Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

James Patrick McGrath

James Patrick McGrath : Photograph of James in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MRP/7F/001

Photograph of James in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/7F/001

James Patrick McGrath : India General Service Medal with clasp 'Burma 1930-32'

India General Service Medal with clasp 'Burma 1930-32'

James was born in around March 1909 in Failsworth, Manchester. We don't know anything about his early life or family. He was a Roman Catholic.

By September 1926 James was working as a collier in a mine, but he must have wanted to escape this life because on the 29th he enlisted in the Manchester Regiment. He was just 17 at the time, too young to enlist, so he lied about his age. The lie worked, and James was given the service number 3521678.

James' true age was discovered, so he was discharged on the 3rd February 1927 'having made a mis-statement as to age'. His conduct had been 'Good', however. He returned to 55 Maple Street in Hollinwood, Oldham, and his work in the mine.

James tried again on the 9th February 1928. This time he told the truth about his age and was accepted. We don't know anything about his career until 1931. At some point after his training he travelled to India and joined the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. They had been based in Burma until 1929 and then moved to Secunderabad in India.

In December 1930 a rebellion broke out in several regions of Burma. The authorities requested more troops from India to help restore control, so James and the 2nd Battalion deployed to the country in June 1931. They took part in patrols of the jungle and villages in their allotted area until the rebellion was brought to an end by early 1932. James returned to Secunderabad in early February. He was awarded the 2nd Class Army Certificate of Education after examinations held in Trimulgherry, on the edge of Secunderabad, between the 25th and 27th April 1932.

The 2nd Battalion left India and moved to Khartoum in Sudan during October 1932, and returned to the UK on the 13th December 1933. They were then stationed in Strensall, Yorkshire until 1938.

James had been promoted to Lance Corporal by mid 1935. On the 22nd June he married Alice Middleton at York Register Office. Their first child, Kathleen, was born at Strensall on the 8th March 1936. By this time James was a member of C Company. He was promoted to Corporal on the 21st May.

James was a keen footballer, and in early 1937 he was selected to play for Catterick Garrison in their match against Middlesbrough Football Club. The game was played on St Patrick's Day, the 17th March, but we don't know the result. James and Alice's second child, James Patrick junior, was born between April and May 1937.

In 1936 the 2nd Battalion began to convert from an infantry unit to a mechanised machine gun battalion. This meant soldiers needed to be trained in driving, vehicle maintenance and machine gun shooting. This was a long process, and it was not until June 1937 that James was able to attend a Machine Gun Qualifying Course at the Small Arms School in Netheravon, Wiltshire. He was still a member of C Company at this time.

The Second World War broke out in September 1939. James fought in Burma during the war and was Mentioned in Despatches for outstanding conduct. The 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment fought in Burma, but we don't know whether James was with them.

By mid 1948 James was a Company Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion. From early 1949 he was assigned to C Company.

The 1st Battalion was stationed in Wuppertal near Dusseldorf in West Germany during this period. In mid 1949 James was sent to hospital with serious stomach problems. In the autumn he was posted to the Regimental Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne, and seems to have left the Army soon after this. He went to live at 160 Carlisle Street in Werneth, Oldham, and found work as a stock clerk at the New Day Furnishing Company.

Unfortunately James was taken ill soon after he left the Army. He died on the 4th June 1950, aged 41. His friends were sad to hear of his death. They remembered his 'football and other sporting abilities. He was well liked by all who came into contact with him'.

James' medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in around 1960. The photograph shows that he was also awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Burma Star, the 1939-45 War Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaf and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He may also have received the 1939-45 Defence Medal.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
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Telephone: 0161 342 5480
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council