Sergeant Michael Francis Moynihan

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Connecticut.

The grave of Michael Moynihan
The grave of Michael Moynihan

Michael Francis Moynihan served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force under the name Francis Henry Chapman. He was born on 24 March 1892 in South Manchester, one of the twelve children of Michael and Julia Moynahan.[1] His parents were both Irish immigrants, and his father and most of his siblings worked in the Cheney Brothers’ silk mill in the town; Moynihan worked as a clerk and stenographer.

He enlisted for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Montreal on 26 August 1915 and used the alias Francis Henry Chapman. His attestation papers indicate that he had served previously for five years with the United States Army.[2] He joined 41st Battalion, a largely French Canadian unit, and was allocated the number 417544. He sailed with the Battalion on the SS Saxonia on 18 October 1915, arriving in England 10 days later.

The Battalion was not sent to France. It was broken up for reinforcement drafts but Moynihan was not destined for another infantry unit. He was attached to the Directorate of Recruiting and Organisation at Folkestone and promoted to Acting Sergeant, presumably to utilise his clerical skills. His period of duty with this organisation was not a long one, however—he fell ill and on 13 February 1916 he was admitted to Moore Barracks Hospital at Shorncliffe, apparently suffering from bronchitis. Tuberculosis was later diagnosed and he was ordered back to Canada. He sailed on the SS Metagama, arriving in Newfoundland on 17 April. On 2 May, he was admitted to the Laurentian Chest Hospital at Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts—well known for its clean air and for the treatment of tuberculosis.

Michael Moynihan did not recover; he died of tuberculosis on 29 July 1916. His remains were returned home and he was buried in Saint James Cemetery, Manchester, in Section A, Lot 72. Inexplicably, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records his burial as being in Section B. The grave is in the western part of the cemetery, in the south-east part of Section A; it is marked by a large family monument.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Sergeant Michael Francis Moynihan
The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Sergeant Michael Francis Moynihan

For his service in England, Sergeant Moynihan was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20. His medal, memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his eldest brother, Cornelius. No Memorial Cross was awarded because he was unmarried and his mother was dead. Sergeant Michael Moynihan is commemorated on page 139 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 31 March. He is also commemorated on the First World War memorial at Manchester Memorial Hospital—the hospital was dedicated on 11 November 1920 and the nearby monument was dedicated in 1933. The hospital has since been rebuilt and in 1970 was dedicated to veterans of all wars.

Manchester First World War Memorial
Manchester First World War Memorial

His brother Cornelius served during the Spanish American War with 1st Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

Dave Smith, Curator, Manchester Historical Society for the photographs of the memorials in Manchester.

1. (Back) Michael Moynihan (1842-16 August 1895) married Julia Donahue (June 1851-1910) in County Kerry, Ireland: Cornelius (1869-NK); Annie (later Shay, later Moriarty) (August 1871-20 November 1965); Patrick Sarfield (12 September 1872-1958); James A. (5 December 1874-19 November 1959); Julia H. (later Coleman) (January 1877-28 January 1962); Mary (December 1879-NK); Nellie Agnes (26 November 1881-3 June 1958); Ellen E. (1883-NK); Rosie (February 1884-NK); Margaret (July 1888-NK); Maud G. (October 1893-NK); Ida Francis (August 1895-8 August 1902).
2. (Back) No record of his previous service has been found.

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