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Remembered Today:

Lt-Col. M.M.Hartigan, 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers


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   Could any Forum chum point me in the direction of any biographies or materials relating to this officer.  His name came up in regard to the possible identification of an unknown officer of the regiment, missing 21st March 1918-when many of this battalion were captured-inc. Hartigan.  I have been unable to locate any returned POW officer exoneration report for this man-though I would have expected one from the CO of a battalion where so many were captured. Nor an MIC for him- Medal Roll,yes-he is on the SA roll. But I am wondering if he was one of those possibly not exonerated  on return. The absence of a debrief is puzzling, that of the normal MIC even more so.  Probable that because he was classed as South African, then he was not required to give an exoneration.


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Thom's Irish Who's Who, 1923

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I presume the two private war diaires under Lt Col H M Hartigan & Lt Col Hartigan in TNA in regard East Africa and 1st African Mounted Bde are his? But just got an initial wrong?

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Ballymena Weekly Telegraph 25 February 1928


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Hartigan's Horse was raised, equipped and trained for operational service within a period of two weeks. A serving member and officer of the South African Police, Lieutenant Colonel Hartigan, was authorised by the Minister of Defence of the Union of South Africa to raise a unit to serve in the German South West African campaign. Hartigan was the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police in the Eastern Division of the Cape Province.
Headquarters were established in East London in December,1914 and the unit was already at full strength by the end of January, 1915.More than 100 potential recruits had to be turned away. Four squadrons were then formed.
"A" Squadron was formed with members of the Southern Rifles and they were from the territories that formed the Transkei.
"B" Squadron was initially formed from a nucleus of men from the Eastern Division of the South African Police. Mundell joined this Squadron and was posted to "B" Troop. Like all South African Policemen who joined the Regiment, he was attached to the Union Defence Force "for service in the field" from 17 January 1915.
"C' Squadron was formed from the Transkei Mounted Rifles.
"D" Squadron consisted of new recruits and their training was conducted by members from the South African Police.
The Regiment had many experienced military and police veterans which were conducive to their quick preparation and training. These elite included men from the England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Australia and even Denmark.
The Regiment had the reputation of being one of the finest "fighting" regiments that was established for the German South West Africa campaign. With very few exceptions, all the members of the South African Police returned to their police duties with effect from 31 May 1915.


ref click

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56th Surrey (Epsom and Banstead) Battalion Home Guard

This unit was raised in May, 1940, under the Command of Lt. Col. M. M. Hartigan C.M.G., D.S.O., with Major J. N. Eggar, who had resided in the district for many years, as Adjutant.

It was originally recruited in Epsom and Ewell, but in July was amalgamated with the Banstead Unit, and became the 56th Surrey (Epsom and Banstead) Battalion. It also has a Company to the N.W. of Epsom.

We were particularly fortunate in having so experienced an officer as Col. Hartigan as our first Commander. He set a high standard of efficiency. Unfortunately, ill-health overtook him, and he resigned in October, 1941, being succeeded by Lt Col JN Eggar.

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     Thanks Corisande. His South African/East African career seems quite well covered hither and thither-but 2RMF is a bit of a blank.  The thread on possible ID of officer,Lt W.S.Kidd has some bits from Kidd's file-Hartigan gets mentioned. he gave wrong information to the compiler of the POW list on which the officer was listed-and after the war wrote that he had not seen the other officer die but based his report on talking tG german officers after he was captured-Thus, I fully expected a debrief report on hi if only for Casualties Branch to pick his brains for the fate of other officers and men-and hopefully, give a little bit more info. on the undientified officer. . It is possible that because he was South African he might not have fallen within the orbit of the Advocate General- so what I hope for starters is some evidence he was British Army -rather thans seconded. Then I can work out why there is no debrief-or-what has happened to it.

   I have not jhistories of RMF as yet but it seems a little odd that such a distinguished soldier's time with "RMF should be such a blank.

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Have you read

"A Few Notes on German Treatment": The Diary of 3185 Sergeant Charles Mills, Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1918

Hartigan is mentioned a few times in that, and covers capture  POW time


As an aside , the notes on his medal sale gives he was first in 10th RDF before RMF


Ex Sotheby’s 3.3.1983, lot 349.

Marcus Michael Hartigan was born in 1878 and educated at Portora School, Enniskillen. He served in the Boer War and was wounded. In the Great War, he raised and commanded Hartigan’s Horse serving in S.W. Africa and then with the 9th South African Horse he served in East Africa. Later he served with the 10th battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and 2nd battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers in France. With the ‘Munsters’ he was wounded and captured (31.3.1918). For his services in the war he was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the C.M.G. and D.S.O. and bar.


A curious battalion for him to join as a "distinguished soldier".(I say that without predjudice as my grandfather served in 10th RDF). Do you have the dates he joined and left RDF

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LG 26 Jun 1917 shows his UK Commission under memoranda (does not give a regiment)  - LG entry click


LG in Aug 1917 shows him relinquishing SA commission - LG entry click


LG on 20 Nov 1919 gives him relinquishing his General List commission - click for LG entry


LG does not appear to mention any attachment to RDF or RMF that I can find

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All slightly curious. Should have been straightforward enough. British officer-British file-British debrief-British MIC-and zit.  I have been chasing WO161 queries as to whether anyone was not exonerated on return from POW. -MOD have been very helpful on this. There is some evidence that there was an organised section within either Adjutant General or Advocate General (depending on how one interprets AG3 as an abbreviation) and more evidence it had its own registry system and and allocation of numbers-which,given the numbers, may be just a single reference ledger. Given that anyone "problematic" might be closed for 100 years (and we are not there yet, if interviews were 1919 onwards), then it is possible that Hartigan may have been a "withheld"  After all, there would be no point in quite an elaborate system of interviews and debriefs-a chunk of them printed up as well- if nobody failed. And if anyone's conduct was problematic, then where is the material?

    I do not know what happened to 2 RMF on 21st March 1918 but it lost heavily and was overrun. Even if his conduct was spotless, I would have expected Hartigan's account to be the first sought on his return in December 1918. Most curious.

     Thanks for confirming he was British commissioned. I think I will go and check Denys Reitz-"Commando" as well and compare records- Reitz is the only other South African I know who ended up commanding a British infantry battalion.

     Was there any controversy over what happened to 2RMF???     I hope that Laughton's researches on 2 unknown RMF officer casualties will bear fruit and they can be properly identified and commemorated in due course. 

   Now-next task- citation for DSO-and see if that dodges British army serviceand is for South African work.


Extra- Something doesn't look quite right here-  Denys Reitz has both British officer file and British MIC.  So Hartigan lacking both looks worthy of a bit more searching

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Could his debriefing just have been "weeded" from his officer file


The officer's file would have held a debrief, for example

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  That is what I would have expected to find-somewhere. Now,I suspect we can agree on one thing here. MIC-well, missing occasionally (but not often), officer files- I have only one missing out of some 200 officers looked at. No debrief report on WO161. A combination of all 3 is the first time I have encountered multiple missing records.   May I ask if there is anything much your side of the Irish Sea about RMF in 1918???? (That might be unknown to me-well, that's pretty much everything actually-RMF do not seem well covered in recent work)

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I don't have it, but there is


Jervis, Herbert Swynfen (1922). The 2nd Munsters in France. Gale & Polden.


It appears only to be 71 pages, so it cannot have a lot of detail

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  • 3 years later...


The following account, which now lies with the Battalion’s War Diary in the Public Record Office, London, was written by Major M.M. Hartigan. He was an officer of the South African Forces on secondment to the Royal Munster Fusiliers and took over command of the 2 RMF after Lt. Col. H.R.H. Ireland (of Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary, 3rd Leinsters attached RMF) was fatally wounded. It was written from Holzminden Prisoner of War Camp on 13 April 1918 and was an account which he wrote on cigarette paper and had smuggled out of the camp.

“I hope this will reach you. It has to follow an unusual route. I want you to communicate its contents to the Brigadier, who I sincerely hope is safe. If he has unfortunately been captured, you had better send it to Col. Webb at Division, as someone who cares must know how the 2nd Munsters ceased to exist. We appeared in no British Communique, but this is a quotation from the German one of 23.3.18:- ‘Heights of EPEHY captured after hard struggle in which the British were surrounded’. Col. Ireland was hit about 10.30 a.m. and I fear fatally. MALASSISE Farm was outflanked through the old copse and fell early but not without gallant resistance by the garrison. After my capture I was taken there, and some German staff officers were most complimentary about Lt. Kidd’s fine defence and regretted that he was severely wounded”.
“A company had been ordered to counterattack at MALASSISE Farm, but Lieut. Cahill was killed and I never succeeded in getting communication with the company as it must have been cut off very early. With two companies wiped out and realization of the weight of the enemy’s attack I decided that the most effective fight I could put up would be to keep a wedge thrust forward into the enemy’s advance while exposing to his attack as narrow a front as possible, and our battle formation which our brigade had directed us to take up in good time, two days before, made this feasible. By this time, with the assistance of the fog, the enemy had broken into ROOM TRENCH and M post had fallen, but U post under Lieut. Dooley was doing great execution. I ordered Capt. Chandler with two platoons of B company to make a strong point on the EPEHY side of the railway cutting close to the battalion aid post. When U post was taken about noon, Lieut. Dooley and a few survivors fell bake on RIDGE RESERVE but what became of them eventually I don’t know”.

“The outstanding feature of our defence was the magnificent fight maintained throughout the day in RIDGE RESERVE and TETARD WOOD by C Company and a few of B. the soul of this defence was Lieut. Whelan MC who contested every bay in his trench and continued to rally and lead any men he could get hold of until noon the following day. Lieut. McElnea, though suffering from a painful wound, continued to fight until ordered back late in the day (21st). when the mist rose the enemy were discovered in mass in CATELET Valley and suffered severely at our hands. Rifle an M.G. fire from RIDGE RESERVE prevented the enemy from moving artillery up the MALASSISE road and every attempt up to 4 p.m. resulted in horses and drivers being shot down, and this effective fire was maintained in spite of the fact that in addition to repeated attacks on our right flank the enemy were engaging RIDGE RESERVE in reverse from MALLASSISE Farm. By 4.30 p. m. the enemy assault troops had pressed Lieut. Whelan back into the last two or three bays in TETARD Wood from where he side-stepped into the trench at the head of CATELET Valley”.
“The enemy were then closely investing the strong point in the railway cutting where Bn HQ were when the battle commenced and, as the capture of Lieut. Whelan and his party appeared imminent, I ordered him to fall back fighting on the ruins of EPEHY and with the survivors of B Company continued to dispute possession of the village with the enemy. B Company, under Capt. Chandler in the strong point, had done fine execution throughout the day and more than anything else prevented the enemy’s advance from MALASSISE Farm. The unit sent up to our support on that flank was tied down by the enemy’s fire to the railway line and did not deploy sufficiently to the left to get in touch with us though this unit doubtless found a few stragglers of D or A Companies lining the embankment”.
“Through the gap thus left the enemy eventually forced his way, drove back the unit referred to, and practically surrounded our position. So much I expected sooner or later but hoped it would not occur before nightfall. In any case we could fight on while ammunition lasted but we had used an enormous quantity. In falling back on EPEHY my intention was to reinforce the unit in that position and, if eventually driven out, to make our last stand in the YELLOW LINE and the village. From there I had been able to keep up communication throughout the day with B and C Companies and with Brigade by runner”.
“About 6 p.m., while giving the adjutant some instructions, a man on look-out reported that the Germans were just outside the dugout. I ordered everyone to get into the trench (YELLOW LINE) where I had expected to find the troops who had been garrisoning it throughout the day under comparatively easy conditions. I led the way out of the dug-out and, on reaching the duckboard, I at once saw a group of the enemy standing on top of the dug-out. A German officer covered me with his revolver, but I dodged and, shouting ‘Come on’, ran for the trench”.
“On reaching it I turned to the left and to my surprise found the enemy in the next bay. The garrison had had left the trench without even warning me though I had been in touch with the platoon commander all day and had lent him a Lewis Gun. I doubled back and, seeing no sign of any of my own people, concluded that on taking the trench they had gone to the right which would be the safer direction”.
“It was getting dark and a party of troops I took to be ours turned out to be the enemy. I was capture. Lieut. Whelan and 2nd Lieut. Dennehy held out in EPEHY until noon the next day when they joined me as prisoners having fired their last round and thrown the last bomb before surrendering. I wish I knew what happened to Capt. Waldegrave, Lieut. Strachan and RSM Ring. The first-named rendered splendid service but I suppose if he was captured instead of killed nothing can be done for him. Same with Whelan and Dennehy prisoners. Enemy aircraft gave us a bad time. C Company brought one down in a trench with a Lewis gun fire. One of the men brought another down with a single shot from his rifle; killed the pilot. The battalion runners did splendidly. See the people at home do what they can for our men who are prisoners. The officers will be alright. Hope you have got our kits away. If you did, try and hurry them home to Cox so that our people can get at them. Take a copy of this please and keep it for me. Write all the news you can. You will probably have heard of some of the fellows I can’t account for”.




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