Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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57550   Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 21/05/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 122 Field Company, Royal Engineers (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 20/02/1874
Died: 11/12/1915 (Suicide)
Age: 41
Summary      
Francis McMath was the son of James and Margaret McMath (nee Boyd). Francis was born on 20th February 1874 in the parish of Carrowdore, near Donaghadee in County Down. He worked and lived in Cookstown while he was an instructor with the Ulster Volunteer Force in County Tyrone. He was well known in all parts County Tyrone. Francis McMath enlisted in Belfast with the 122nd Royal Engineers in October 1914 as a Sapper. With a couple of days he was promoted to Sergeant. In February, he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major. He embarked for France on 4th October 1915. Francis McMath died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while on active service at Louvencourt. CSM McMath had been under close arrest at the time and was due to travel to HQ that morning to answer Court Martial charges.
Further Information
Francis McMath was the son of James and Margaret McMath (nee Boyd). Francis was born on 20th February 1874 in the parish of Carrowdore, near Donaghadee in County Down.
He worked and lived in Cookstown while he was an instructor with the Ulster Volunteer Force in County Tyrone.
He was regarded as a man of great energy and enthusiasm, carrying out his duties in a most efficient manner. He was well known in all parts County Tyrone and his battalion colleagues placed great trust and confidence in his work as Company Sgt. Major.
Francis McMath re-enlisted in Belfast with the 122nd Royal Engineers on 24 October 1914 as a Sapper. He gave his age as 40.
Francis McMath attestion papers 1
Francis McMath attestion papers 2
He gave his next of kin as his uncle, John Boyd, who lived in Howth in County Dublin.
Medal card
He was promoted 2nd Corporal the next day. Next day he was made Corporal. By the 27th October he had been promoted to Sergeant.
Francis McMath military documents
From 24 October 2014 to 3rd October 1915 he served in the Home forces.
On 25th February 1915, He was promoted to Company Sergeant Major.
Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath embarked for France on 4th October 1915.
Francis McMath military documents
The following document states that Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while on active service at Louvencourt.
Francis McMath military documents
Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath had been under close arrest at the time and was due to travel to HQ that morning to answer Court Martial charges.
At a Court of Enquiry, which was held within hours of his death, various witnesses describe the details of the morning of 11th December 1915
Francis McMath military documents
Proceedings of a court of Enquiry assembled in the Field by order of C.R.E. 36th Division to investigate the circumstances under which No 57550 C.S.M. McMath 122 Field Company R.E shot himself. President: C H Egerton, Royal Engineers Members: Lt G.S.M. Marlow, Army Cycling Corps. The court having assembled pursuant to order proceed to take evidence:-
1st Witness: No 57530 A/Sergeant Sturgeon J., 122nd Field Company states:
Francis McMath military documents
On the 10th December 1915 at 6:30pm I relieved Sergeant Minnis in the charge of C.S.M. McMath who was in close arrest; my tour of duty was to last 24 hours. About 9pm C.S.M. McMath and I were warned by the A/ C.S.M. to hold ourselves in readiness to proceed to HQ at 8:15am on the following day. Soon after C.S.M. McMath went to bed and I then lay down on a mattress on the floor between him and the door. I placed my rifle and equipment by the door so as to get my bed between C.S.M. McMath and it. About 7:00am the cook rapped at the window. I was then up and found some watches on the table, when I suddenly heard a rifle go off just by me. I opened the door to look to see what had happened and saw the C.S.M. with the bed clothes over him and a rifle on top of the clothes, which he was holding in his hands. The light was not good but I could see he was badly hit in the head and he was moaning a little. I at once went outside Met Lance Corporal Murray and told him to fetch the A/ C.S.M. and the orderly officer. I then went back in again and took the rifle off the bed and saw it was my own. On opening the breech, an empty cartridge case dropped out and the barrel had been fouled. I remained in the room until Lieutenant Kerr arrived who then gave me orders to remain and not let anyone enter until the Doctor came. Signed J Sturgeon, Sergeant
No 57484 Sapper A Moorhead 122nd Field Company, Royal Engineer states:
Francis McMath military documents
About 7:00am today 12th December I went to the room where C.S.M. McMath was kept in close arrest. I rapped at the window to wake Sergeant Sturgeon as previously agreed with him. I then went away to carry on with my work and when returning to my billet about three minutes later, I saw Sergeant Sturgeon who was shouting at someone to go for a Doctor. I then went on with my work. Signed Moorhead A.
Lt M J D Kerr, Royal Engineers states:-
Francis McMath military documents
About 7:10am today 11/12/15 my batman came in and informed me that C.S.M. McMath had just shot himself. I therefore immediately ran up and informed my O.C. Major Hardie. I then proceeded to the room where the C.S.M. was confined. On the way down I asked my batman whether a doctor had been sent for. I then went into the room where I found the C.S.M. lying on his bed and with the aid of a candle, I discovered that the top of his head had been blown off. I then waited until the Doctor’s arrival about 7:30am. The doctor said the case was hopeless, but that he might live on for two or three hours. The doctor bandaged him up and ordered a motor ambulance to be fetched. The doctor remained with C.S.M. McMath till the ambulance arrived whereupon they too C.S.M. McMath away.
In a statement from Captain B Morgan of the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.), dated 15th December 1915:
Francis McMath military documents
I certify that C.S.M. McMath No 57550 122 Field Company R.E. came to hospital at 9:30 am on 11 Dec 1915, dead. Cause of death in my opinion being bullet wound of skull. Condition on admittance: Complete Fracture of skull, along ? ? , ? ruptures which laid open cranial cavity. Brain ploughed up in all directions.
In a letter from 3rd Echelon Base Ulster Division, they request details of the Court of Inquiry:
Francis McMath military documents
In accordance with 3rd Army Circular No 7 dated 12th November 1915 and HQ 36th Division letter no 544/A dated 13/12./15 (copy attached), I forward herewith proceeds of a Court of Inquiry held on 11/12/15 to enquire into the circumstances attending the death by a self-inflicted wound of No. 57550 Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath, Royal Engineers, I also attach enclosures shown in the margin (Enclosure A. Telegram B. Certificate of Death)
In a handwritten letter to HQ of the 36th Division on 13th December 1915:
Francis McMath military documents
Francis McMath military documents
Herewith I beg to forward you proceedings of a Court of Enquiry assembled yesterday to investigate the circumstances attending the death by a self-inflicted injury caused by a gunshot wound on C.S.M. McMath No 57550 122 Field Company R.E. This event causes the cancelling of the Court Martial charges and Enquiry on the above mentioned, all documents on this subject being also attached for disposal. Lt Colonel C.R.E. 36th Division.
The form below shows that Francis McMath had no immediate relatives apart from his uncle John Boyd in Dublin.
Francis McMath military documents
Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath died on 11th December 1915 aged forty.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 16th February 1916:
The death is reported from France of Company Sergeant Major F McMath, 122nd Field Company Royal Engineers (Ulster Division). He was formerly county instructor of the Tyrone Regiment U.V.F.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 26th February 1916
Newspaper Report
Intimation has been received of the death in France of C.S.M. F McMath, a prominent instructor of the U.V. Force in County Tyrone. Sergeant Major McMath was for a considerable period, prior to the outbreak of war, county instructor of the U.V.F, and his energy and enthusiasm in instructing an organizing the Tyrone Regiment was largely responsible for the efficiency which it attained. He was well known in all parts of the country, and visited the companies regularly in their turn, and there was no man un whom the rank and file placed greater confidence. He is buried side by side with French and British soldiers un a cemetery just behind the firing line. On a neat little cross erected over his grave is inscribed:- ‘Company Sergeant Major McMath, 122 Field Company, R.E., died 15th December 1915.’
CSM Francis McMath is buried at Louvencourt Military Cemetery, France.
In reply to a letter from a Mr William Boyd, of Scotstown, Glasgow, the Royal Engineers Record Office sent the following reply in April 1916.
Francis McMath military documents
Sir, in reply to your letter dated 18/4/16, I regret to inform you that No 57550 Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath, Royal Engineers, died from a self-inflicted wound on 11th December 1915, whilst serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was buried in the Military Cemetery, Louvencourt, Somme, France on 13/12/1915. I am yours faithfully, Captain for Colonel 1/C Royal Engineer Records.
In a letter dated 7th January 1920, from the Medal Branch of the War Office to the Officer in Charge of Royal Engineer Records at Chatham:
Francis McMath military documents
I am directed to return herewith the documents of the late 57550 Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath, Royal Engineers, and to request that you will forward a copy of the proceedings of Court of Inquiry held on this late Warrant Officer or any other verdict in regard to his death, as he appears to have died from a self-inflicted wound. This information is required to enable this department to decide the question as to the disposal of any medals which have been or may eventually be awarded in respect of the services of this deceased Warrant Officer. Unknown signature. Director of Personal Services.
On 7th October 1935, Mrs A G Grey, Francis McMath’s cousin, wrote to the Army.
Francis McMath military documents
Francis McMath military documents
Francis McMath military documents
Sir, I should be grateful if you can tell me where to apply for information regarding the death in France of my cousin Sergeant Major F McMath R.E. 57550 CSM. 122 Field Company. Died 11/12/1915. I have heard conflicting reports about his death and I would be glad to know the truth. Where is the medals which were sent to my father, since dead, accompanied by a letter, bearing your signature. I would also like to know, if possible, what other? medals he should have had, as he was a soldier from boyhood I believe and served in South Africa and other parts of the Empire. I trust you will excuse the trouble I am giving you, but Francis McMath was one of my? mother’s and my family who served his Majesty on land and sea and I want to know the truth about his death and honour his memory if I may. Again apologising for inconveniencing you. I remain yours faithfully. Mrs E G Grey. Star and British Service Medal sent 23/12/20 Victory Medal sent 21/9/21
The response to the letter , dated 24th October 1935 was:
Francis McMath military documents
Madam, with reference to your letter of 7th October, addressed to the Officer-in-Charge, Royal Engineers Records, Chatham, I am directed to inform you that, according to the records of the Department, No 57550 Company Sergeant Major Francis McMath, Royal Engineers, died from a self-inflicted wound on 11th December 1915, while serving with the British Expeditionary Forces (France and Flanders). I am Madam, Your Obedient Servant (Sgd.) J R Nelson. Mrs A E Grey, ‘Lisnevagh’, 25 Howth Road, Clontarf, Dublin.
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Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Cookstown area Cookstown Central Lived and worked in Cookstown area 54.647656 -6.741160
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 National Archives UK Medal card can be purchased here
2 War Graves Photographic Project Gravestone photo of Francis McMath can be purchased here.
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2021