This is Dundee's story of those that served in the First World War, and of the people left at home
- Date of enlistment:
- Place of enlistment: Liverpool
- Service no: 9454
- Rank: Private
- Service Occupation:
- Regiment/Service: Black Watch
- Unit/Ship: 1st Battalion
- Place of Death: Belgium
- Age at Death: 36
- Date of Death: 23.10.1914
- Burial Country: Belgium
- Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres
- Grave/Mem Ref no: Panel 37
- Date of Birth:
- Place of Birth: Tullamore, Kings County, Ireland
- Address: 107 Alexander Street, Dundee
- Occupation: Jute Batcher, Densfield Works, Dundee
Mary Cleary, 107 Alexander St, Dundee
Nora, born 30.04.1907, James, born 19.05.1908, Mary, born 20.06.1910 & Thomas, 25.01.1915 – 17.02.1915
More about James Cleary
There is no James Cleary 9454, Black Watch, listed on either C.W.G.C. or S.D.G.W. This regimental No was allocated to Pte James Foy, 1st Battalion, Black Watch, who died 23.10.1914. It would appear that James served as James Foy.
There is a photo (see attached) of a J.F. Cleary 1st Black Watch printed in the Peoples Journal War Supplement in 1925.
James Cleary 9454 Black Watch
Served under James Foy (Mothers name)
DUNDEE BLACK WATCH RESERVIST
WHO WANTED TO PLAY SANTA CLAUS IS KILLED IN ACTION.
The war is levying a heavy toll on Dundee’s sons. The wife of Private James Cleary, of the 2nd Black Watch, who resides at 107 Alexander Street, has received official intimation of the death of her husband in action on 23rd October.
Another Black Watch man who is home wounded gave Private Cleary’s wife and friends an account of how the soldier met his death.
The regiment was hotly engaging the Germans. In front of them was a wood, but between them and the cover lay a road commanded by a German machine gun. Private Cleary and his companions were unaware of the presence of the gun, and when they dashed across the road to reach the wood they were bowled over like ninepins. Cleary fell on the roadway, and a companion, under the fire of the gun, carried him to safety. The brave action was all for nothing, however, for Private Cleary was so severely wounded that he died shortly afterwards. The dead soldier, who when he enlisted twelve years ago took his mother’s name, Foy, was 36 years of age. Prior to the outbreak of the war he was employed as a jute batcher in Densfield Works.
Pathetic significance is attached to one of the last letters Private Cleary sent to his wife. He was the proud father of three children, to whom he was deeply attached, and writing to his wife on 3rd October he said—“Tell the children that daddy will be home for Santa Claus coming.” Alas! Daddy has found a soldier’s grave, and the children will look for him as Santa Claus in vain.
A Sympathetic Letter.
Privat Cleary was a ready friend-maker, and a letter received by Mrs Cleary from an English nurse in France forms a fine illustration of this quality.
Writing on 19th September the nurse says :–
“Dear Mrs Cleary,– A week ago I had the good fortune to meet your husband. He was with three other soldiers, and all four had lost their way. I did what little I could for them, and travelled in the same train for three days and nights.
“Your husband spoke to us of his wife and family, and particularly wished to know how they were, so I promised I would write you for him. He looked very well indeed. I left the four of them three days ago to join the majority of our troops at Le Mans. He may be far away by now. I hope he will, please God, be spared to you and your children. I am a nurse to a little French girl out here. I hope you will soon have good news of your husband. Keep a brave heart, and hope for the best.”
Mrs Cleary received another letter from one of these chance acquaintances of her husband. The letter reads :–“Your husband passed through here yesterday, and I take the liberty of asking your address to ease your mind that he is all right,–From a Scotswoman in France.”
Dundee Courier 23rd November 1914
James Cleary was my great great grandfather. I believe he was a Boer war vet before re-joining the army, he changed his name I think because he may have absconded back to Ireland because of a family tragedy ( a fire ) where he lost members of his family, or he may have re-joined under his mothers name to be eligible for a bounty being offered by the government at the time, but we’ll never know. he was killed as his company crossed a sunken road which, unkown to them a German machine gun was hidden, many were hit and James was carried from the field mortally wounded, he died of wounds hours later, killed with him that day was Bowes Lyon, the queen mothers cousin I believe. He has no known grave. James was on my mothers side of the family, a few months later at Loos private William Clements was mortally wounded in the hip dying of wounds days later he was my Fathers, mothers, brother.
Information supplied by Gary Thomson, additional information and image kindly supplied by Michael Caldwell and Martin Smart.
Can you tell us more about James Cleary'? Some additional facts, a small story handed down through the family or perhaps a picture or an heirloom you can share online. Contact our curator...