4Martin Doyle VC, MM
- Aug 12, 2008
Not a relative, but the following appeared in one of the Irish Genealogy lists last month re CSM Martin Doyle VC, MM
Interesting to me in that here’s a man who joined an Irish Regt pre WW1, served through WW1 with distinction, joined the IRA during the War of Independence, the Free State Army during the Civil War and then served post war in the formative years of the new state.
It would be interesting to know what made him switch from the British Army to the IRA.
A picture of CSM Doyle is online at :
Martin DOYLE, an Irish soldier who won the Victoria Cross, the
highest British award for gallantry in battle, is unlikely to be remembered
with total pride in British military annuals. After returning home a hero
from the Great War in France , where he also won the Military Medal, he threw
in his lot with the national struggle for freedom in 1920 and spent the next
few years fighting the Crown forces in Ireland . With the ending of the War
of Independence he signed up with the new Free State army and saw more
action in the Civil war that followed the treaty. When peace came again he
continued to serve in the Irish army, ending his career in Dublin ' s McKee
Barracks in 1937.
Per article by Hilary MURPHY (with photo of Martin DOYLE w/ King George V
and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace) in the 1994 #4 issue of "Irish Roots"
magazine published in Cork, the man with this distinguished and chequered
military career was born in Gusserane, in the New Ross District of Co.
Wexford. His father, Larry DOYLE, worked on the land to make a modest
living. When Martin was a boy the family moved into New Ross town. After
leaving school, he worked with a local farmer, but on St. Stephen ' s Day 1909
he went to Kilkenny and joined the 18th Royal Irish Regiment largely
recruited from Cos. Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford and Tipperary - claiming to
be 17 though two years younger. Showing a propensity for soldiering, after
an initial stint of home service he was drafted to India where he advanced
himself, attending night classes and courses whenever possible. Good at
sports, he became the Regimental novice lightweight champion in 1913.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 DOYLE was called home with his regiment. In
December (now serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers), he was posted in
France and was soon in the thick of the fighting. His leadership was soon
recognised and he was promoted to Sergeant in 1915. He was one of the lucky
ones to survive the slaughter at Mons . Martin rose though the ranks to
Company Sergeant-Major, and transferred to the 1st Battalion, Royal Munster
Fusiliers CSM DOYLE won his first medal for bravery, the Military Medal, 24
March 1918, while serving at Hattenfield in France .
His unit was in reserve when the front-line troops were driven back by the
Germans. Called in to restore the situation, the Munsters recaptured
Hattenfield and then advanced towards the trenches outside the town.
Skirmishing with the enemy they soon came under sustained, deadly
machine-gun fire from a derelict barn situated in a ' no-man ' s-land ' between
them and the Germans, a mere 40 yards away. Calling for volunteers, DOYLE
led a bayonet charge on the barn. Reaching it alone, he routed the Germans,
seized the machine-gun and took possession of the barn. Some time later he
was captured by the enemy - although roughly treated, he was released by a
successful counter-attack by his regiment.
The Wexford soldier was to display even greater bravery six months later.
Near Riencourt on 2 Sept. 1918, he became a select band of Irishmen (29 in
the course of WWI) to merit the Victoria cross for ' conspicuous bravery. '
The official announcement: ' When command of the company devolved upon him
consequent upon officer casualties, and observing that some of his men were
surrounded the enemy, he led a party to their assistance, and by skilled
leadership worked his way along the trenches, killed several of the enemy
and extricated the party and carried back, under heavy fire, a wounded
officer to a place of safey. Later seeing a tank in difficulties, he rushed
forward again under intense fire, routed the German troops, who were
attempting to commandeer it, and prevented the advance of another German
party. A German machine gun now opened fire on the tank at close range,
rendering it impossible to get the wounded away, whereupon DOYLE, with great
gallantry, rushed forward, and single-handed silenced the machine gun,
capturing it with three prisoners. He then carried a wounded man to safety
under very heavy fire. Later in the day when the enemy counterattacked his
position, he showed great power of command, driving back the enemy and
capturing many prisoners. Throughout the whole of these operations, DOYLE
set the very highest example to all ranks by his courage and total disregard
of danger. '
After the war ended, Martin DOYLE was welcomed on his arrival in his home
town of New Ross in March 1919. His proud parents and a large crowd of
soldiers, townspeople greeted him at the railway station: The local
newspaper reported - ' The meeting between the young hero and his aged
parents was very touching: going straight to his mother and father he
embraced them. He was escorted to his home in Mary Street amidst a scene of
great enthusiasm. As they approached the Royal Hotel a trumpeter standing on
the steps sounded a stirring bugle call which evoked ringing cheers. There
was a profusion of decorations in the town along with scrolls bearing words
of welcome to the New Ross hero. '
Then came the day when Martin went to Buckingham Palace in London to be
decorated with the Victoria Cross and Military Medal by King George V. He
was the only Irishman among the five recipients of the VC that day, together
with two Englishmen and two Scotsmen. A bright future lay ahead of him in
the British army with the promise of a commission but the Wexford man had
very different ideas that would have been anathema to the King and his
military authorities. He retired from the British army in July 1919 and
joined the IRA when the Irish War of Independence was at its height. He
became an intelligence officer in the Mid-Clare Brigade, and was active
throughout 1920 and 1921 in Ennis. On at least one occasion he was under
such suspicion that he considered taking to the hills with his rifle. On
another occasion he went to Kilrush on a mission and, due to faulty
information, he almost fell into a trap. During the Civil War he served with
the Free State Army in Waterford , Kilkenny and South Tipperary . He was
wounded in the left arm in Limerick in early 1923. After the Civil War ended
he was posted back to his home town of New Ross for a spell. When he retired
from the Irish army in 1937, now married with three daughters, he took up
pensionable employment in the Guinness Brewery as a security officer. The
army authorities were very reluctant to let him go. He was described as ' an
excellent NCO, a very good Vickers machine gun and rifle instructor, and
someone who could not be replaced without serious inconvenience to the
service. ' Not totally severing his army links, he spent a further year and a
half in the 2nd Batallion Regiment of Dublin Army Reserve. Having spent 9
years 5 months in the British army service, 2 years in the Old IRA, 15 years
5 months in the regular Irish army, he hung up his uniform on 25 Jan 1939,
just as new war clouds were threatening. Sadly, he was not destined to enjoy
his hard-earned retirement. Stricken with polio, he died 20 Nov 1940, in Sir
Patrick Dun ' s Hospital, Dublin , at 46. This great but little remembered
Irish soldier rests in peace in Grangegorman British military burial place,
off Blackhorse Ave., near McKee Barracks, Dublin, under a headstone erected
by his old comrades in the regiment.
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