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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

A Cavan Man's Bravery Medal - Patrick Reilly

Years ago, I was lucky to come into possession of a 1914 star named to a soldier of the Leinster Regiment. The soldier, Patrick Reilly had been killed in action on 20 October 1918, and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. Beyond the basic details I never really looked further into Patrick’s life as details were scant and it appeared to be a dead end.

 

Only recently, and completely out of the blue, I had an amazing opportunity to reunite Private Reilly’s 1914 Star with this Military Medal, which was incredible. With new motivation I decided to try and research Patrick a little harder, which resulted in the following short biography.


Private Reilly's MM and 1914 Star

Patrick was born on 2 January 1893 at Mullaghboy, Kilnaleck, County Cavan. He was the son of Dominick Reilly and Bridget Reilly (Nee Kieran). Dominick was a labourer. Dominick and Bridget had married the previous year on 25 August at Ballymachugh Roman Catholic Church.

 

The 1901 census records Patrick, his parents Dominick, Bridget and his four younger sisters are recorded as living in number 2, Faghey, County Longford. Dominick is recorded as a shepherd, interestingly despite Patrick being 8 years old, he is unable to read, which is the same for his siblings. The family have not been traced on the 1911 census.

 

Patrick enlisted in the army in early 1914, joining the Leinster Regiment. Some records suggest he enlisted at Athlone. Posted to the 2nd Battalion, they were based in Cork at the outbreak of war in August 1914. They landed at St. Nazaire in France in September 1914, and remained on the Western Front throughout the war.

 

Around October 1918, Private Reilly was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. The same month, Private Reilly was killed in action during the capture of the village of Stacegham. It was also here where Sergeant John O’Neill of the same battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross. Private Reilly was interred in Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium.

 

In addition to the Military Medal, Private Reilly was also entitled to the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory, which were sent to his parents. However the British War Medal and Victory Medal were returned, after they were not delivered, meaning the MM and 1914 Star are his only surviving medals.

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