Joseph Cunningham


Sent to me by Mark Hifle


1896 Feb 5 Joseph Cunningham born at Oldham, St Marys, Lancashire, England to Mary (McNamara) and Patrick Cunningham.

1901 census

1908 Nov 2. In jail in Castlebar. Sentenced to 5 years in Glencree Reformatory. He was living at BALLYKINAVE 1 maile from CLAREMORRIS. And the things were stolen from Mary Casey of Claremorris


1911 census . He is in Glencree Reformatory (where he was sentenced in 1908)

1912 Served in the 10th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (T F) discharged for physical reasons. The 10th Manchester’s, headquartered at Oldham, was a Territorial Force battalion

1912 Vaccinated

Working as a Motorman with the Oldham Tramway Company for 4 months prior to enlistment

27 July 1914 enlisted as Joseph Cunningham into 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars aged 18. Service record states he was Roman Catholic.

29 July 1914 Transferred as 78604 Driver Joseph Cunningham to the Royal Field Artillery at No 5 Depot Athlone

31 July 1914 Posted to 145 Battery at Athlone

3 Aug 1914 re vaccinated

Aug 1914 Posted to 29 Reserve Battery at Ballincollig after war broke out

2 Sept 1914 Charged with Breaking out of Barracks and being absent from Tattoo roll call. Sentenced to 7 days Confined to Barracks

23 Sept 1914 Charged with Breaking out of Barracks. Sentenced to 8 days Confined to Barracks

27 Sept 1914 Charged with Breaking out of Barracks while a defaulter. Sentenced to 14 days detention

14 Oct 1914 Admitted to Hospital at Ballincollig with Neuritis

28 Oct 1914 Discharged from Hospital

11 Nov 1914 Discharged at Ballincollig KR 392 (iii) Not being likely to become an efficient soldier, and medically unfit for further service

Character given as Good. Occupation listed as Labourer (fitter)

1914 Dec 29 Enlisted in KOSB as Joseph Cunningham

1915 Jan 23. Absent off pass, forfeits 4 days pay

1915 Feb 23 Transferred to ASC as a driver of hrse transport. Character "Good"

1919 Mar 3 Discharged - not likely to become an efficient soldier "Not fitted for infantry and refused by ASC" He filed his ASC Driving test, so they turned him down, and KSOB did not want him back - flat feel and could not march. The discharge was approved on medical grounds

1915 Mar 22. Enlisted as Joseph Cunningham in Black Watch

1915 Mar 29. Discharged - not likely to become an efficient soldier. "Flat foot and walks lame"

4 Sept 1915 Enlisted as 3/21546 Private Joseph Cunningham at Armagh into the Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers)

7 Sept 1915 Joined 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers) at Buncrana

19 Sept 1915 Deserted

 23 Sept 1915 Fraudulently enlisted as S/20943 Private Joseph Cunningham into the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at Ashton-under-Lyne

30 Sept 1915 Posted to the Depot Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, Cameron Barracks, Inverness

1 Oct 1915 Admitted to the Military Hospital Ashton under Lyne

9 Oct 1915 Discharged from Hospital

13 Oct 1915 Posted to ‘E’ Company, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders at Cromarty

17 Oct 1915 At Invergordon charged with interfering with a fire extinguisher causing it to go off. Admonished

6 Dec 1915 Enquiry from the Army to his Father on his whereabouts.

8 Dec 1915 Father stated 8 Dec was the date he last heard from his son. Serving with 3rd Cameroon Highlanders. Address Ward C 19-1 1st Scottish General Hospital, Aberdeen.

20 Dec 1915 Fit for discharge from Hospital for light duties

24 Dec 1915 Hospital has instructions for him to re-join Depot Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, Cameron Barracks, Inverness

10 Jan 1916 Deserted from Invergordon, escaped from Guard Room Detention

5 March 1916 In Civil Custody

9 March 1916 Re-joined under arrest awaiting trial in Guard Room Detention

21 March 1916 Court Marital at Invergordon. Sentenced to 9 months detention for fraudulent enlistment, escaping confinement, and desertion. Held in in Guard Room Detention awaiting removal to Perth Detention Barracks. Forfeits all former service.

25 March 1916 To be held to serve in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers). Removed to Perth Detention Barracks

3 June 1916 161 days of sentence remitted

24 June 1916 Released from detention

27 June 1916 Re-joined unit

30 June 1916 Deserted from Luddan Camp, Buncrana, Ireland

26 Re-joined unit

6 Sept 1916 Escaped confinement at Ashmany

3 Oct 1916 In civil custody after arrest in Liverpool

Police found him at the Warehouse of British & American Tobacco Co., Commercial in Liverpool. Wearing Civilian clothes with 3 medal ribbons, and possessing a badge of Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Ribbons for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Belgium Military Medal, and French Military Medal. Claimed these were service in France, he was wounded twice and invalided out.

Produced a Certificate Discharge for 17451 Private J Cunningham, The Depot, Kings Own Scottish Borderers.  Discharged 29 March 1916 as Not likely to become an efficient soldier. Stated he has not served with any expeditionary force with the word ‘not’ blacked out.

He had obtained a position as Sub Foreman. On strength of being a wounded Soldier and decoration’s being valid. Arrested as falsely presenting himself to be a person entitled to wear certain decorations. In possession of a Visiting card ‘L/Cpl J Cunningham (DCM), 1ST Cameron Highlanders, Middle Weight Champion, Lancashire England’. Living at 53 Martins Lane, Liscard where a full uniform of Cameron Highlanders with a Lance Corporal Stripe, good conduct stripe, crossed rifles, and two gold wound bars was found. Railway tickets stolen from Hollymount Station, Ireland found with his belongings.

17 Oct 1916 Civil court remanded him to await escort

22 Oct 1916 Escorted to Clonmany Camp to re-join 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers)

11 Nov 1916 Court Marital at Clonmany sentenced to 1 year detention at Detention Barracks, Dublin

13 Nov 1916 Sentenced confirmed by Commander at Loch Swilly Garrison

19 Nov 1916 Escaped Glenfield Camp, Clonmany while under arrest awaiting removal to detention barracks

21 Nov 1916 Arrested in uniform at Holymount, Co Mayo. Held in Civil Custody on remand in Castlebar Jail on a charge of larceny. Claimed to have been discharged from Derry Hospital 20 Nov no trace found.

27 Nov 1916 Under arrest awaiting trial

6 Dec 1916 Court Marital for escaping confinement from Glenfield Camp, Clonmany. Sentenced to 17 months detention confirmed by Commander at Loch Swilly Garrison

22 Dec 1916 Admitted to King George V Hospital Dublin

29 Dec 1916 Deserted from King George V Hospital Dublin

 6 Jan 1917 fraudulently enlisted aged 21 as GS/24364 Private Joseph Brown 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers at Waterford. Stated his father was Father Patrick Brown, living at 9 Yorke Road, Herthford, USA

10 Jan 1917 Posted to the 6th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry and deserted en route. It was located in Dublin and trained men for the 5th and 12th Lancers, City of London Yeomanry and 1st County of London Yeomanry.

9 Feb 1917 Arrested by Civil Police

24 Fed 1917 Posted to 1st Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at the Curragh. Formed early 1917 at the Curragh. Trained men for the 5th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 17th and 21st Lancers, Bedfordshire Yeomanry, Lincolnshire Yeomanry, City of London Yeomanry, Surrey Yeomanry and East Riding Yeomanry

16 March 1917 Arrested by Civil Police in Belfast and convicted of a Felony at Ulster assizes sentenced to 12 months Hard Labour for several counts of cheque fraud. He was using the alias ‘George’. Claimed to be a Corporal and to have served 7 months at the front where he was wounded Oct 1915. He was wearing two gold bars.

26 April 1917 Released from Civil Custody at Belfast

2 May 1917 Declared absent without leave

17 May 1917 Arrested by Civil Police in Glasgow

19 May 1917 In Civil confinement

3 June 1917 Broke out of Civil Custody

10 June 1917 Arrested by Military Field Police in Liverpool

14 June 1917 In confinement awaiting trial

21 June 1917 Admitted to Military Hospital in Belfast while awaiting trial

Case of desertion not disposed of

16 Aug 1917 writes from the Hospital in Belfast to the RH + RFA Records Office, Royal Dockyard, Woolwich to try and obtain proof he was discharged from RFA in 1914. He is using the rank Corporal.

24 Sept 1917 Attended Medical Board

16 Oct 1917 Discharged XVI. Character assessed as Bad. Looking for Light employment in London

16 Oct 1918 Liable to be sent a Statuary Order requiring him to present himself for medical examination for Military Service

18 Oct 1917 Discharge papers sent to him from the Cavalry Records Office. He acknowledged them using the name ‘Joseph Brown, 5 Lancers, 16 Cooper Street, Oldham, Lancashire.’

 Re enlisted at some point and posted to 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers based at Longford, Ireland

 BMH Witness Statement 1716: Sean MacKeon (OC Longford Brigade IRA, 1921; Member Dail Eireann, 1929; Cabinet Minister, 1948):

In 1920  ‘A soldier was seen very often out the roads alone, and then going to a public house near the railway station in Longford, named Lee's. We decided to get in touch with him. Commandant Redington saw him in Lee's, Earl Street, Longford, and spoke to him, and told him that there was money to be had for the sale of arms and ammunition, that he, Redington, would put him in touch with the right people if he was prepared to sell. The soldier agreed to meet the man with the money, and gave his proper name.’

‘We called him "Jordy". This was not his proper name, but one which we gave him.’

‘He was known by the name of Clements as well as Jordy. I believe he got married under the latter name.’

 ‘Commandant Redington wrote to me to come into a shed near Longford, alongside the road, at a certain time on a June evening. Jordy informed me that he was prepared to push one or two rifles per evening out through a loop-hole in the barrack wall, and carry out two hundred rounds of ammunition twice a week, at the price of £4.per rifle and bayonet, and £1 per hundred rounds of ammunition. I agreed to these terms, and told him that, if he had two rifles out next night and two hundred rounds the following night, I would have a letter left for him in Lee's, containing the cash. Tom Bannon collected the rifles and ammunition. He picked up the rifles outside the barrack wall, and carried them under his coat up the street of Longford. He is a very tall man. The ammunition was collected by him also, next evening. Jordy got his money in Lee's, as arranged. He brought out one rifle more, or two separate single rifles, and a hundred rounds each alternative turn, but not daily, as Jordy stated that all rifles were locked up from the time the first two were taken, and that he had great difficulty in procuring the ammunition. ‘

‘He was coming out one evening, and, fortunately, had no stuff on him, it being dumped through the loop-hole. But the ammunition was missing, and he was the last person seen near the place from where it was missing.

Jordy was arrested and returned for court martial. He was tried in Mullingar and acquitted, and he returned to Longford. ‘

‘He declared he could get no more rifles, but that he could get ammunition, and that he would have four hundred out with him on a certain night. He lined his tunic with the ammunition, and was.

He was arrested again and escaped with IRA help.

‘We got him employment with Mr. W. Reilly, Aughkilmore, Bunlahy, where he remained for some time. But he was useless as a farm labourer. So I took him into the forge.’

18 August 1920 The IRA led by Seán Mac Eoin raided the British Army barracks in Longford  for weaponry with the help of the deserter ‘Jordy.’

‘After the capture of the guardroom at the Upper Military Barracks at Longford and Ballymahon Barracks, it was agreed to pay Jordy a substantial sum.

As he was determined that he could return to England and be perfectly safe, L.D. Kiernan of Granard was engaged to transport him by car to Dublin, and to pay him his money, agreed upon, when he would be about to sail for England.

Kiernan carried this out, and returned that evening, informing us that Jordy had taken the boat, but, to my surprise, Jordy turned up at the forge on the following evening, at about six o'clock, having all his money spent, which he said was lifted off him in Dublin.

Jordy was suspect, and made several attempts to return to Longford. We believed that it was his intention to return to his unit. He had then considerable information and knowledge of the organisation and personnel in the 1st Battalion area.

He was placed under strict supervision, but one day he escaped, and was captured at Longford workhouse, within a mile of the barracks.

He was then court martialled with attempting to convey information to the enemy, and was sentenced to death. The sentence was reduced to permanent internment. He was transferred to a prison in the parish of Dromard where he remained until the Truce when he was released, but, in the meantime, he succeeded in getting married.

BMH Witness Statement 496: Francis Davis: Captain IV and IRA, Longford, 1921

‘In August 1920 it was decided to raid Longford Military barracks Upper. This barracks was garrisoned by the "Lancers". A soldier named Jordy deserted from the "Lancers" and went to Ballinalee. He continued to remain on there and we were rather suspicious of him. He was courting a girl in Longford whom he visited once or twice a week.’

10 Feb 1921 There is a Joseph Cunningham aged 29 on the Prison Register in Mountjoy and Dundalk Prisons.  On 15 Feb 1921 he was acquitted of obtaining money by menaces

19 Oct 1921 Joseph Cunningham (Joseph Brown, Joseph George Cunningham) 9 months for larceny at Preston

26 Oct 1921 Joseph Cunningham married Bridget Murphy from Ballyduffy at the Church of Legga, Longford. His occupation is listed as Labourer. He also claims his father is called also Joseph Cunningham and is from Newcastle-on-Tyne. The Marriage Certificate is not received by the registrar until 7 Feb 1925. A witness is Peter Donohoe. There is an incomplete application for Service (1917-1921) Medal for a Peter Donohoe. Application unsuccessful. Subject claimed service with Longford Brigade Irish Republican Army. From Ballyduffy, Moyne, Co Longford. MD13127



BMH Witness Statement 1716: Sean MacKeon

 ‘I lost trace of him until Christmas of 1923, when two hams and two turkeys were stolen from the Officers' Mess in Custume Barracks, Athlone, A search was made, and Jordy was captured, in possession of all four. He was then Sergeant-Major "Cunningham" of the Defence forces, and was a resident of Athlone, his previous history being unknown, and deliberately kept so by him. He resided for years in Athlone, and perhaps may be alive still (this statement was made in 1957), but it was an interesting situation, to find him as handy at lifting a bird or a ham as he was at lifting a gun or ammunition from the barracks.’

The following quote is from ‘British military deserters in the Irish Free State, 1922-1932’ a Paper by Bernard Kelly (University of Edinburgh) which may refer to the same incident,

‘A similar situation arose in November 1923 when another British deserter was found in the Free State army. In this case, the man’s military record was poor, and although several officers recommended that he be discharged and handed over to the British, Mulcahy refused to take any action.’

1 Jan 1922 Enlisted as a Regular into the Free State Army as Joseph Cunningham, aged 30 at Ballyconnell.

12/13 Nov 1923 On the Army Census serving as 21717 Sergeant Instructor Joseph Cunningham. Part of the Depot based at the Custume Barracks Athlone. Listed as married to Mrs B Cunningham and living at Ballyduffy, Moyne, Co Longford.


BMH Witness Statement 1716: Sean MacKeon 

‘Another British soldier, Johnny White, who also deserted, remained in Ballinasloe, got married there, and died recently in Granard.’ This statement was taken in 1957.

‘I have already told this story, but the point I want to mention here is that, at Jordy's arrest and escape, the guard who helped him also came across the wall, at a later stage, and secured an old man, named Clancy, in Dublin Street, to drive them out to Listrahee, near Ballinalee. The two soldiers were in full uniform and equipment. They were kept for some time, and then two of them were put in transit to Belfast, through Charlie Fitzpatrick of Ballinagh who passed them on from unit to unit.’


BMH.WS0606. Witness: James P Flood, Commandant IV and IRA, Longford, 1913 – 1921

‘Finally it was decided that we would have to fall back on the "Geordie" plan. "Geordie" was a deserter from the British Military Barracks in Longford who had come to us a few months previously. He was sent to work for a farmer in the Ballinalee area and kept under observation by us. He had a plan to disarm the guard in the Top Barracks in Longford. Seán McKeon, with three others, carried out this operation on the night before the attack on Ballymahon Barracks, and with the rifles thus obtained the plan to attack Ballymahon was completely successful.’

BMH.WS0570. Witness: Patrick Kiernan, Commandant IRA, Longford, 1921

A British soldier called "Geordie" had deserted from the Lancers in the top barracks in Longford and got in touch with the I.R.A. to whom he gave useful information. He later helped to raid the guardroom at the top barracks from which a number of rifles was secured.

Subsequently he was given a sum of money equivalent to about £4 for each rifle that was secured. This money was to assist him to get out of the country. He went to Dublin and there he spent the money unwisely, I believe, and when it was all gone he returned to Longford and was located in the 4th battalion area.

This man was a desperately heavy smoker and it was impossible to keep him in cigarettes. Getting desperate, he declared in the hearing of some members of the I.R.A. that he was going to re-join the Lancers and that he would tell all he knew and who he knew and of course he knew a lot.

He was arrested and sent under escort and blindfolded to me to be detainee as a spy. I had the blindfold removed and had him detained in a house. There were a couple of other people living in this house at the time. I was appointed President of the court that tried him on the charges of spying and informing. The trial was a lengthy one lasting nearly all night. "Geordie" made a lengthy statement in which he gave the details of his whole life up to date. I was satisfied that he was not guilty and that he had no intention of re-joining his unit or of informing on us.

An execution party was standing by, having been detailed from the 1st Battalion. I had "Geordie" removed to another location in one of my company areas where I knew he would be safe and I submitted a report to the Brigade 0/C. The Brigade took a very poor view of my actions and said that I was disobeying all orders.

 I held "Geordie" in custody for about three months whilst the matter was being dealt with by G.H.Q. Subsequently I got a dispatch from the Brigade informing me that if I provided "Geordie" with sufficient money he could be allowed to travel back to any part of England to which he wished to go. I had no money to give him. However I informed "Geordie" to this effect. Actually he cried and said he did not want to go to England by any means. All this time he was with people named Donoghue in D/Company area.

I released him from arrest and he continued to live with the Donoghues for some time afterwards and to work for them. I helped him with money as best I could. He subsequently married a girl from that locality. He joined the Regular Army when it was started. I met him in the army afterwards. He had by now learned what I had done to save his life and he was sure thankful to me. I am still very pleased that I saved his life as I am satisfied that he was absolutely free from any guilt as far as the I.R.A. was concerned I do not know what eventually became of him.


18 July 1927 There is enquiry in his service records from the Ministry of Health, Insurance Department concerning his military service record.

1929 Feb There is the possibility that he died in Dundalk, but I could not find any confirming information


British Deserters