Patrick Connolly was born on Mweenish Island in Connemara, County Galway in the latter part of 1888 and emigrated to the United States prior to the First World War. Little is known of his wider family other than that some of them also emigrated to Boston.
In 1915 Connolly returned to the United Kingdom, and on 18 May after disembarking at Avonmouth he travelled into Bristol and enlisted. He joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment at Gravesend and was allocated the number 21329. At the end of his training he was posted to the Mediterranean to join the 7th (Service) Battalion, which had taken part in the Gallipoli landings as part of 39th Brigade, 13th (Western) Division. With his fellow reinforcements, he arrived at Mudros at the end of October and soon moved forward to join the depleted Battalion; the date of his arrival in Suvla is not known.
The Battalion was evacuated from Suvla on 17 December but after 10 days at Mudros, embarked to reinforce Cape Helles, which was to be held for a few more weeks, and landed on the evening of 27 December on ‘V’ Beach. It was here at Cape Helles that Connolly’s military career took a turn for the worse. On 4 January the Battalion had moved into reserve in ‘Y’ ravine but at 10.30 am on 7 January, as 13th (Western) Division prepared for its evacuation the following night, a heavy bombardment of the front lines began. This was followed in the late afternoon by a Turkish attack, which was beaten off. During the action 7th Gloucesters moved forward into support and sent fatigue parties forward with ammunition; this action cost the Battalion six wounded, two of whom died. The following day a further four men were killed and 10 were wounded. Connolly, meanwhile, had abandoned his post and was found behind the trenches and arrested. Evacuated with the Battalion to Mudros the next night, and then to Egypt on 19 January, he was held in custody for a month having been charged with cowardice. Connolly was tried in Egypt by a Field General Court Martial on 19 February—the charge was serious:
‘…when on active service misbehaving before the enemy in such a manner as to show cowardice in that he at Cape Helles on 7 January 1916 was found behind the trenches when it was his duty to have been present at his post in the Reserve Gun Section in the trench area.’
He was duly found guilty and sentenced to seven years penal servitude. The sentence was immediately confirmed but suspended by Commander of the Force in Egypt, General Sir Archibald Murray. The Battalion meanwhile had sailed for Mesopotamia and Connolly rejoined it there on 20 March. Soon after the Battalion’s arrival in Basra it had been hit by an outbreak of relapsing fever but finally took its place in 39th Brigade in mid-April in time for the unsuccessful attempt to relieve the besieged garrison at Kut. Connolly’s role and actions throughout the Battalion’s time in Mesopotamia are not known but it is evident from his record that there were no more lapses in discipline. He fell ill in December 1916 or January 1917 and was sent to the hill-station recovery hospital at Dagshai in India, where he remained until July 1917. In August because of his good service his sentence was remitted.
Connolly spent the rest of the war on garrison duties in Mesopotamia and Salonika before the Battalion returned to England in April 1919, where he was demobilised. He was formally discharged to the Class Z Reserve on 22 June 1919. For his war service he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal.
After his discharge he returned to Boston and sometime in 1920 fell ill again and was admitted to the United States Public Health Hospital No. 36 (Parker Hill Hospital) in Boston where he died of acute endocarditis and septicaemia on 7 December 1920, aged 32. His well-attended funeral was held at the Gate of Heaven Roman Catholic Church on the morning of 10 December and he was buried in New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan in Section 8, Grave 725. The Connolly family plot is in the northern part of the cemetery.
1. (Back) At the time of his death his next of kin was given as his sister, Mary (1870-1925), who lived with her husband, Coleman S. Ridge (1870-1937) in Boston. Other family members are buried alongside him.