The Widow’s Penny

A record of the Limerick – city and county men – who died in the Great War


The Widow's Penny

When I started to compile the record of Limerick Men who died in the Great War, I had fewer than ten names. This would turn out to be a gigantic task, but I felt it had to be done.

I read in Rudyard Kipling’s masterpiece ‘The Irish Guards in the Great War’ (1923) the heartbreak, in his case, of trying to trace the final resting place of his son John. In August 1914 his son, not yet seventeen, volunteered for a commission in the Army, but being underage and with poor sight, was initially refused.

Kipling’s friendship with Lord Roberts was used to gain him a commission in the Irish Guards, of which Roberts was Colonel-in-Chief.

In 1915 John went to France and his Battalion, the 2nd, was at once deployed in the costly battle of Loos. John Kipling, now aged only eighteen, was among the earliest casualties.

In 1919, during the battlefield clearance which followed the end of the war an examination of the records relating to St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery revealed that one of the bodies was that of a lieutenant of the Irish Guards found near Puits 14, east of Loos village. The body had remained in No-man’s land from 1915 until 1917 when it lay just within the Allied lines. It was exhumed and re-buried in Plot 7, Row D, Grave 2 and marked by a tombstone inscribed: ‘AN UNKNOWN LIEUTENANT OF THE IRISH GUARDS’.

Then in 1992 an observant and a diligent officer of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission researching into officers of the Irish Guards killed or missing in the Battle of Loos on 27th September 1915, noticed an apparent anomaly in the Commissions’ Records.

The body that lay in St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery was recorded as having been recovered from Block G25 C68. The area is mapped into squares and the location given in the records lies five miles west of Loos, an area where the Irish Guards had not been in action. A simple transposition of H for G would indicate the location where John Kipling had last been seen on the day he went missing. Because the battle of September/October 1915 was the only action involving Irish Guards near Loos and John Kipling the only Irish Guards Lieutenant whose body was unaccounted for from the action it is beyond doubt that the ‘unknown Lieutenant of the Irish Guards’ must be John Kipling.

It was Rudyard Kipling’s suggestion that the words ‘Known unto God’ be used on the Headstones of the unidentified. He himself died on January 18th 1936, not knowing where his son John was buried. After the war Kipling became very active in the War Graves Commission. By his perpetual endowment, the Last Post is sounded every evening at the Menin Gate in memory of all the war dead.


About 6 – 7 million men of the British Empire served as soldiers (other ranks) in the First World War. Enemy bombing in 1940 destroyed most of the service records. About 2.8 million service records either survived the bombing or were reconstructed from pension records. These records are of soldiers who were discharged between 1914 and 1920. They include regular soldiers who may have enlisted as early as 1892 for 22 years’ service.

I sifted through 672,00 records of men (soldiers and officers) who died in the Great War in order to trace the records of the Limerick men who had perished, and ended up with over 840 names. The 672,00 records did not include men who served in the Royal Navy, The Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force, the Mercantile Marine, the Australian, American, Canadian, New Zealand, Indian and the South African Armed Forces. This involved a further search of public records, newspapers and personal records held by relatives of the men who died, this added further to the search.

In the battlefields of Europe, Africa, The Middle East, and in countries and oceans from Chile to Hong Kong lie the remains of over 1,000 Limerick men, both City and County, for whom death was the ultimate price of the Great War. Over 420 of these men, have no known graves and are commemorated on a variety of memorials, which are spread across the World.

Each of the Cemeteries and Memorial sites recorded in the book, contain the name of those Limerick men interred or commemorated therein. By looking up the registers, it is difficult to believe that there was not a town or village anywhere in Limerick that did not, at sometime, mourn and pray for a fallen loved one.

Anyone who has ever visited these Cemeteries and Memorials cannot fail to be moved by the row after row of headstones laid out in near perfect symmetry. Every headstone marks the final resting place of someone’s husband, father, uncle, brother or son.

During the retreat from Mons in August 1914 the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers, which included many Limerick men, took a stand in the little village of Eutreux in Northern France as part of the rearguard of the retreating British Expeditionary Force.Completely surrounded, cut off from the rest of the army and from all supplies, the Battalion held off at least six enemy battalions in bloody hand to hand fighting before surrendering when their ammunition was exhausted. They lost nearl 130 Officers and men killed including 13 from Limerick in the engagement, the official history states ” Beyond question they arrested the enemy’s pursuit in this quarter for at least six hours and their heroic sacrifice was not made in vain”.

The ages of Limerick Men who died in the Great War ranged from 16 years upwards. In Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, you will find the grave of Lance Corporal John Nash, 9 John St., Limerick. John was a member of the 2nd Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers and died of wounds on Sunday, 29th September 1918. He was just 16 years old. He could not even legitimately be described as an adult, he was just a lad.

ALLEN, Seaman, Richard. 3596A. H.M.S. ‘Goliath’ Royal Naval Reserve. KIA 13th May 1915. Age 23. Only son of John Allen, Coonagh, Co. Limerick.
Author’s note: One of the seven Coonagh men killed in action at Gallipoli that day serving on board H.M.S. Goliath. Memorial: PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL, Devon, England.

BEST, Lance Corporal, David. 3523. 8th Bn. Royal Munster Fusiliers. KIA 9th May 1916. Age 18. Son of Robert and Eliza Best, Ballyorgan, Kilmallock, Co. Limerick. Enlisted: Mitchelstown, Co. Cork.
Author’s note: Brother of 26509. John Best. KIA 27/4/16. Cemetery: DUD CORNER CEMETERY, Loos, Pas de Calais, France.

BOWLES, Sergeant, Augustine. 10884. 2nd Bn. Leinster Regiment. DOW 10th September 1918. Age 27. Son of Joseph and the late Elizabeth Bowles, 8 Thomondgate, Limerick. Enlisted: Limerick.
Author’s note: Formerly 8711. 1st Bn. Connaught Rangers. Commemorated on family grave in Mount St. Lawrence’s Cemetery, Limerick. Cemetery: TERLINCTHUN BRITISH CEMETEREY, Wimille, Pas de Calais, France.

CASEY, Seaman, James. S.S. ‘Semantha’ (Liverpool), Mercantile Marine. Drowned 14th October 1917. Age 24.Son of Patrick and Norah Casey, 15 Windmill St., Limerick.
Author’s note: The ‘Semantha’ was torpedoed without warning 10 miles northwest by north from Cape St. John, Crete. Memorial: TOWER HILL MEMORIAL, London, England.

CAVANAGH, Corporal, Jeremiah. 5949. 2nd Bn. Royal Munster Fusiliers. KIA 9th May 1915. Age 19. Son of John Cavanagh, 61 Clare St., Limerick. Enlisted: Limerick.
Author’s note: KIA at Aubers Ridge. There were 139 members of the 2nd Bn. R.M.F. killed that day, including 29 Limerick men. Memorial: LE TOURET MEMORIAL, Pas de Calais, France.

COWELL, Sergeant, John J. DCM. MM and Bar. 78171. 20 Squadron Royal Air Force. DOW 30th July 1918. Son of Michael Cowell, Carey’s Rd., Limerick.
Author’s note: John was one of the top-scoring observer/gunners with his unit during the war. He had a claimed score of 16 kills. Cemetery: LONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France.

DANAGHER, Company Sergeant Major, David. 6088. ‘D’ Coy. 1st Bn. Royal Munster Fusiliers. KIA 25th April 1915. Age 37. Husband of Margaret Danagher, (nee Moffatt). 3 Hartagan’s Terrace, Pennywell Rd., Limerick.
Author’s note: Served in the South African War. Father of John Danagher, Mayor of Limerick, 1964 – 65. Enlisted: Limerick. Memorial: V BEACH CEMETERY, Turkey.

DAVIS, Private, Michael. 6103. 1st Bn. Royal Munster Fusiliers. DOW 29th June 1915. Age 20. Son of Michael Davis, 1 Castle Lane, Athlunkard St., Limerick. Enlisted: Limerick.
Author’s note: Member of St. Mary’s Fife and Drum Band, Mary St., Limerick. Memorial: TWELVE TREE COPSE CEMETERY, Turkey.

DOWNEY, Private, Patrick Joseph. 6/227. 6th Bn. Leinster Regiment. Executed 27th December 1915. Age 19. Son of Mary Downey, 1 Kelly’s Range, Vizes Fields, Limerick. Cemetery: MIKRA BRITISH CEMETERY, Kalamaria, Greece.

IVERS, Lieutenant, Hugh Frank. 1st South African Mounted Rifles. Died 30th October 1915. Age 33. Son of Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Ivers, Tullovin, Croom, Co. Limerick.
Author’s note: Killed in railway collision at Eilro siding. Cemetery: USAKOS CEMETERY, Namibia.

KAVANAGH, Rev. Bernard. C.Ss.R. Army Chaplains’ Dept. DOW 21st December 1917. Age 53. Son of the late Dr. Bernard Kavanagh and brother of Mrs. Malone, Pery Square, Limerick.
Author’s note: Mortally wounded by a Turkish sniper as he ministered to a soldier. Cemetery: JERUSALEM WAR CEMETERY, Israel.

KERINS, Private, Patrick. 6169. 2nd Bn. Royal Irish Regiment. Died 17th May 1915. Born Ballybricken, Co. Limerick. Son of Mrs. Kerins, Herbertstown, Co. Limerick. Enlisted: Tipperary.
Author’s note: Patrick died in Limburg Prison Hospital and is commemorated on the Celtic Cross there. Cemetery: NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY, Germany.

LOOBY, Private, Edmund. 311th Infantry Regiment. 78th Infantry Division. U.S. Army Medical Corps. KIA 5th November 1918. Age 28. Son of Margaret and the late John Looby, Main St., Hospital, Co. Limerick.
Author’s note: Commemorated on the family grave in Hospital, Co. Limerick. Believed to be the last Limerick battle casualty of the war. Cemetery: MEUSE-ARGONNE AMERICAN CEMETERY, Romagne, France.

McKNIGHT, Private, Edward. 8686. 1st Bn. Royal Munster Fusiliers. KIA 25th April 1915. Age 24. Son of Mary McKnight, 29 Upper Henry St., Limerick. Enlisted: Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.
Author’s note: One of seven brothers who served in the British Army in WWI. Memorial: HELLES MEMORIAL, Turkey.

OWENS, Second Lieutenant, William Brabazon. 56th Field Coy., Royal Engineers. Died 25th June 1916. Son of Mr. and Mrs. W.H. Owens, Hazeldene, Limerick.
Author’s note: This is the ONLY WWI burial in the Cathedral grounds. He was the brother of Lt. C.A. Owens, DOW 10/1/17. Cemetery: ST. MARY’S C of I CATHEDRAL CHURCHYARD, Limerick.

PERY, Captain, Edmund William Claude Gerard De Vere. (Viscount Glentworth). Royal Air Force. KIA 18th May 1918. Age 24. Son of 4th Earl of Limerick, Dromore Castle, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick.
Author’s note: Commemorated on Mural Tablet in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. Cemetery: VIS-EN-ARTOIS BRITISH CEMETERY, Haucourt, Pas de Calais, France.

Extract from the ‘Widow’s Penny’ Limerick Historical Publications.
Author Patrick J.McNamara. (c)2001. email:

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