Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Richard Fahay

Richard Fahay :

Richard Fahay : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Defence of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Defence of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'

Richard was born in March 1869 in Oldham, Lancashire. His mother was called Julia and he was a Roman Catholic, but we don't know anything else about the rest of his family or his early life.

By the time he was 20 Richard was working as a labourer. He must have wanted to improve his prospects though, because on the 25th September 1889 he travelled to Ashton-under-Lyne and enlisted in the Manchester Regiment.

When he joined the Army Richard was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall and weighed 119 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was accepted into the Manchester Regiment and given the service number 2683. His mother was now called Julia Rooney.

After his training at the Regimental Depot in Ashton, Richard joined the 1st Battalion in Tipperary, central Ireland on the 18th November. They had moved to Kinsale in County Cork by mid 1891, and it was from here that Richard deserted on the 12th May. He was absent without leave for the next 2 years.

When he rejoined the 1st Battalion, by now stationed in Limerick, he was immediately put on trial for his crime. The Court Martial sentenced him to four months imprisonment and also forfeited all his Army service up to that point. As he had enlisted for a fixed period this would keep Richard in the Army for longer than if he hadn't deserted.

After another year with the 1st Battalion Richard was posted to India and joined the 2nd Battalion in Dinapore (now Danapur in Bihar state) on the 11th October 1894. Soon after his arrival Richard contracted gonorrhoea. From February 1895 onwards he needed around 2 week's hospital treatment for this disease on 10 separate occasions over the next 2 years.

Richard left Dinapore with the 2nd Battalion in November 1897. They were sailing to the UK but he was leaving them and rejoining the 1st Battalion. After spending Christmas 1897 in Malta Richard travelled to Gibraltar and the 1st Battalion on the 7th February 1898.

During this period Richard was in trouble again. On the 13th January he had been tried by Court Martial on the charge of 'offering violence to his superior officer in the execution of his office'. This was a serious offence and he was sentenced to 56 days imprisonment with hard labour.

Shortly after his release Richard received a pay rise when he elected to 'come under the terms of Army Order Number 65 of 1898'. This ended the practice of deducting 2d per day from his pay to cover the cost of his food, but meant he would not receive the money back in a lump sum when he left the Army.

During 1899 Richard was once again imprisoned. On the 10th April he was sentenced to 56 days imprisonment with hard labour for 'disobeying a lawful command given by his superior officer'. During June and July he suffered another 2 attacks of gonorrhoea, both of which required hospital treatment.

During 1899 tensions between British and Boer settlers in South Africa began to rise, and in August the British Government decided to send the 1st Battalion to South Africa in case war broke out. Richard sailed to Durban. He was injured in the scalp on the 20th September and was not discharged until the day war was declared, the 11th October. He rejoined the 1st Battalion in the small town of Ladysmith in Natal. The war began badly for the British and by the 30th Ladysmith was under siege.

Richard and the 1st Battalion fought hard to stop Boer attempts to take the town, and would attack Boer artillery to stop it from shelling their positions. By the end of the siege food was in short supply and disease was widespread. The British relief force reached Ladysmith on the 28th February 1900.

Being at war does not seem to have affected Richard's conduct a great deal. He was imprisoned with hard labour for 14 days on the 15th June, although we don't know what he did.

During mid 1900 the British Army tried to force the Boers to face it in battle. They succeeded on the 21st August at the Battle of Belfast, or Bergendal. Richard took part in this battle, which lasted until the 27th and ended with the defeat of Boer forces and the capture of their temporary capital, Machadodorp (today called eNtokozweni). The Boers did not surrender; they fought on as guerrillas in small units, so Richard stayed in South Africa.

There were no battles on the same scale during the rest of the war. Richard took part in many smaller operations intended to restrict the Boer's movements and force them to face British soldiers. This strategy was eventually successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902.

Even after forfeiting his first 2 years service, Richard had now been in the Regular Army much longer than the 7 years he had signed on for. For this reason he left the 1st Battalion in South Africa and returned to the UK on the 23rd August. After 3 months at the Depot in Ashton he was transferred to the Army Reserve on the 2nd January 1903.

As a Reservist Richard was free to find a home and a job, but could be called back to the Army in an emergency. Normally a man would spend 5 years in the Reserve, but because of the extra time Richard had spent as a Regular this was reduced. He was discharged on the 22nd May 1905.

Richard's life is a mystery until 1915. The First World War had broken out the previous August and on the 17th May Richard rejoined the Army. He was assigned to the 6th Supernumerary Company of the Manchester Regiment and given a service number which we believe was 1451. He gave his mother as his next of kin, which suggests he had never married. She lived at 6 Bankside Close in Oldham.

Supernumerary Companies were made up of men to old or too unfit to serve abroad. They were used to guard railways and other vulnerable points in the UK. In April 1916 they were formed into the Royal Defence Corps. Richard joined the 322nd Protection Company on the 29th and was given the service number 18083 He was transferred to 343rd Protection Company 3 months later. After just a month he joined the 11th Battalion of the Royal Defence Corps, and then on the 6th April 1918 he was posted to 454th Protection Company. The 322nd and 343rd Companies were assigned to Western Command, and 454th Company was based in Ireland.

Richard was discharged from the Army on the 30th July 1918 as 'no longer physically fit for war service'. His character had been 'very good'. As he never served abroad he was not entitled to any First World War campaign medals. He did receive a pension however; by 1943 it was 10 shillings per week.

Richard died on the 27th May 1943 at Westwood Park Institution on Rochdale Road in Oldham (in 2012 the site of the Royal Oldham Hospital). He was about 74 years old and was suffering from senility. According to his death certificate he was also know as Richard Foie.

Richard's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1946. As well as his Queen's South Africa Medal, Richard was also awarded the King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901' and 'South Africa 1902' for his Army service.

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

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Tameside Metropolitan Borough logo
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council