Wednesday, 11 May 2011

D M O'Callaghan

Duncan Mackay MacDonald O'Callaghan
Born 1891 in Ludlow, Shropshire.  Killed in Action 15 March 1915 at St Eloi
2nd Lt 3 Battalion att 2 Battalion DCLI 

Duncan O'Callaghan was the son of Surgeon-Major George Henry Kenneth MacDonald O'Callaghan and his second wife, Susannah Charlton O'Callaghan.  O'Callaghan Snr was an Irishman, born in Cork around 1853.  At the time of the 1881 Census the Surgeon-Major, together with his first wife and family, was aboard HMS Serapis.  Serapis was a troopship which sailed the route from England to India.  

By 1888 the Surgeon-Major married for a second time, taking as his bride Susannah Harding, the daughter of a wealthy Bristol merchant.  In 1901 Susannah was living in Cheltenham with her three children and her 25 year old stepson, Kenneth.  All the children have different birthplaces, so Susannah must have moved around with her husband.

In 1911 Susannah, Duncan and two of his sisters were living in Minto House in Newquay.  The house overlooked the Gannel Estuary and in later years has been used as a hotel.  (I got my first job in Newquay at this hotel - I lasted for one morning as a chambermaid.)

Duncan joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry as a Second Lieutenant.  Although he was sent to the 3rd Battalion, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion when they moved abroad.  The Battalion landed at Le Havre just before Christmas 1914 and were sent to the area between Aire and Arques.  

2nd Battalion were part of 82nd Brigade, 27th Division.  On 14 March the Germans, under cover of a heavy mist, launched a surprise attack on the 27th Division, which was holding the trenches to the east of St Eloi.  The Germans, exploiting the element of surprise and aided by heavy artillery fire and two mine explosions, managed to capture and hold the trenches.  However, a counter attack succeeded in regaining the trenches by the following evening.  Sir John French mentioned the action in a despatch to the Secretary of State for War on 15 April 1915:

It is satisfactory to be able to record that, though the troops occupying the first line of trenches was at first overwhelmed, they afterwards behaved very gallantly in the counterattack for the recovery of the lost ground; and the following units earned and received the special commendation, of the Army Commander: - The 2nd  Royal Irish Fusilliers, the 2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, the 1st Leinster Regiment, the 4th Rifle Brigade and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Lt O'Callaghan was buried in the New Military Cemetery at Dickenbusch.  Ten years later, on the death of his mother and younger brother, Denys, Duncan's estate was wound up and administration granted to his sister Eileen. (Eileen had married into one of Cornwall's prominent families, the Pole-Carews).  His effects totalled £100.  

Duncan O'Callaghan is commemorated not only in Newquay, but also in Cheltenham, where he had lived as a child.


  1. George Henry Kenneth is my Great Great grandfather

  2. Hi Aubrey

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Have you anything that you can add to Duncan's story? There is a photo and entry from his school's memorial on another post, but if you have any further information I shall be delighted to receive it.

    Kind regards


    1. Duncan was my great uncle. His sister Eileen was my grandmother. I think my aunt has some photographs of Duncan somewhere

    2. Hi Delia. If you ever find the photos, I would love to see them! Did you check out the photo here: ?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.