Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Michael Terence Downey

Michael Terence Downey :

Michael Terence Downey : India General Service Medal with ‘Burma 1930-32’ clasp; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-45; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

India General Service Medal with ‘Burma 1930-32’ clasp; Defence Medal; War Medal 1939-45; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Michael was born on the 19th October 1907 in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin. His father was also called Michael and his mother, Margaret. He was one of 5 children. It is believed that he was orphaned but circumstances are not known.

It is thought that aged 16 he went to Liverpool to sign up for the army. It appears he lied about his age on army records, putting his birth date as 1905 meaning he would have ‘officially’ been 18 years of age. Michael joined the army on the 22nd August 1924 and was placed in the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment with the service number 3519969. His trade on enlisting was a labourer.

Michael served in numerous locations around the world. Between 1925 and 1926 he was stationed in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine following the First World War. In 1926 he sailed for Burma where he served until 1932. He was promoted to Corporal in 1930.

In 1936 Michael transferred to the 5th Battalion of the Nigeria Regiment, Royal West African Frontier Force. In peace time this was a garrison force stationed in the British colonies of West Africa. He was promoted to Sergeant in 1936, and to Colour Sergeant in 1938.

During the Second World War the 5th Battalion of the Nigeria Regiment served in Burma with the 5th West Africa Brigade. By this time Michael had been promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major. Between 1942 and 1943 Michael spent several periods in hospital and on recuperative leave, although it not clear for what reason. He returned to Britain in April 1943. By the end of the Second World War Michael had been promoted to Warrant Officer Class I, the highest rank of non-commissioned officer in the British Army. He married Elsie on 26 June 1943 and they lived at 100 Moss Street in Ashton-under-Lyne.

He was described as ‘A first Class W O. [Warrant Officer]… very keen and worked hard’. He received many awards for his hard work, including a meritorious service award as well as many letters congratulating him for his capability and exemplary service.

A reserved, conscientious Warrant Officer who commands the respect of all ranks. A thoroughly reliable man who puts heart and soul into whatever job he is given. He is fully qualified for a position of trust in civil life.

In February 1949 Michael joined the 49th AA WKSP Coy (REME) which was part of the Territorial Army. It is mentioned in documentation that by this time his wife was an ‘invalid'. However despite his domestic difficulties he had attended every drill and camp, and raised the efficiency, morale and enthusiasm of the soldiers in the unit.

Between 1954 and 1958 he worked in the orderly room of the Headquarters of the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment as a civilian clerk and TA Warrant Officer.

Michael left service in 1958 and returned to full civilian life. Michael passed away on 5 September 1968.

Michael’s medals were donated to the museum collections in 2014.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Tameside Metropolitan Borough logo
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council