Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brothers who made the Ultimate Sacrifice

McGrath family headstone, St Mary's R.C. Churchyard Cleator, Cumbria.
Remembering Denis and John McGrath and their parents
(Denis McGrath and John McGrath both gave their lies during WW2)
(Photograph: J. Ritson)

In wartime some families inevitably have to bear the loss of a loved one, and in some cases more than one close relative, very often brothers or a father and son. In the case of the McGrath family of Ennerdale Road, Cleator Moor, Cumberland Denis McGrath (Senior) lost his life in a mining accident in June 1943, while two of his sons - Denis McGrath (Junior) and John McGrath paid the Ultimate Sacrifice while serving in the army.

A separate article has been written about the accident in which Denis McGrath (Senior) lost his life. This article deals with the story of Denis McGrath (Junior) and John McGrath.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) Private Denis McGrath, 4th Battalion Welch Regiment

Denis McGrath (Junior) was born on 23 August 1922 at Cleator Moor, Cumberland (later Cumbria) and baptised as a Roman Catholic on 27 August 1922 by Father Joseph M. Chisnall O.S.B., Assistant Priest at St Mary's R.C. Church, Cleator. His parents were Denis McGrath (Senior), a miner, and Margaret McGrath (nee Burns). The godparents were William McLaughlin and Agnes McCarten. Denis (Junior) was 'Confirmed' as a Catholic on 29 May 1930.

In WW2 Denis McGrath (Junior) was serving with the 4th Battalion Welch Regiment when he lost his life on 23 October 1944. His Service Number was 5783471. Private Denis McGrath was laid to rest in Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands (Holland) (Grave Reference: 6.F.3). Parts of the Netherlands had been liberated from German Occupation in September 1944 but there was still some fierce fighting and lives lost before it was fully liberated in the spring of 1945. Private Denis McGrath was just 22 years old when he died.

(2) Private John McGrath, Border Regiment and Army Catering Corps

John McGrath, another son of Denis and Margaret McGrath, was born on 14 November 1919, again at Cleator Moor. John McGrath was also baptised as a Roman Catholic at St Mary's R.C. Church by Father Joseph M. Chisnall O.S.B. This ceremony was performed on 15 November 1919. John's godparents were John Burns and Catherine Merrighan. He was 'Confirmed' on 10 June 1928.

Private John McGrath originally signed up with the Border Regiment and therefore had a Border Regiment 7-digit Service Number: 3601815. Latterly, he was listed as being in the Army Catering Corps. John McGrath served in the army about 5 years, with over 3 years serving in Burma and the Far East. During this time in the Far East John's unit were involved in heavy fighting. For some of this time they were isolated and surrounded by the Japanese forces. They even had to resort to eating grass and any other edible vegetable matter for a time until they could be supplied by parachute drops. Such were the ordeals and privations many Allied troops had to endure while serving in the Far East. It cannot have helped their overall health to fight off other illnesses.

After returning to the UK Private John McGrath was admitted to Garlands Emergency Hospital at Carlisle, Cumberland (about 45 miles north of Cleator Moor). Carlisle was also the Regimental Headquarters of the Border Regiment. Unfortunately, John died of malaria on 1 May 1945. His funeral service took place at St Mary's R.C. Church, Cleator on 4 May 1945 and was conducted by Father F.K. McCann O.S.B. (Assistant Priest) while Father F.C. Clayton O.S.B. (Parish Priest) conducted John’s interment in the churchyard.

According to a report at the time in the local newspaper, ‘The Whitehaven News’, the organist at John’s funeral was Miss C. McNamee and his coffin was borne by a detachment from the Border Regiment.

(3) Still remembered

As referred to above, Private Denis McGrath was laid to rest in Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands and Private John McGrath was interred close to home in St Mary’s RC Churchyard, Cleator. However, the family headstone at Cleator remembers both brothers who made the Ultimate Sacrifice in WW2, as well as their parent. It reads as follows:

Of Your Charity
Pray For The Repose
Of The Souls Of
Denis McGrath Died June 21st 1943
Aged 56 Years.
Margaret, his wife,
Died Dec 21st 1969
Aged 87 Years
And Sons of the Above
Pte Denis McGrath
Killed in Action in Holland
Oct 23rd 1944 Aged 22 Years
Pte John McGrath
Died May 1st 1945. Aged 25 Years

“On Whose Souls, Sweet Jesus Have Mercy”.

V.E. Day (8 May 1945), marking the end of the war in Europe, was only days after John McGrath’s funeral. V.J. Day (15 August 1945), marking the end of the war in the Far East, was only a matter of a few weeks later. Private Denis McGrath lost his life while serving in the Forces in N.W. Europe. His brother, Private John McGrath, lost his life as a result of serving in the Far East. They are still remembered in their home town. May it long be so!

May they rest in peace.


Cumbria County Archives, Whitehaven Records Office
‘The Whitehaven News’
St Mary’s R.C. Church, Cleator Parish Records
Border Regiment & KORBR Museum, Carlisle

Thursday, 19 February, 2009  

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