Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Francis McGonnell

Francis McGonnell :

Francis McGonnell : Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Francis was born in late 1819 in Athlone, County Westmeath in Ireland. We don't know anything about his early life or family.

By 1835 Francis was living in Madras, India. On the 13th May he enlisted in the 63rd Regiment of Foot, aged 15 years and 9 months. He was given the service number 1030. At the time the British divided India into 3 provinces, known as Presidencies. The 63rd would be based in the Madras Presidency until it left India in August 1847.

Francis was appointed to be a Drummer on the 29th February 1836. He held this job until March 1839, when he became a Private again. Drummers passed messages and orders between different parts of the Regiment, as well as keeping time during marches. As a Private Francis fought in the ranks of the regiment. He became a drummer again on the 5th September 1840 and remained one until June 1848. During this time he was awarded 2 Good Conduct Badges, and the increased pay that went with them, in July 1846 and July 1848.

By mid 1848 the 63rd Regiment was stationed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and nearby Sunderland. Francis was promoted to Corporal on the 7th April 1849. The regiment moved to Preston and Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire during 1849, and then sailed to Ireland in 1851. It was in Dublin by May 1852. Francis was awarded a 3rd Good Conduct Badge and pay rise on the 1st April 1853.

The Crimean War broke out in October 1853, and Britain and France declared war on Russia in March 1854. At first the 63rd Regiment was not intended to take part in this fighting, but in June it was ordered to prepare to go to war.

Francis was promoted to Sergeant on the 4th May, but did not sail to war with the rest of the Regiment. We don't know why this was, or where he served after they had left. The 63rd Regiment's Depot stayed in Ireland, and was based in Birr, King's County, for a time.

On the 1st December 1855 Francis was promoted to Colour Sergeant. After just over 2 months he left the 63rd Regiment and was assigned to the King's County Rifles for 7 months, between February and September 1856. This was a new Militia unit, formed to allow more Regular soldiers to be sent to the Crimea. On the 1st October Francis was posted to the 4th West York Militia.

Militia units were made up of men who lived as civilians and trained as soldiers for a short period every year. They had been called into full-time service during the Crimean War, but by mid 1856 this had ended and the units began to be disembodied, or released from service.

Francis was attached to the 4th West York Militia until the 12th August 1858. On this date he left the 63rd Regiment and joined the Permanent Staff of this unit in Leeds.

When he was discharged Francis' character was assessed as 'good'. He would have received a 4th Good Conduct Badge if he had not been promoted to Sergeant, and in April 1856 he was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, as well as a gratuity of 10.

Francis was 39 years old when he left the 63rd Regiment. He was 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a 'fair' complexion, blue eyes and fair hair.

Francis' life is a mystery between 1858 and 1871. In this year he was living at 6 Crown Street in Kirkgate, Leeds and working as a clothier. He was married to a woman named Mary. We don't know when they had married, or if they had any children.

Ten years later the couple had moved to nearby Otley, where they lived on Guycroft. They now lived off Francis' Army Pension. His 6 year old nephew Frank Grant Hodges was living with them at the time.

The rest of Francis' life is a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in January 1945.

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
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council