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Remembered Today:

McGrath Brothers; A DCM, MM and 3 MiD's



These gallant brothers who served in the First and Second World Wars were decorated for their bravery in the Middle East, a DCM, MM and 3 MiD’s between them. They were the only sons of William Joseph McGrath and Bridget O’Neil, with 4 other daughters older, in between and younger than the trio of brothers.

2425a (Q55010) Thomas Cornelius McGrath M.I.D

Thomas Cornelius McGrath was born on June 16th, 1890 in Trafalgar, Victoria, the eldest of the three. He was a member of ‘3’ Squadron, 10th Light Horse [Victorian Mounted Rifles] during the pre-war period.
Queensland Pictorial, on embarkation

He enlisted on May 12th, 1915 at Brisbane, Queensland shortly after the landings on Gallipoli two and a half weeks prior. By the time of his enlistment, he was a Horsedealer. He was assigned the service number 2425 and assigned to the 9th Battalion (7th Reinforcements), embarking with them on August 20th, 1915 on the H.M.A.T [A9] “Shropshire” out of Sydney, New South Wales. He was taken on to strength on Mudros Island on November 18th. He embarked from Mudros and arrived at Alexandria on January 4th, 1916. In the coming months, the Australian Imperial Force would undergo a restructure of units which would lead to the ‘doubling of the AIF’ in Egypt. Thomas McGrath was affected by this change, in the sense that he became a member of No.2 Company, 1st Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps [ICC] on January 29th, taken onto the strength of the unit at Abbassia on February 1st. On the same day, he was given an ‘a’ at the end of his service number, making him 2425a Pte T. C. McGrath.
Photograph containing members of No.2 Company, Imperial Camel Corps; c.1916

He went to hospital on August 21st, admitted to 19th General Hospital at Alexandria on the 29th, then discharged from hospital to Moascar on September 5th, rejoining his unit the same day. Thomas was appointed Acting Lance Corporal on January 9th, 1917, then went to hospital on January 25th, arriving at 14th Australian General Hospital at Abbassia, then discharged to duty on February 7th, taken onto the strength of the Australian Reserve Depot on the 8th. Just under a month later, he was sent back to No.2 Company, ICC on March 6th, taken back onto strength on the 9th and reverted to the ranks following his arrival. 9 days after returning, he was sent to 14th Australian General Hospital at Abbassia again, this time with a mouth ulcer, discharged to duty with the Australian Reserve Depot on April 9th.
Patients of the 14th Australian General Hospital in Cairo

On April 19th, he returned to Hospital and finished up in Cairo, discharged to duty on April 30th and then posted back to No.2 Company on May 17th, taken back onto strength on the 18th. Thomas was seen fit to be appointed Temporary Lance Corporal on November 4th, then as a substantive Lance Corporal on November 12th. He had become No.2 Company’s bomber by April 1918, and was among the men defending the hill known as El Musallabeh in the Jordan Valley, and during his actions on Musallabeh on April 8th to 11th, 1918 he would be recommended for the Military Medal…

His recommendation [although faded] reads…

'During period 8th to 11th April 1918 at Musallabeh, for continuous devotion to duty and good service. This N.C.O laid low in his cover ?? the enemy infantry moved to within 15 yards of him and then ?? bombs ??? and with that deadly effect. On exhausting the immediate supply of bombs in his ?? post he moved to other ?? around the firing line and carried on the same excellent work with all the bombs available. He was shot in the head and rather badly wounded whilst throwing bombs.'
*This may or may not be his Mention in Despatches, as there are two recommendations for the MM.

Men on Musallabeh, c.1918

As the recommendation states, he suffered a scalp wound (affecting his personality) and a thigh wound, both from shrapnel. He was admitted to hospital on April 11th, and was discharged to duty the following day. Upon arriving back to No.2 Company, he was appointed Acting Shoeing Smith Corporal after his predecessor (Owen) had been wounded at Musallabeh. On July 1st, 1918 a bulk of the ICC was disbanded and he was among the men who formed the nucleus for the newly formed 14th Light Horse Regiment under the equally new 5th Light Horse Brigade. Upon the establishment of the Regiment, he was appointed substantive Corporal on July 12th in ‘B’ Squadron. He didn’t see too much action with them, though he was present at the Battle of Mediggo and followed the Regiment through the Middle East, with an appointment of Acting Sergeant on October 1st, winding up in Hospital on the 29th. During the Battle of Meddigo and subsequent battles following, he was recommended for the Military Medal.

His recommendation [though low quality] reads..

‘For conspicuous devotion to duty during operations from 19th Sept 1918 to 3rd October 1918, inclusive.
This N.C.O has shown great gallantry, zeal and devotion to duty - particularly in the fighting at Damascus on 30th Sept 1918 in clearing the AEG Campbell gardens of ?? and Machine Guns.
This work on this occasion was of so ?? high ??’

*This recommendation might’ve led to his award of the MiD in 1919.


By the time he was back at his Regiment, the war was over, though nonetheless he was appointed Lance Sergeant on December 21st. On January 22nd, 1919 he was Mentioned in General Allenby’s Despatches, no doubt due to his gallant conduct throughout 1918. It appeared in the London Gazette on January 22nd, 1919 on page 1165 at position 11. He was marched out to Moascar on February 2nd, arriving on February 8th for embarkation to Australia. He embarked on March 4th, arriving back in Australia the following month. After 5 years and a month in the Australian Imperial Force, Thomas Cornelius McGrath was discharged on June 16th, 1919 at 1st M.D. Shortly before his discharge, he married Hester Jane Cridland on June 4th, 1919. The couple had three children, all males who served in the Second World War. They were Cornelius (1922-1981; RAAF Corporal), Thomas (1923-1978; RAAF Sqn Ldr) and Desmond (1925-1953; RAAF WO).


After the First World War, Thomas returned home as a changed man, his wounds from Musallabeh in particular were deep and affected him greatly. He found work at a Pine Company, which he left in February 1923. From there, he failed to find much work, which led to his application for employment to the Department of Repatriation on April 24th, 1923. In September 1923, he was a carpenter and stole a pair of trousers valued at £3 from one Victor De Lacy (Former 47th Btn France, invalided unfit). He was given time to pay back the damage and fined £5. He was in strife with the law again after stealing £13 from a man. In a newspaper dated July 7th, 1925, it states “A man who was mentioned for conspicuous gallantry in the field during the Great War stood in the dock at the criminal sittings of the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon”.. “The accused [McGrath], however, had been addicted to drink since the war. During the war his record had been an excellent one”. A sentence of 12 months in prison was imposed, but the judge was lenient and let him repay it. At some point after 1920, Thomas’ brothers wanted to kick him out due to his drinking and personality change from the shrapnel wound on Musallabeh but his wife tried to avoid this as they were still in love. After a while (after 1926), his brothers finally kicked Thomas out of the household, effectively an abandonment of his family against his will. In September 1928, he was a laborer and pleaded guilty for ‘two charges of having obtained money by means of valueless cheques. He is at present serving a sentence of nine months for a similar offence. McGrath was sentenced to six months' imprisonment cumulative on the sentence he is now undergoing.’

He married Grace Violet Cain on March 9th, 1934 in Queensland. He took up arms once again on January 18th, 1941 enlisting at Townsville, Queensland with the service number Q55010. He was immediately sent to the 15th Garrison Battalion at Townsville and was taken on strength that same day. 6 days later on the 24th, he was attached to the Townsville Battery for a brief spell. He ended up Away Without Leave between 1630 Hours on March 28th to 0845 Hours on March 30th, and he finished up with a fine. He appears to have gone AWL many times between March and August 1941 which led to his discharge on October 13th, 1941, with the reason of ‘Being Considered Unfit For The Duties Of His Corps’


His life was quiet from there on, living in somewhat solidarity and died on August 31st, 1971 in Toowoomba, Queensland.

The medal set he would've been entitled to is shown below

778 (Q209774) William Francis McGrath M.M, M.I.D

William Francis McGrath was born on June 11th, 1894 in Yarragon, Victoria, the second oldest yet second youngest of the trio.

He enlisted on April 6th, 1915 at Clifton, Queensland with his occupation listed as a Cheese maker. He was assigned the service number 778 and was swiftly assigned to the 11th Light Horse Regiment’s First Reinforcements. He saw 2 months training before he embarked on June 2nd, 1915. He was admitted to hospital on Heliopolis on August 10th with Influenza, then Measles on August 19th, discharged to duty on September 17th.

‘With love to all at home from loving brother and son, Will’

He was assigned to ‘B’ Squadron, but due to the Regiment being broken up as temporary reinforcements, he was assigned to ‘D’ Squadron, 5th Light Horse Regiment, arriving on Gallipoli on October 2nd. He served on the peninsula without seeing much action, mainly acting in a defensive role. He was presumably evacuated off Gallipoli around December 20th. He rejoined the reformed 11th Light Horse Regiment on February 22nd, 1916. He followed the Regiment throughout the Sinai Desert for the entirety of 1916, present at the Battle of Romani and the Second Battle of Gaza where they were dismounted. He transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps on July 1st, 1917 and was in No.2 Company alongside his brother Thomas on August 21st.
William Francis McGrath, mounted on a camel

From August 1917, his record is blank until April 1918. On April 9th to 11th, 1918, William McGrath was acting as the Non-Commissioned Officer in-charge of a bombing party. He and the party laid in wait until the Ottoman forces came within 15 meters of the enemy, by which time he started lobbing bombs. He inflicted considerable casualties among the ranks of the Ottomans before he was ‘shot in the head’, though he was not hospitalized for this minor wound. He was recommended for a Mention in Despatches..

The recommendation reads..

‘During [the] period 8th to 11th April 1918 at Mussellabeh [sic]. For devotion to duty and gallantry. On 9th to 10th April as stretcher bearer and orderly, and on the 11th his services were invaluable to Captain Mills. The enemy attacked on [the] 11th after a bombardment. All telephone wires were cut by the barrage. Capt Mills was wounded fairly badly in the attack and was compelled to return back to Company Headquarters, from where he commanded his Company ?? the firing line under this senior Subaltern. ?? ?? McGrath with him as orderly. Until the telephone lines were repaired this man[?] was continually to and from the firing line under heavy shellfire over the ground, for a distance of 200 yards. When reinforcements arrived, he guided them to their positions[?] quickly, and without mistake, also under heavy shell fire. This work entailed at ?? ?? ?? to and from the firing line.’

His Mention in Despatches appeared in the London Gazette on January 22nd, 1919 on page 1165 at position 11.
*Steve Becker’s summary reads ‘for his actions as a stretcher bearer made 8 trips into the firing line under heavy fire at Musallabeh’

William was among the large portion of men who formed the nucleus of the 14th Light Horse Regiment on July 1st, 1918, and he would still serve alongside his brother during this time. Just like his brother Thomas, he would also be recommended for bravery during his time with the 14th LHR in the final year of the war. He was recommended for a Military Medal.

The recommendation reads..

‘For distinguished gallantry in action at Nablus on 21st Sept 1918. Tpr McGrath was the lead attacking along the railway line under machine gun and rifle fire. He did good work in dislodging snipers. His coolness and bravery were a good example to the remainder of the group. This man has always been a good example and was previously recommended for bravery in action at MUSSELLABEH [sic]..’

His Military Medal appeared in the London Gazette on July 3rd, 1919 on page 8357 at position 44.

McGrath MM on left, c.1918 in North Syria

He embarked on May 7th, 1919 for U.K Leave (NME), then returned to Egypt. From there, he embarked home on October 8th, arriving back in Australia on November 27th, 1919. He was discharged at 3 M.D on December 29th, 1919 after 5 and a half years in the Australian Imperial Force. In his interwar life, he married Evelyn Hope McNee on June 22nd, 1929 in Bundaberg, Queensland, they had one child (John; 1930-2004)

He enlisted on April 23rd, 1942, joining the Volunteer Defence Corps, the ‘Dads Army’ or Home Guard equivalent for Australia. He would be appointed Acting Captain in ‘B’ Company, 20th Battalion VDC before ending up Battalion Second in Command (as a Captain) by 1945. When his children would ask about how he won the Military Medal, he would reply “Oh, I wore out a couple of pairs of boots!” though, he wouldn’t speak often of his wartime experiences. He died on September 1st, 1961 in Bundaberg, aged 67

He was entitled to the medal set below

777 (Q272567) John Paul McGrath D.C.M, M.I.D

John Paul McGrath was born on January 15th, 1896 in Yarragon, Victoria, the youngest of the three. During the pre-war period, he served with the Citizens Forces in ‘A’ Company, 11th Infantry Regiment (Darling Downs) CMF. He was a Farmer on enlistment. 

He enlisted on January 4th, 1915, assigned the service number 777 which was entirely coincidental as his older brother William had the service number 778, though the latter enlisted 4 months later. He was assigned to the 11th Light Horse Regiment, First Reinforcements. He embarked with his brother William on June 2nd, 1915.
Queensland Pictorial, on embarkation

He was assigned to ‘B’ Squadron, 11th Light Horse Regiment, training on Heliopolis, and whilst there, he went down with an in-grown toe-nail on August 4th, discharge date not shown. John then went down with Measles on August 22nd, discharged to duty on September 11th. He later became a temporary member of ‘D’ Squadron, 5th Light Horse Regiment with his brother and served with them on Gallipoli. He arrived on the peninsula on October 2nd, 1915. He went down with Jaundice on December 4th and was then transferred to another hospital on the 9th, then discharged to duty on the 10th. He embarked from Gallipoli on the night of December 18th-19th, 1915. He rejoined the 5th Light Horse Regiment on January 12th, 1916, then was taken on the strength of the 11th Light Horse Regiment on February 22nd at Heliopolis. He was sent to hospital at Tel-el-Kebir on May 2nd with VD, returning to duty on May 11th. He was back in hospital again on August 29th, then returned to the Regiment on September 4th. During the Second Battle for Gaza on April 19th, 1917, John Paul McGrath was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal and a Military Medal for the same action.

The recommendations both read..

'For conspicuous skill and devotion to duty at KHIRBET SIHAN on 19th April 1917 in pluckily rescuing from an exposed position, under fire, a Hotchkiss rifle after the whole of its team had been killed or wounded.'

His DCM appeared in the London Gazette on October 22nd, 1917 on page 10869 at position 13
His MiD appeared in the London Gazette on January 12th, 1918 on page 804 at position 48

Steve Becker has written on the Second Battle of Gaza, lightly mentioning McGrath..
While the 12th Company was advancing across Gaza-Beersheba road C Squadron of the 11th Light Horse Regiment, who was on the battalions far right flank, observed two machine guns nests in enfilade of them, Major Percy Bailey quickly ordered two troops under Lieutenant’s George Hoffman and Charles Clifford to rushed forward and capture these guns, except soon joined the 12th company in the capture of the last redoubt.

With this unexpected bonus in the capture of this first entrenchment now allowed Lieutenant John (Jock) Davidson, who had taken command after Captain Norris had been wounded, to push forward his company then rush the next redoubt? At this time the two troops from C Squadron supported the attack on the right flank while this mixed force of light horsemen and cameleers advanced on the last redoubt under a tormenting fire. Fortunately the enemy in the 2nd redoubt were still too stunned and disorganized to put up only a token resistance as they once more broke and ran to the rear towards Khirbet Sihan village as our men reached the Turkish works overrunning the frightened garrison.

One of the men to win the DCM that day was Private John McGrath of the 11th Light Horse, who rescued the crew of a Hotchkiss machine gun after they had been wounded, he would later join his brother in the 12th Company during in the war.

On May 31st, 1917 he was attached to duty with the 4th Light Horse Brigade Headquarters, returning to duty on June 24th. On August 21st, 1917 he joined his brothers in No.2 Company, 1st Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps. On February 17th, 1918 he was appointed Lance Corporal, then sent to the School of Instruction on May 31st. He rejoined No.2 Company on June 26th and a week later was, with his brothers, the nucleus for the 14th Light Horse Regiment on July 1st. He was with the Regiment at Mediggo and followed the Regiment throughout the Middle East and was appointed to Acting Corporal on October 22nd.

J P McGrath DCM, on right. North Syria, 1918.

He was attached to AIF Headquarters in Cairo on March 3rd, 1919. On April 1st, he was appointed substantive Corporal. He was marched out for embarkation to Australia on July 1st, embarking on the "Dongala" on July 24th, arriving in Australia on August 28th, 1919 at 2nd M.D. He was discharged on October 29th, 1919 after 5 years and 10 months in the service of the Australian Imperial Force.

Immediately after the war, he found work as a Manager of a Copra Plantation in New Guinea by 1921. He married May Margaret Douglas sometime in the 1920s and they lived in Papua New Guinea until the start of 1943 when he finally evacuated his family of two children, his wife and himself from the Japanese.

He enlisted into the Australian Military Forces on October 1st, 1943. He listed he was a carpenter and had served in the 14-18 war for 4 years and 290 days. He also lists his permanent address as Wau, New Guinea, which had been fought over during 1942-43. On October 31st he marched into the Recruit Reception Depot at Redbank. On November 18th, he then marched out to the Queensland Line of Communication unit for discharge. It was stated ‘Discharged because by reason of his age or standard of medical fitness he cannot be suitably posted in his present rank or grade’. He was discharged on November 20th, 1943 after a month and a half in the service. He had been an Acting Sergeant by some point.
Per WWII Dossier

By 1949, he was living at 71 Boundary Street, Townsville as a carpenter. In 1952, he was living at Ross River Road in Aitkenvale, still working as a carpenter. He died on February 18th, 1953 due to injuries sustained during a fall whilst working. A newspaper wrote ‘...John Paul McGrath, died three-quarters of an hour after his admittance to the Townsville General Hospital yesterday after a 30ft fall from a tank in the Townsville Regional Electricity Board’s new generating station in Hubert’s Well…. [McGrath] suffered a fracture of the left shoulder, a blade fracture of three ribs, a broken vertebrae in the spine, injured lungs and severe shock. He was rushed to the General Hospital by Townsville Ambulance, but passed away three-quarters of an hour later.’
He was only 57

He was entitled to the medal set below

Edited by tankengine888


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