrs J Johnston, Leitrim, recovering from a wound to the foot.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 19th August 1916: Castledawson
Lance Corporal M J McAnary, who took part in the rescue of an officer which won himself and Private Irwin the Military Medal, is on leave at his sister’s, Mrs J Johnston, Leitrim, recovering from a bad wound in the foot. Lance Corporal McAnary was twice wounded at Gallipoli.
1917
Private James McAnary was killed in action during the Battle of Cambrai on 30th November 1917.
1918
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 12th January 1918:
Corporal M J McAnary, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Leitrim, Castledawson, killed.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 19th January 1918:
McANARY – Killed in action in France 30th November 1917, Private Matthew James McAnary, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
‘He is gone, Oh how hard not a friend to be near,
To hear his last word or dry his last hair;
No parting farewell, no kind word of love,
To cheer his last moments or point him above.
We think of him in silence, no eyes may see us weep,
Yet deep within our hearts, our memory we will keep,
He sleeps not in his native land, but under foreign skies.
Far away from those he loved, in a hero’s grave he lies.’
Inserted by his loving sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Joseph Johnston, Leitrim, Castledawson.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 19th January 1918: McANARY
‘When last we saw him smiling
He looked so strong and brave
We little thought, how soon he would,
Be laid in a soldier’s grave.
Inserted by his loving nephew, Matthew James Johnston
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 19th January 1918: McANARY
‘In a distant land he lies, at rest in a soldier’s grave
His battle fought, his name enrolled, on the scroll of the deathless brave.
A lonely grave in a foreign land, a grave we may never see,
But while life and memory last, we will remember thee.
How his life was sped we know not, what the last word, look or thought,
Only that he did his duty, died bravely as he fought.'
‘He did his duty.’
Inserted by his loving sister and brother-in-law, Rachel and David Mawhinney, Leitrim, Castledawson.
Last Will and Testament
Last Will and Testament of Private J McAnary dated 21st June 1917:
In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to Mary Johnston, sister, Castledawson, County Derry. James McAnary. Private 9197. No 4 Company, 8th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Memorials
Private McAnary has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 5-6 on Cambrai Memorial, France.
The Cambria Memorial photo above has been kindly donated by Bob Pike, courtesy of Carrie Pike, via the Great War Forum.
Private Matthew James McAnary is also commemorated on Castledawson War Memorial.
Private McAnary M.M, is also listed on the Desertmartin Church of Ireland WW1 Roll of Honour
See Magherafelt War Dead for more details on the local memorials.
Read more
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1911 Census lists Johnston family 1911 census listing of James' sister Mary in Castledawson
2 1911 Census lists Mawhinney family 1911 census listing of James' sister Rachel in Leitrim, Castledawson
3 Castledawson War Dead Details of Private Matthew James McAnary M.M. including grave photo
4 Magherafelt War Dead Also listed on Magherafelt War Dead
5 National Archives of Ireland Last Will and Testament of Private James McAnary
6 National Archives UK Medal card can be purchased here
7 Private Robert Irwin M.M. Private Irwin won a Military Medal as well in the same incident.
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2020