Michael McDonagh, 9869 2nd Leinster Regt

McDonagh in Irish Brigade

machine gunners in Irish Brigade

Listed by Casement as a Saddler before enlisting. McDonagh also on American Consuls list. Keogh has him from Galway and as "P MacDonagh". Mahony's list as not volunteering for Egypt

FO383/496 Irish Brigade movement in Germany: statements by Private Michael McDonagh of 2nd Leinster Regiment (he made the statement in Millbank Hospital, London in June 1920 after being repatriated) and Private John Mahony of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, including intelligence information and a list of the names and regiments of men who volunteered for service in Egypt.

McDonagh medal card

This is certainly the man fingered by the army, and he is Michael, not "P" or "J" as in Keogh's list or on the Photograph above. His service record exists and shows more about his life.

1893 May 17 born Shruffane, Costelloe, Galway. It is about 20 miles due west of Galway City. On his enlistment papers his mother is Mrs Mary Kelly. He also states he has an elder brother Patrick McDonagh and an Elder sisters Maggie and Ellen McDonagh. His Roll entry says born Jan 6 in 1894

1901 census

1901 This is therefore him living with widowed mother Mary at Glynagh, Crumpaun

1907 He states on joining the army that he had previously been sentenced to 5 years at St Conleth's Reformatory School in Phillipstown (Daingean, County Offaly). Most of those in a reformatory had been convicted by the courts of criminal offences that would in the case of adults have been punishable by imprisonment. At the time of conviction, boys were aged between 12 and 17, but the period of detention could not extend beyond their 19th birthday. He must have been about 12 when sentenced around 1907.

reformatory phillipstown

The Reformatory


1911 census shows his mother, remarried as Mary Kelly, living at Crumpaun, Co Galway. However he is in the Reformatory in Phillipstown on 2nd April 1911 and is recorded there in the census

1911 census michael mcdonagh

He got a job with the saddler in Tullamore when he left the Reformatory. Presumably a skill taught to him at the reformatory. He states he was a saddler employed by a Mr Talbot at Barrack St, Tullamore, Kings Co, before joining the army.

talbot saddler

1912 Sep 17 he enlisted at Tullamore and graded A1. His home address was Shruffane, Costelloe, Galway. 5ft 7" high and 134 lbs. On enlistment he was stationed at Birr.

1912 Nov 1 vaccinated

1913 Jan 21 in hospital in Birr for 7 days with a sprained ankle.

1913 Jan 30 posted to Cork

1914 Sep 8 arrived in France

1914 Oct 21 taken prisoner having been wounded the day before. He had recieved a gunshot wound at Armentieres, and was taken to Lille hospital (Hospice Generale, where he was well treated by the doctors). He had been wounded twice in right leg and in chest. A German bullet had hit his pouch and exploded his cartridges.

1915 Mar 15 left Lille Hospital and transferred to POW camp. He was now able to walk.

1915 Mar 20 arrived at "Cellelager" and remained there till May 1915, and then transferred to hospital at Limburg. He says "all other Irishmen" in Cellelager were transferred at the same time.

1915 May In hospital In Limburg when he arrived there. On his release he appears to have been recruited by Keogh in June. His health was bad, the German food was bad, and his wound had not healed. Where he joined the Irish Brigade he states that his position was that he did not want to die in captivity, and this was a way to avoid that fate. He says only 3 men were in Irish Brigade uniform at Limburg, Keogh, Dowling and Quinlisk, the rest got uniforms at Zossen.

1915 Jun 28 1915 transferred to Zossen with all the Irish Brigade recruits

1915 Nov. McDonagh had a fight with Waters (one or both were apparently drunk). McDonagh hit Waters on the chin, the result being that Waters was in hospital for 6 weeks. McDonagh was court-martialed by the Irish NCOs and sentenced to 2 years prison. McDonagh claims there was constant fighting among the men.

1915 Nov 19. Hahn writes to Casement asking him to authorise the removal of a number of men for drunkeness and /or insubordination, adding that Dowling and Quinlisk agree with this request. He is on that list, but Casement did not act on it

1916 Jan He refused to sign the papers volunteering to be part of a machine gun group from the Irish Brigade in Egypt. Casement himself put the question to each man, one at a time. He also says that he refused to join the machine gun section, but this is clearly a lie, as the above photo shows him to be a machine gunner.

McDonagh say that he burnt his uniform and had the dead Holohan's reissued to him instead. However I believe that McDonagh is the "West of Ireland Gaelic speaker" that Rahilly tells tore his uniform apart during a rather fraught standoff with the Germans after Casement's departure. Rahilly writes:-

The strain was terrific. I was beginning to feel unsteady when the volunteer on my right, who was a West of Ireland man, jumped in the air and tore open his tunic and cursed too General volubly in Gaelic. Others shouted "Fire, fire and get done with it," The very air was electrical. Other voices spoke loud, I could not catch the words for the West of Ireland man was about to rush at the General, somebody held him back, but his tunic was tom in two. I looked all around again my last look. Everybody looked pale. The interpreter was white to the lips. Even the execution squad was feeling the strain, but there was no mercy in their eyes.

1916 Mar 18. McDonagh wrote "Gaffney is a proud person who would not speak to a Private soldier. He thinks he knows very much. I saw him at Holohan's funeral, but he did not speak to me. "

1916 Apr. After constant appeals his sentence for hitting Waters was reduced to 2 months on appeal. He says he would have been let off if he had agreed to sign up for Egypt. . He served the two months at Cologne, and says he nearly died from starvation during his imprisonment.

1916 Jul. Having returned to Zossen after his imprisonment, he was then sent to Danzig Troyl with the rest of the Irish Brigade.

In Danzig the Germans put them to work on "commando", that is doing normal work in civilian clothes. The Irish Brigade movement was effectively finished once they were sent to Danzig. He was in Dirschau worning as as a saddler, for which he got his board plus 5 marks a week. He got no food parcels from home, believing they were stolen by the Germans. The Irish prisoners were treated better than the English prisoners, and were allowed to move freely in the places they were working. He sepent some of the time here in hospital suffering from rheumatic pains.

1918 Nov. He remained at Danzig until Nov 1918. After the armistice all the Irish Brigade were sent to a camp 2 hours from Munich. The camp was ful of Russians. The Irish were told they would be shot if the British found them. Some of the men with money got back to Danzig. McDonagh had a false identity card from the Germans in the name of Otto Vehring. He went to Munich and worked as a saddler for 15 mark a day, but soon fell sick and by end November was on sick pay. He continued to draw sick pay till May 1919, claiming that his German was so fluent that nobody guessed he was not actually German.

1919 Jan. Burke had been sent by the Red Cross from Berlin to persuade the Irish men aound Munich to return, but McDonagh was not able because of his health. Rahilly came to see me from Breen before Burke came.

Rahilly wrote But one man I found to mistrust my motives. He it was, I remembered, who was on my right and who tore open his tunic when von Schneider' s execution squad had (their rifles pointed at our chests. That man certainly was no coward, but he asked me to see a Dr. Curry and consult with him before proceeding any further. (I believe this was McDonagh) I told him Dr. Curry ( I whom I had not personally heard of) could not be in a position to give any guarantees to them either for their safety or suitability of employment. However, I promised them to call next day when a final decision would be taken as to whether we should return to Ireland or not

1919 Apr. The Red Cross had his address after Burke's visit in Jan, and in April sent him a letter asking about himself, Keogh and O'Callaghan - McDonagh had no information on the other two.

1919 Apr 28. Came out of hospital after a few weeks stay

1919 May 1. On his way to the doctors at 11.30 am he was stopped by the White Force who told him the streets were closed. What remained loyal of the German army was called the "White Guards of Capitalism" by the Communists. On his way back home he saw a placard asking for volunteers to fight the Communists, and immediately went to the Army Museum, where he was given a rifle and ammunition. He immediately joined a section at the Karlsplatz in Muncih and fought there the whole night commanding a section of 10 men, 4 of who died in the battle. He was there till relieved the following evening, and then went home. After the town was freed he gave up his rifle.

1919 A Lieutenant or Capt Breen came down from Berlin, and McDonagh retuurned to Berlin, from where he was sent on to Cologne and from there back to England.

1919 June 1 left Germany

1919 Jun 8. Arrived in England

1919 Jun 12. Gives detailed statement about his experiences to the British Authorities from his bed at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Millbank

1919 Sep 8 posted to dispersal centre

1919 Oct 7 discharged as under Kings Regulations 392 (xvi) "No longer physically fit for service". His Regimental Conduct Sheet was clean, with nothing reported during his years of service from 1912.

He was recommended on this date for a transfer into RAOC with a new service no of S/11296 and his character was given as "very good". His misdemeanors as a POW were on a War Office slip that must have been removed.

1920 Jan 29 He re-joins the army in the RAOC at Galway, having been medically approved as fit. Service Number S/11296

1929 Sep 16. Tried and convicted for the Civil Offence of housebreaking at Perham Down, a small village about a mile eat of Tidworth, while in the RAOC at Tidworth. Sentenced to 112 days imprisonment with hard labour, and to be discharged with ignomony.

1920 Oct 23 He was suffering from rhumatism as a result of his wound, and the doctors were not very sympathetic to the amount of the problem, and judged him to have less than 20% disability. His final medical board adjudicates that there are no grounds for a Leinster award for his injuries.

1920 Dec 2 His medical board was at HM Prison Wandsworth, where he was serving his civil prison sentence for house-breaking

1920 Dec 9. Discharged with ignomony

The family confirm that he worked as a saddler for the rest of his working life and remained in Galway city. .

1953 He died in Galway

Recruits to Irish Brigade