Saturday, September 17, 2011

DEVON, Westward Ho, Resident WWI, Major William McConaghy RAMC and World War I

Major William McConaghy RAMC
Boer War

"Seconded" to the Egyptian Army, WWI
Fernwood, Westward Ho, Devon.
died at Sea (Red Sea) while seconded. 
Buried at Suez
Plaque Memorial,  old Khartoum Cathedral, Sudan

Service at Hejaz, Hijaz, Hedjaz Railway (WWI - Lawrence  of Arabia was attacking it)
Reference found: Letter to McConaghy about interrogation of prisoners. 
Sources being researched.

Learn history by looking up family members who lived and died in its roll.  Personalize a conflicts, the culture, and it lives. Here, at Westward Ho, a small town (apparently a prosperous one)  boy grows up, engages in military and medical very serious matters WWI.  We are tracing relative William McConaghy's military history.  Several of us are pursuing different angles:  his service record remains a mystery as to his actual work while "seconded" to the Egyptian Army in WWI.

 Another relative, Violet, received a handwrtten letter from a  Col. A. J. Tennuci, Curator at the RAMC Historical Museum, England, see it at She reports that the Colonel wrote, in part,
"There is great difficulty in tracing information on this officer.... However, ...we can confirm that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for operations in Egypt and Hedjaz in connection with military operations."  

Note the D in Hedjaz.  Spellings in translation vary. Research all.

Then, in 1977, a Research Officer at the National Army Museum, London, see it at, wrote,
"His service documents will not yet be released out of copyright restrictions." 
What?? Our family chronicler stopped there.

Fog and all, meet Major William McConaghy, RAMC, Royal Army Medical Corps, born 1881 in Poona (now Puna), India. His story parallels many who grew up in and out of the colonial era.

William, a son of  Surgeon-General William McConaghy, served in South Africa. World War I:  "BEF France" (British Expeditionary Force) 1914, and was earlier wounded in France.

See the record of him, wounded:  But is this "our" William?

  • This William is a Private -- not likely for the William McConaghy medical doctor.  
  • See the reference for the "private" at Dungannon [between Omagh and Belfast] Presbytery, Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  The Private lived at Union Place in Dungannon, was a Private at the time, and is listed in the "Dungannon Second",  see  role of honor, 1914-1919 (this William McConaghy, probably not ours, lived in Ireland.  Need more info. Our William may well still have resided in India, or with his wife, Mary Birdwood McConaghy in Devon?

Not ours:  This McConaghyWilliam
Union PlacePrivateR. In. Fus.Wounded

See link to that other William McConaghy as a Private at

Still looking for William. Our William served and died as "seconded" to the Egyptian Army, buried in Suez War Memorial Cemetery, memorial plaque in the old Khartoum Cathedral.

I.  It is William McConaghy RAMC "seconded" to the Egyptian Army that interests us. 

What is that.
And the "Hejaz" - its railway was a focal point of Lawrence of Arabia's activities in WWI.  

Find pictures of it at  And it is his role in Arabia that interests us.  What was that?

A.  Pursuit in Arabia, no idea of outcome yet.

Was William serving at Hejaz at the same time that Lawrence of Arabia was attacking the railroad there? While seconded to the Egyptian Army?

B.  Is this letter addressed to him, document identified as letter to "McConaghy".

II.  This leads to the next issue: 

What was the letter from Lt. Col Charles Pierce Joyce, about interrogations of prisoners, 
to "McConaghy""

See the National Archives and this mystery entry at Joyce, Lt. Col. Pierce Charles 1878-1965, at the King's College,  London, Liddell Hart Centre for Military Records, at
 Liddell Hart - famous military strategist, for "indirection" see
  • Here is the entry, and the topic is "about interrogation of prisoners.": 
  • That is logical, for a medical matter, letter to Dr. McConaghy -- suggesting something or what?
  •  Is this a letter related to the Hejaz Railway issue WWI (Lawrence of Arabia attacks even, asks our imagination)  to our McConaghy or another? But we see no other McConaghy in the military records for those "seconded" to the Egyptian Army.  Need to find out more.
"[no title] JOYCE/1/42 [1917 Feb 1-5] 
Contents:  To McConaghy. About interrogation of prisoners. D 20"

Where to look next:
  • Go to the King's College Archives to try to find that letter to a "McConaghy" -
  • Go to General enquiries - listed here so I can find it again. The letters are not online, apparently.  It takes a request, not being started.         
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 1978 / 2689
Fax: +44 (0)20 7848 1989

Centre for e-Research
King's College London
3rd Floor, 26-29 Drury Lane
London WC2B 5RL

What will show?

Update:  Here is the response, very expensive for hobby, family request.  Converting pounds to dollars for this kind of thing can be open-ended, with high fees. We have not decided whether to pay, because payment in British pounds is additionally expensive and complex.  Who out there is going to Kings College?  Just go get it.  When you find out, let us know.

See FN 1 at the very, very end.

Another side of those seconded to the Army of Egypt in WWI?  No wonder we ask why-what?  But if his work was primarily there, how was he killed at sea, with a plaque in his honor in Sudan. 

The Memorial plaque to William McConaghy reads, according to a family chronicler, this inscription verified as in the Memorial Book, and that would mean that the plaque itself was in the Cathedral, but that building is no longer the Cathedral:

"In memory of Major William McConaghy, MB, DSO, RAMC
Attached to the Egyptian Army
Died at Sea on July 4, 1918
Aged 37 years."

That Cathedral was confiscated, and relocated, see  Were the memorial plaques also moved.

B.  Our information so far

1.  Biography of William McConaghy -

William McConaghy, MB, DSO, RAMC.  Major William McConaghy. Start with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at  That will only locate the grave, however, and basic identification. Find him in the Royal Army Medical Corps at

Other known designations:
MB -  (Military, British? looking)
DSO - Distinguished Service Order
RAMC - Royal Army Medical Corps

Look for more. Find rolls of honour for counties or schools, if known.  We went to Hertfordshire, a site we found through his Haileybury College, Hertfordshire, website.  Go to  Up will come the A's.  Scroll down fast to the very bottom of the page and find where to click for the Medical Staff Who Died During Conflict Search Page.

Fill in McConaghy.

So far so good:  He is the cousin we already know, of Lt. Col. Maurice Edwin McConaghy-McConaghey who died in WWI in 1917 at Arras.  Now for William:

1.1 He was a major, hospital or area is unknown; died "Red Sea", died 4 July 1918,

1.2 He was born 12, July 1881, born Poona India, conflict WWI 1914-1919, Son of W. B. McConaghy (that would be Mary Birdwood McConaghy, she the daughter of General C. Birdwood, and from Fernwood, Westward Ho, Devon, England); and the the late Surgeon-General William McConaghy (he was in the IMS India, born 1845, died 1905, London)

We already know he got his MD at the University of Edinburgh.


What is Hejaz?   see area of Arabia at The railway here, Damascus Syria to Madina [or Medina?], Saudi Arabia, was damaged by Lawrence of Arabia 1914-1918, see

Was William there?

1.4 Details

Red Cross Unit - RAMC


Cousin Maurice McConaghy was also in South Africa - so we aren't pursuing that here. For those with an interest in the later WWI Somme and Ypres Salient, where Maurice served and died, you might want also to see the film, "War Horse" -- graphic, and historically accurate in at least this respect;  German trenches used wicker woven walls as supports, and the British used planking.  That difference is shown.


2.  Basic question:  "Seconded" to the Egyptian Army. What was Major William McConaghy M.D. doing in Egypt in WWI? 

2.1  Narrative sites, not official records found yet:

See site
  • "Centurion" writes (not vetted, just presented for review)
"Up to 1914 Egypt was technically an autonomous part of the Turkish Empire and although there was a Khedive who was British 'advising' the ruler the legal fiction was that he was doing this on behalf of the Turkish Sultan. As an autonomous region it had its own army which had British 'advisors' seconded to it (one of the most notable being a certain General Gordon). When WW1 broke out technically Egypt was on the side of the Central Powers so Britain declared it a protectorate. This left the Egyptian army in a slightly peculiar position and it was restricted to a role of assisting the civil power and protecting those parts of Egypt not facing the Turkish army - this meant defending againt Sennusi raids etc."   
  • And "stevebecker" at same site writes,

    "The British raised a number of units for the Egyptian Army to assist them in controling the Western and Southern Egypt during the War.

    "Many British and Commonweath soldiers were seconded to these units and I have a large number of aussies being made 2/Lt's in the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps. These were used to bring supplies to other Egyptian units and British units in the Western and Southern Egypt. There is also record of these being used in the Sinai to assist the advance to Palestine.

    "Egypt used its Army as stated above to conrol there outer areas these included the Sudan where Egyptian soldiers and Camel Companies operated against the Senssi and the Sutan of Dufar. These were filled with many British offciers and NCO's to help them and no dought to keep an eye on them.

    "During the Egyptian rebelion of 1919 I can find no units of the Egyptian Army involved directly in this upriasing by the native Egyptians, althought soldiers on leave or such may have taken part?"
That is the story so far.  Now to find where he was in the British Expeditionary Force 1914, where he was wounded.  There must be a book based on the logs, as we found for his cousin, Maurice - The Royal Scots Fusiliers by John Buchan


FN 1  How to get a copy of the correspondence to the doctor, "McConaghy",  about interrogation of prisoners, in the Hejaz, WWI

Thank you for your email regarding copies from the papers of Lt Col Pierce Charles Joyce.
We do have a facility for readers to order photocopies without visiting the Archive. There is a minimum cost of £10 for remote reprographics orders. I have outlined the ordering procedure below - if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
We ask that readers supply two documents, in line with users visiting the archive in person:
1.                   A reader undertaking form, available for download on this page:
2.                   A photocopying form available for download here:

You should include with these documents the £10 estimating fee. The fee can be paid by cheque (made payable to "King's College London") or by Visa or Mastercard - please include the card number, CVV number (last three digits on the signature strip), expiry date and the address at which the card is registered with the forms.
On receipt of both forms and the payment, Archives staff will examine the material to see if it is in a suitable condition for copying and, if so, make an estimate of the cost. We will aim to complete the estimate within ten working days of receipt of payment. If your estimate comes to less than £10 for the copies, plus postage and packing, then your copy order will be started straight away, and there will be nothing further to pay. If the value of the order is over £10 the estimating charge will be deducted from the cost and we will contact you to ask for the excess payment. The estimating charge is not refundable if a customer decides not to proceed with the order or if the items are not in a fit condition for copying. There is a £10 surcharge if a non-sterling cheque is used.
Postage and packing charges include Royal Mail standard UK delivery or standard Airmail international delivery; tracked and special UK and international delivery services can be arranged at additional cost. Please ask Archives staff for more details.
Please note that while we make the best photocopies possible given the physical state of the document being copied, we cannot be held responsible if the quality or content of the original fails to meet the reader's expectations. Furthermore, we cannot be held responsible for mail which is delayed or lost once it has been despatched.
The forms and payment should be sent to: Archives and Corporate Records Service, Room S3.02 Strand Building, King's College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS. Alternatively, they can be faxed to 0044 207 848 2760 or scanned and emailed to
For further information please see our website:
Kind regards,
Diana Manipud
Information Assistant
Archives and Information Management
King's College London
Tel: 020 7848 2015
Fax: 020 7848 2760"
We are not King Tut here.  Is anyone interested, for history? We still may, but this is a big deal.