Remembering the Fallen: John Fanning, Connaught Rangers

Patrick O'Dwyer

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Patrick O'Dwyer

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hussars@which.net

Remembering the Fallen: John Fanning, Connaught Rangers

Patrick O'Dwyer at the grave of John Fanning.

Patrick O'Dwyerhussars@which.net

Relatives of John Fanning of the Connaught Rangers, who is commemorated on the Cahir War Memorial, visited his grave at Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, France, on the 100th anniversary of his death which occurred there on 3 July 1917.

Gerard and Patrick O’Dwyer, grandsons of his cousin John ‘Jack’ Fleming of Knockballinira, Ardfinnan, made the trip to remember the man who was an influence on their grandfather’s life.

The cousins are related through their mothers Bridget and Mary Lonergan who are believed to have been first cousins. John Fanning was born on 13 August 1886, at Outeragh near Knockgraffon, Cahir. He was the son of Michael and Bridget Fanning. In 1901 John lived with a relative, Patrick Fanning (probably his uncle Patrick) at Knockgraffon, Cahir.

He attested for the Connaught Rangers at Cahir, aged ‘18’, on 1 October 1903 and was judged to be fit for service at Clonmel the following day. He joined the Connaught Rangers at Galway on 3 October 1903.

On 3 February 1904, Private John Fanning was posted to the 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers, in India on 8 December 1905 and from September 1906 was an unpaid Lance Corporal. He was paid in this rank from 10 December 1906 but appears to have reverted to the rank of Private on transfer back to the 1st Battalion in 1908.

His cousin, John ‘Jack’ Fleming of Knockballinira, enlisted the Connaught Rangers on 8 December 1905 to be with him and met up with him again when Jack Fleming joined the 2nd Battalion in India on 27 December 1906. It was the 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers, who were the first troops to be heard singing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ when they landed at Boulogne, France, on 13 August 1914.

John Fanning received an educational certificate on 27 July 1907 and passed the professional examination to be a Corporal on 26 February 1907. Private John Fanning, 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers, won a race for ‘H’ Company in the cross country race of 1910. He sailed from India on 28 August 1914 and landed in France, on 26 September 1914 with the 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers. He probably saw heavy fighting throughout the autumn of 1914 and in 1915. The 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers, left Marseilles, for Mesopotamia in December 1915 but John did not go with them. A reference may indicate that he lost a Lance Corporal’s stripe again on 14 January 1915, which would imply an earlier re-appointment to that rank.

On 31 March 1916 John was posted to the 3rd Battalion at Kinsale. On 30 September 1916 he reengaged at Kinsale to complete 21 years with the Colours. On 1 November 1916 he married Josephine Mary Campbell at St. Charles Borromeo RC Church, Weybridge, Surrey, England. They had one son, John Richard Patrick Fanning (born Manchester 1917; died at Bromley in 1983), who John would never see. On 22 November 1916 John Fanning was posted to the Infantry Brigade Depot in France and to the 6th Battalion, Connaught Rangers, on 24 November 1916.

Private John Fanning, 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers, died of gastritis on 3 July 1917 at the No. 10 Stationary Hospital, St Omer, aged 30. He was the only British soldier to die there on that day. All of John’s effects were willed to his wife, Mary Josephine. The family requested 'My Jesus Mercy' to be inscribed on his grave marker.

John Fanning’s activities immediately prior to his death are unknown. The Connaught Rangers were involved in the Battle of Messines as part of the 16th (Irish) Division. Also involved was the 36th (Ulster) Division. Both Divisions took part in the capture of Wytschaete. The 16th (Irish Division) was withdrawn from the line on 10 June 1917 but it is not certain if John Fanning was with them during this period.

Some soldiers of the 6th Battalion are known to have been in St. Omer in late June 1917 for a course as they attended a mass there.

John Fanning was awarded the Delhi Durbar Coronation Medal in March 1912 and for service in the Great War the 1914 Star and the British War and Victory Medals.

The cemetery at Longuenesse was used to bury those that died in the many hospitals in St Omer and its hinterland.

Although Jack Fleming, Knockballinira, joined the army to be with John Fanning, he transferred to the 14th (King’s) Hussars in India in late 1907 and entered the Army Reserve in March 1912. It is not clear whether the two cousins ever met again after 1907 but they had opportunities to do so in India, France and England and probably in Ireland. John Fleming went on, according to a family tradition, to train the Irish Volunteers at Carrick-on-Suir before the war. On 4 August 1914 he was recalled on mobilisation making his way to Scarborough and then to Colchester. He served with the 20th Hussars in France from 27 January 1915 to 19 May 1915, when he returned wounded, and with the 14th (King’s) Hussars in Mesopotamia and Persia 1917-1919, surviving the sinking of the S.S. Cameronia in the Mediterranean on Sunday 15 April 1917 en route. The 14th (King’s) Hussars had been stationed at Cahir in the middle of the 1890s.

If you can add any further information on John Fanning please do contact the author of this article, Patrick O’Dwyer, on hussars@which.net .