The Boy Who Never Came Home: Patrick Sherry 1898-1917

Categories Patrick Sherry 1898-1917
Lijssenthoek

Long before I arrived on the scene, my Dad reached the rank of Sergeant during a nine-year stint in the Royal Engineers.  Later in life, he described himself as a proud old soldier.

Every November my family gathered to watch Remembrance Sunday on television. The highlight was the ever-dwindling group of proud veterans marching past the Cenotaph.

One year, Dad mentioned that he would have loved to join the veterans and march past the Cenotaph on behalf of someone who couldn’t.

Sadly he never got the opportunity to do so.

For as long as I can remember, my Mother always mentioned her Uncle Francis Coyle (1889-1917) on Remembrance Sunday.  Francis fell during World War One on 5th January 1917.

Some years she would get tearful about her Uncle Francie and recollect a family story that he saved the lives of some comrades which earned a mention in dispatches.  Francis was a long time dead when Mum entered the world.

Dad never spoke about Sherry relatives who fell during the Great War.  Until the early 2010s, my brothers and I thought that Great Uncle Francis was the only relative who went to war and never returned home.

But research into our past confirmed once again, how little we knew about our family.  There were more relatives who fought in the First World War. Some of them did not return home.

In my Sherry ancestry, there was a boy who volunteered to fight for his King and Country.

This post is about my Great Uncle Patrick Sherry, the boy soldier who never came home.

Patrick Sherry’s Early Years

Just over two years before the birth of my Grandfather Thomas, Patrick Sherry was born on the 23rd December 1898 at 4 o’clock in the morning in 23 Nimmos RowLongriggend. His parents were Arthur Sherry (1857-1918) and Jane Mallin (1860-1944)

Arthur and Jane named Patrick after Grandfather Patrick Sherry (1834-1902) and an older brother who died just over a year old at Caldercruix in 1883.

The 1901 Scotland Census records Patrick at Nimmos Row with his parents, brothers Arthur, Michael, John and my Grandad who was a few weeks old when the Enumerator paid a visit.

Patrick and the younger members of the family moved from the Longriggend area to nearby Greengairs by 1911.   That year’s Census records them living in Back Row, Greengairs.

Nothing remains of where Patrick and the family lived in those villages.  But a photo, taken c.1950 of Nimmos Row, Longriggend is available at Scotland’s People.

Your Country Needs You!

At some stage near the start of World War One, the family moved on from Greengairs to Glasgow where they lived at 55 Calton Street, Tollcross, in the city’s East End.

War soon knocked on the door and the older Sherry brothers answered the call to enlist.

My Grandfather was too young for the trenches.  So was Patrick.

However, Patrick would become one of 250,000 young boys in the Great War under the legal age to enlist. I have often wondered why my Grandfather did not volunteer.

My Aunt recalls her Dad being keen to enlist during the Second World War. But Grandad Sherry worked in a reserved occupation, so it wasn’t a viable option.

The Boy Soldier

My Great Uncle’s Attestation and full-Service Record no longer exist. Unfortunately, over 60% of Soldiers Records from World War One do not exist due to a German bombing raid in World War Two.

But there are fragments of information in the archives which provide a skeletal biography of Patrick Sherry’s brief active service during the Great War.

Patrick lied about his age and enlisted in the first week of November 1915.  His entry in the Enlistment Book recorded his age as 19 years old. Patrick’s height was 5 ft 7 ½ inches and the stated occupation was a Coal Miner. 1

Private Patrick Sherry

The boy soldier entered the war as a Private in the 7th (Service) Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlander Regiment ( Please correct me if I am wrong) and subsequently invited into the 5th (Service) Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in which he served until the end of his life. Patrick’s Service Number was S/21277.2

Patrick Sherry 1898-1917
Patrick Sherry 1898 -1917. This image appeared in the Evening Times Roll Of Honour

With regards to what I found out about Patrick via the archives, I will focus on The 5th (Service) Battalion who were part of Kitchener’s Army.

The 5th (Service) Battalion formed at Inverness in August 1914 and by May 1915 they were mobilized for War, landing at Boulogne and seeing action on the Western Front.3

They were a component unit of the 26th Infantry Brigade and part of the 9th (Scottish) Division.  Just before Patrick’s enlistment, the 5th Cameron Highlanders were involved in the Battle of Loos which took place from 25th September to 8th October 1915.

In 1916 the Battalion saw action at the Somme which included The Battle of Albert, The Battle of Bazentin, The Battle of Delville Wood and The Battle of Le Transloy 4

The next significant battle the 5th Camerons would be involved in would not be until the Spring of 1917 5

But Patrick would not live to take part in it.

Final Weeks

By December 1916  The 9th (Scottish) Division moved to Arras and the 5th Camerons relieved the 7th Seaforth Highlanders on Sunday 10th December. 6

Patrick turned 18 on the 23rd of that month and was likely to have been in the Trenches. 7

What a horrific way to spend your 18th Birthday.

Death

On Friday 5th January 1917, Private Patrick Sherry was wounded by multiple gunshot injuries.  He suffered shrapnel wounds to his neck, mouth, forehead, left arm, as well as a fracture of phalanges and chest. 8 9

Patrick was taken to Casualty Clearing Station Number 17 Remy Siding and at 11 pm in the evening died of his injuries. 10 He was laid to rest at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery Poperinge, Belgium.

Private Patrick Sherry is listed in the Cameron Highlanders Roll Of Honour.

Aftermath

It is unknown how exactly my Great Grandparents were informed of Patrick’s death. Nor do the family possess items such as letters, his medals.  Or the commemorative scroll which the family would have been given.

My Grandparents had a full-length photograph of Patrick in full uniform. But this vanished during the 1970s.  One of my Aunts is named after him.

There is a family story recalling how he died. But the remaining records of Patrick’s war confirm that it was nonsense.

Lijssenthoek

In September 2015 my wife and I traveled to Poperinge from Bruges.   It takes a few hours to reach Poperinge but its a pleasant journey.

Poperinge 2015
Poperinge September 2015

Poperinge itself is a charming place. Quiet, but it was a Sunday.  To get to the Cemetery we had to get a local Taxi but it is not too far from the train station.

We found Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery to be in a picturesque location, and there is a good Visitor Centre which gives background on the area as it was during a dark period of history.

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery

 

Visiting Patrick’s Grave

It took us about ten minutes to find Patrick’s resting place. We stood at Patrick’s grave for a while. It was an emotional experience and I am not shy to admit that we shed more than a few tears.

Several feet under us lay a young boy far away from home, near-forgotten by close relatives in the present day.

Patrick Sherry 1898-1917 Grave
Patrick’s final resting place

I think we were the first relatives to visit Patrick’s grave.  We will visit whenever we can in future.  The family is now aware of what I learned about him through research.  What he looked like, and where he is at rest forever and a day.

A reward of researching family history is that the next generation will know about Patrick Sherry and they too can tell future relatives.

So I don’t think my wife and I will be the only family to visit Lijssenthoek.

On Remembrance Sunday, the young boy who never came home to his parents comes into my thoughts and stays there for the rest of the day.  I also wish that my Dad opened up about his family instead of allowing them to sleep in his mind.

On Remembrance Sunday and on the anniversaries of their deaths, I light a candle to pay tribute and remember my relatives who fell during 1914-1918.

And, if anyone is within earshot, I share what I know about them. Especially the story of the boy who never came home.

 

Acknowledgements

I will be forever grateful to Robert Shanks at The Highlanders’ Museum, Family History at The Glasgow Mitchell Library and the knowledgeable bunch over at The Great War Forum for responding to my inquiries about Patrick.

 

Footnotes

  1. Enlistment Book & Service Details: The Highlanders Museum
  2. The Great War Forum
  3. Forces War Records – Unit History 5th Cameron Highlanders
  4. Forces War Records – Unit History 5th Cameron Highlanders
  5. Forces War Records – Unit History 5th Cameron Highlanders
  6. 9th (Scottish) Division Forces War Diary 
  7. 5th Battalion Cameron Highlanders WW1 War Diary -ref WO 95/1767/1 
  8. Forces War Records/
  9.  UK Soldiers Who Died In The Great War 
  10. The Great War Forum 
Family History addict since 2012. Now documenting my findings and insights online.

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