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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

P. Molloy, Fraud or Hero?



On January 17th, 1922 on a Tuesday at 4pm, there was a crowd present in the A.I.F Cemetery in West Terrace. Among them were veterans, a grieving wife and step-children with bemedalled veterans of past campaigns standing fast alongside the mans comrade from his latest unit - the 10th Battalion; his former commanding officer, Brigadier Price-Weir was in attendance. ‘Old Peter’ Molloy’s experiences seem to be vast, in-fact he spoke of it multiple times. His usual story was that he enlisted at a young age as a Drummer Boy in the Highlanders under General Gordon, serving at Alexandria in 1882, Tel-el-Kebir, Nile Expedition of 1884, the Boer War under General Buller finishing as a Sergeant with the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He then went to serve on Gallipoli with the 10th Battalion where he lost a leg and later another one. However.. He never served in the Sudan and not even in the Boer War! He had been Patrick Molloy and deserted from the Militia in 1900! His whole story is this..

Patrick Molloy was born on June 1st, 1866 in New Monkland, Airdrie, Scotland to Charles Molloy and Bridget Rice. By 1881 he had left school and was working down the coal mines, however I have not been able to locate a definitive candidate in the 1891 census though his service in the Militia would explain his absence.PeterMolloy.png.57ad5a076890fccccd0ecda541be09bc.png

Patrick Molloy enlisted into the Militia on September 25th, 1883 and was assigned the service number 792 and assigned to the 4th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry Militia, signing on for 3 years in the Militia and 3 in the Militia Reserve. He was a mere Private when he moved to the Reserve on July 28th, 1886. On December 31st, 1886 at Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Private Patrick Molloy married Susan McAllister, then a 19 year old lass. They had two children, Patrick [b.1892] and Annie [b.1895]. Patrick Molloy re-enlisted into the Militia again on June 22nd, 1889 and was promoted on June 28th. On February 27th, 1890 Corporal Molloy transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He then re-enlists again on June 29th, 1893 and is noted until 1897. 

On June 14th, 1898 he re-enlists once again into the 3rd Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and is assigned the service number 3505 but is once again a Private before an appointment to Corporal 3 days later. On March 6th, 1899 he transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers. On July 26th, 1899 he once again was transferred to the Reserve with the service number 4104. On April 5th, 1900, Patrick Molloy deserted from the Militia Reserve.

From here, he dropped off the radar in 1900. He abandoned his wife and 2 children sometime after 1900. In February 1903, his wife Susan made an application for relief where it states; ‘Applicant is the wife of Patrick Milroy[sic] (37) who deserted her 2 months ago… He is a soldier in the Royal Scotch[sic] Fusiliers 3 Batt No.4104’. By this time, Susan was destitute and presumably thought he was still in the militia. Susan Molloy died on September 18th, 1926 in Lanarkshire; the fate of her children is unknown.

In 1912, Patrick Molloy immigrated to Australia and from thereon was mentioned by the name of Peter Molloy. He arrived in Adelaide and found work in Broken Hill, New South Wales as a coal miner. At 10pm on April 7th, 1913 Peter was working down the mine at a depth of 1250 feet when a stone slipped and fell on him. He suffered a few broken toes and was badly bruised. He appears to have also joined the Australian Citizens Military Force shortly after that, becoming a Private in the 82nd Infantry. Peter Molloy married widower Catherine Slavin (nee Walker) on December 6th, 1913 at the Church of Christ in Broken Hill. Catherine’s husband John Slavin had died in 1902 leaving her 4 children to cope with; It is worth mentioning that of her two sons that were of serving age, one of them served with the 27th Battalion [1915-19] under the name ‘Slater’.image.png.3eeb3f7e362f2859a60634c08098621d.png

In August 1914, the war had commenced and the dominions of the British Empire were called to arms. On August 23rd, 1914 Lieutenant Davey led the men of the 82nd Infantry to a train which would finish up in Adelaide where they would sign the papers. They landed in Morphettville the following day and Peter Molloy enlisted into the 10th Battalion on August 24th, 1914. He was allotted the serial number 520 and stated that he was only 37. After immediately being assigned to ‘H’ Company he began his training as a private soldier, however fate took him by the hand and he was duly appointed Corporal on September 1st, now commanding a section. A little over 2 weeks later the Battalion was presented with the Battalion Colours and 4 days later on the 21st marched past Parliament House in Adelaide. From there they trained in Glenelg. On October 20th the Battalion embarked from Adelaide on the HMAT Ascanius. After a long spell of traveling and stopping at multiple ports, they landed in Alexandria on December 4th, 1914; then onto Mena Camp. In January 1915, the whole of the Australian Imperial Forces was restructured from 8 Companies to 4 - each Battalion had a different way to merging the companies but in our case, Molloy’s ‘H’ Company was merged with ‘B’ Company to make ‘C’ Company which was now commanded by Captain Ross Jacob. On January 16th, 1915 Corporal Molloy reverted to Private after the strain of being a Corporal became too strenuous. After a few months training the Battalion embarked from Alexandria on March 1st, bound for Lemnos in preparation of the Gallipoli Campaign. On April 15th, the Battalion received their colour patches. On April 24th, the Battalion embarked; 2 companies on the HMS Prince of Wales and 2 other aboard the Scourge and Foxhound. Instead of reciting the war diary, I will present Private Molly’s April 25th;

When leaving the transport, the men were transferred to small boats, and oars were provided, but until a given signal all hands were ordered to keep the oars in the air. At about 3.45 a.m., when about 15 yards from the beach, the Turks commenced firing, and every man had to jump into the water. Our two companies, with the exception of a bugler named M'Neil(*), got ashore alright. M'Neil was hit, and in company with another soldier, Private Molloy went back and brought him out of the water, but he was dead. The order was given for the men to take off packs and fix bayonets, and they waited for no other order. As soon as the bayonets were on they all rushed towards the enemy's trenches. "The Australians are a splendid body of men," said Private Molloy, "in fact as soldiers thMolloy.jpeg.fda613594ea232237eb9e31e3f05a5f5.jpegey are as good as I have ever run across in all my army experience." he added, "I am highly pleased to have had the honor in my fourth campaign of being connected with such a fine body of men as the Australian soldiers. There is no fear of any kind in them." Continuing, Private Molloy said that other regiments with which he had been connected showed better discipline, but there were none who had proved themselves as manly as the Australians. They were very clever at the landing. When they got on the beach they acted on their own initiative, and waited for no orders whatever. It was every man for himself, officers included. He considered that, had they waited for orders, every man would have been lost. All battalions got mixed up for the time being, but they soon got the Turks on the run, and kept them on the run until they advanced over two miles inland. The Turks were good fighters with the rifle, but they would not face the steel. They were good snipers, and did much damage as such. One would be walking along and covered as they were with bushes, etc., one would sometimes trample over them. "A few hours after the landing," continued Private Molloy, "a Sergeant-Major handed me a trench tool, and suggested that I would be able to use it to better effect than he could. I took it, and had only moved away about 20 or 30 yards when I saw a couple of Turks' heads moving in a trench nearby. I was unable [at] first to tell whether they were our own boys, but their speech betrayed them, and as I approached they were shouting that they were 'dead.' Taking no risks at such a time, I shot one, and with the butt end of my rifle struck the other one on the side of the head. They had plenty of ammunition, and each had a rifle, and had I passed them they could easily have accounted for me. I subsequently examined them more closely, and found that both of them had been shot." On one occasion whilst entrenched, the order came for us to draw the bolts from our rifles and retire, leaving the rifles behind. We didn't see the wisdom of the order, and stood to our posts.'
(*) - There is a Bugler named McNeil listed with the 10th Battalion who served with Molloy’s Company, however it appears he was discharged in 1916 rather than killed in action on April 25th. 

The rest of the Gallipoli section of the article is very much suspicious and probably fictitious. Molloy was wounded sometime after the landing and prior to April 29th, suffering a right arm fracture and an explosive bullet to the legs. Private Molloy was admitted to No.15 General Hospital in Alexandria where it was diagnosed that his fracture was a serious wound, therefore he was on the H.M.T Ghourka on May 3rd before being transferred to the H.M.T Letitia the following day enroute to England. Private Molloy’s record shows no mention of any wounds to the lower leg, however he states in a newspaper that ‘an explosive bullet entered the wrist of my right arm, and smashing the bone and severing some of the sinews, came out on the other side. I was also slightly wounded on the head by a piece of shell’. Anyhow, by May 16th he was a patient at No.2 Western General Hospital in Manchester, England. He Molloy1916.png.bdb93ec18805f48610e2e0c7732d8d44.pngwould remain there for 5 months when on October 8th he was to return to Australia via the H.T Suevic, arriving back home on November 20th, 1915. Private Molloy was assigned to Keswick Hospital where he became a patient confined to a wheelchair. In an article from 1919, it states that Peter Molloy had a leg amputated at the knee at Keswick shortly after his return.

His ‘Walter Mitty’ getup seemed to first appear in a newspaper published on January 12th, 1916 when a newspaper from the Bendigo Advertiser had the headlines ‘BLACK WATCH VETERAN. Serves in Four Campaigns.’ It goes on to state his supposed service in the Sudan and the veldt and his slightly fictitious account of Gallipoli. On August 11th, 1916 at Hamley Bridge, South Australia, Peter Molloy was among a handful of ex-soldiers involved in a performance representing life on Gallipoli. It is recorded that the hall was crowded and money was raised for soldiers - they finished the night singing ‘Keep the watch fires burning’ with an encore cheering them on. Private Molloy was finally discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on December 8th, 1916

The performance at Hamley Bridge on August 11th spurred Molloy to join a concert party - on January 9th, 1917 he was involved at a performance raising funds for soldiers once again with the sales of buttons and badges. It was shortly after this performance that the concert party was known by the name of ‘Sergeant Barrett’s Concert Party’ who was the ranking soldier among the band of men. The following day they performed at Lady Galway’s Clubhouse on Henley Beach where as a tenor, Molloy sang ‘Annie Laurie’ and ‘There is always a home waiting for you my boy’ and was presented a gold medal. They did an encore at the Clubhouse the following day where he spoke of the landings on Gallipoli. On January 22nd they performed at Loxton; then at Freeling on January 31st. On ANZAC Day 1917, Sergeant Barrett and his concert party performed an act at Port Pirie High School. During this, Molloy spoke of his ‘prior’ experiences in the British Army and the meaning of his medals. A newspaper recorded what he spoke of..
‘It is a great pleasure to be present. It is well-known what day this represents the day of the great landing at Gallipoli. You all know we ConcertParty.png.fe87dde09a6e3b3a6d463da7c0d6c189.pngare returned soldiers. These medals I wear are not for a. game of football. . When [I was] a boy of 8, I was left to face the world alone. I was put to school till 16, but at 11 I joined the army as a band-boy. I volunteered in the 42nd Black Watch-at 15. General Gordon applied for seven' band-boys for active service from Scottish' regiments. I was one, and was in my first battle at 15-the bombardment of Alexandria for which I wear the Egyptian medal. General Gordon commanded the brigade, and I fought at Tel-el Kebir. I received a bar for this, and another for the Nile expedition of 1884. The star I wear-presented by Lord Kitchener-is for Egypt from 1884 to 1886. The next medal is for the Boer War in South Africa under General Buller. I received two medals for this-one the King's medal, with two bars, for South African service; then the Queen's medal, with seven bars, for seven engagements in S. Africa, which was the highest badge given to a private in the Boer War. .This final medal is for long service and good conduct for 30 years' service in the Black Watch. It is a medal for obedience. Never wait, but obey. There is no waiting ,in the. British Army. I came to Australia seven years ago, to Broken Hill. War broke out on August 4th, 1914(*). I volunteered on August 5th, 1914, enlisting in the famous Fighting Tenth. Remember my long service medal-do what you are told, arid at once. It is not a medal for war, but for good conduct and long service-within the reach of all. I urge you all to earn, if you do not receive, the medal for good conduct.’
* He states he enlisted on August 5th, however he enlisted 3 weeks later

Molloy performed throughout May, June, July, August and September acting as a Tenor. By the end of 1917, Molloy had decided to drop his act with the concert party, retiring himself to a soft-drinks business in Norwood, however he still attended functions which allowed him to attend as a veteran. On May 5th, 1918 he was one of the primary guests at a gathering of the Prahran and District Scottish Society; by this time, he was known as ‘Sergeant-Major Molloy’. At the outset of 1919, Peter Molloy was in the Adelaide Hospital where another leg was amputated as a result of the explosive bullet wound on Gallipoli.

PeterMolloy2.png.682add70a027b03b21eed759d6ac58bc.pngOn May 26th, 1919 Peter Molloy was in attendance alongside other members of the South Australian Corps of Veterans in a reception at Government House. It was raining on that day yet the band played and the veterans stood rigidly at attention. Sir Henry Galway the then Governor of South Australia inspected the veterans, and in a speech said; 
'They have all returned, thank God. Sgt. Molloy, of the Black Watch, has gone through several campaigns. He was present at the famous Gallipoli landing, where he lost both less and his right hand, and yet that wonderful man is looking as 'fit as a fiddle.' He is a credit to the 'Old Contemptibles' and the 10th Battalion. Although we have come practically to peace, we have yet ahead of us hard times, and it is in them that the example of  you veterans to the younger generation will be a stimulant. The upbringing, experience, discipline, and esprit that has always governed your lives makes you really an important part of the community. There is no doubting the fact that the discipline and esprit of army life represent a jewel worth millions of pounds, and the example you can get to the younger generation will be a great help to our statesmen and others in building the Empire afresh.'

On March 6th, 1920 General Birdwood arrived in Adelaide to present medals and inspect the now-demobbed diggers. He dished out the medals to the diggers before he turned to the ‘older’ veterans mostly from the South Australian Corps of Veterans who were paraded infront of Government House. Peter Molloy was at the end of the queue of veterans to be inspected and Birdwood was most sympathetic. He said to Molloy ‘You really ought not to have gone’ and continued ‘in view of your previous fine service to your country, and I sympathize with you most sincerely.’ On July 14th, 1920 his 1914-15 Star was presented to him by the then Prince of Wales at Government House. The Prince took interest in Peter Molloy, asking about his career. On August 27th a meeting of the limbless soldiers met the Minister of Repatriation, a certain Hon Laffer and they pointed out to the minister that they could not find work due to their disabilities. One of their key points included Peter Molloy who could not move through the doorway of a normal dwelling with his wheelchair. This apparently opened the ministers eyes to the issues faced by limbless repatriated soldiers and their meager pensions, stating he would put the issue forward in parliament. On November 26th, 1921 Peter Molloy attended one of his last public events. The event in question was a veterans reunion for members of the South Australian Corps of Veterans; he was one of 30 men to attend and appears to be the youngest out of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny veterans.

Peter Molloy died on January 16th, 1922, his cause of death was ruled to be Appendicitis. He was buried the following day with full military honours with his former Battalion Commander, now Brigadier Weir in attendance. Those who attended agreed that he should’ve been buried with a honour guard and pulled gracefully on a horse carriage.

Below is a picture of a much larger Peter Molloy wearing his 'full entitlement'. It appears to have the following..
Sudan Medal [2 clasps], Khedive Star, QSA [6 clasps], KSA [2 clasps], Army LS&GC Medal; sans 1914-15 Trio.




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