Michael, or Mickey as he liked to be called, was born at Limerick Ireland and had a normal upbringing... for a few years. But then he lost his father. A few years later he lost his mother. He was left with two sisters and yet to reach the age of 12. It is unknown how they he struggled till adulthood, But Mickey hits the radar when he turned to the British Army for work. He was then about 20 years of age.
Little is known of his short career there other than that Military life must have agreed with him because he would do 7 years service with them and by about 1909 when he left the unit he had reached the rank of a Lance Corporal. He would also be the proud holder of the 1908 Northwest Frontiers Action Medal.
This would be the first of his medal collection.
Soon Mickey would move to British Columbia and take up labor jobs in the mines and at logging. He was known to have worked in the mines at Fernie BC and with the BC Electric's tunneling job at Coquitlam. By 1915, if not earlier he was working on the tunneling project at Revelstoke that would travel some 5 miles underground and lay train track through to Calgary Alberta. The venture would be the longest railroad underground tunnel in North American history to that date. But the depression of 1913-14 took its toll on most who had jobs. They were here today and gone tomorrow. You took whatever you could get for as long as you could get it and then move on. Rail wages in those days for these labourers amounted to about $3 for a 6 day week of very long hours work each day. From that pay you had to subtract your housing and meal costs. Mickey may have also picked up a little part time income with the militia of the day. He had joined the 104th... at Revelstoke and paraded once again in a private's uniform.
Then came a break. It was called WW1, and it paid soldiers a full buck a day... and they paid for your uniforms and housing and even medical, if you ever needed it... Hmmmm. You even got to see Europe whether you wanted to or not!
Mickey's attestation papers, though not dated, are believed to have been signed in mid February 1915 at New Westminster BC were he enlisted with the 47th Battalion as a private for overseas service. He declared being single at the time, was a miner by trade, and had a sister living in Montreal on Broadway. That sister or the other also lived in Vancouver at some point. In June 1915 his unit sailed off to England and soon after that he was transferred to the 30th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Not long after another shuffle resulted in his being moved to the 7th Battalion, also known as the Ist BC Regiment. All three cap badges and the collar dog for the 7th appear above.
Mickey was employed as a stretcher bearer at the front lines. His duties obviously called for the evacuation from the often very dangerous, very fronts of the line and back to aid stations. Sometimes this would be done at night cause it was just too dangerous during the day. But more often than not the men raced out to do their duties to treat and recover the wounded ASAP. This would mean during broad daylight and under the heaviest of enemy fire. And take note, as a stretcher bearer you are generally unarmed and able to defend yourself other than in dodging bullets like superman was supposed to be able to do.
When not involved in bringing the wounded back, the stretcher bearer also found himself doing minor medical care back at aid stations, and gathering food and water etc for the casualties. He might even have been called upon to keep up some of the record keeping of the station.
Between 1 July and 18 November 1916 the allies took part in the largest and bloodiest battle in the war. Casualties numbers would be over ONE MILLION. It would be in the midst of this several month battle that a 30 mile front would be tackled in September by the Canadians that would become their worst nightmare. They would lose one in 3 of some 60,000 that entered the several day battle.
And Mickey was there, like others that you have already about in this space. Tomorrow I will bring you the story of two events that would soon change his life forever.
Please tune in.