Sunday, December 14, 2014

52 Ancestors #50: Absent without Leave

Ancestor Name: John MCDERMOTT (1876-unknown)

John McDermott was born on 6 Aug 1876 in County Mayo, Ireland. He married Mary Ann Boyle on 12 July 1901 at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Blantyre. He was a 25-year-old coal miner and she was 19.

By the time the 1911 census was enumerated John and Mary Ann had five children, ranging in age from 9 years old to one. Their youngest, Mary Ann McDermott married my third cousin once removed, Charles Findlay, in 1938.  The family lived at 88 South Glencraig in Lochgelly, Fife, Scotland. They had moved to Fife between 1904 and 1906.

John was conscripted or enlisted on 7 August 1916 when he was 39 years old. He began his military service with the 2/1 Battalion, Highland Cyclists. He remained in Scotland until 14 February 1917 when he was transferred to the 1/7 Battalion, Black Watch. The regiment had been fighting in France since 1915 as part of the 153rd Brigade, 51st Highland Division. John arrived just days after the brigade was sent to the Frevilliers area of France and preparations for the battle of Arras began.

Highland Cyclist Battalion; photograph courtesy of Lenathehyena's Blog

John McDermott was wounded on 16 March 1917 during preparations for the battle. Perhaps he was sent on a raiding party to make gaps in the enemy barbed wire or to destroy the enemy dugouts. We just don't know. We do know from John's military service records that he remained in the field with his unit after being wounded. 16 May marked the end of the battle. British troops had made large advances but had been unable to achieve a breakthrough.

Aftermath of the battle of Arras; photograph copyrighted by the Imperial
War Museum

In September the division fought in the third battle of Ypres and the battle Cambrai. The division remained in the Cambrai until March 1918. John McDermott was granted permission to go home on leave from 21 January until 4 February. On 17 February his battalion commanding officer reported that he had not yet returned to the unit. A letter was sent to the Lanarkshire Constabulary and they investigated. They learned he had left his home in Blantyre on the 26th of February and planned to return to France.

He arrived in Cambrai on 2 March 1918 and was arrested the same day. On 7 March he was tried by a Field General Court Martial for absenting himself without leave for nearly a month and was convicted. He was sentenced to 56 days of Field Punishment No. 1 and began serving his sentence on 9 March 1918.

The punishment consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters or handcuffs and attached to a fixed object such as a fence post or a gun wheel for up to two hours. He was also subjected to hard labor and loss of pay. Field Punishment No. 1 was eventually abolished in 1923.

Contemporary drawing of Field Punishment No. 1; image courtesy
of Wikipedia

John McDermott was discharged from the British Army on 15 August 1918.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

John McDermott was born on 6 August 1876 in County Mayo, Ireland. At some point he immigrated to Scotland and began working in the coal mines in Blantyre. He married Mary Ann Boyle on 12 July 1901 in Blantyre. Between the birth of their second son in 1904 and their third son in 1906, the family moved to Lochgelly, Fife. On 7 August 1916, John enlisted or was conscripted into the 2/1 Battalion of the Highland Cyclists at Kirkcaldy. At the time he entered military service the family was living at 56 North Glencraig in Fife. The cyclists provided homeland defense in Scotland. On 14 February 1917, John McDermott was transferred to the 1/7 Battalion, Black Watch and sent to France to join the regiment, which was part of the 153rd Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division. He was wounded in action twice and saw fighting at Arras and Cambrai. He was late returning to his unit from home leave in 1918 and court martialed. He was discharged on 15 August 1918. I do not yet know when he died, but do know he was still alive at the time his youngest daughter married in 1938.

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