John O' Loughlin

Co. 51

John O' Loughlin

John O' Loughlin was born around the year 1880, around the area of Ennistymon, a village in north west Clare. There were about five John O' Loughlins born around this time in the area. We know very little about John's family background. His father, Thomas O' Loughlin, was a farmer, so we think  John came from a farming background.

John O' Loughlin married Catherine (Katie) Duff in 1909. They moved into 21 Bogberry street in Ennistymon shortly afterwards. Katie's brother, Patrick , and her father, Michael, lived with them. John, Michael and Patrick operated a shoemaking business from the house. Patrick later emigrated to America in 1926. We think that Katie's father Michael must have suffered from some form of brain disease as he is recorded as an imbecile in the 1911 census.

21 Bogberry Street today

Katie Duff

Katie and Johns' Marriage Certificate

Katie and John had five children. They had four sons - Michael, Patrick, Dennis and John, and one daughter, May. Sadly, their son Patrick died age one.

Katie's father, Michael Duff, came to Ennistymon in 1855 with his wife Katie Carmody. Katie's mother and grandmother were also called Katie. Katie had four brothers -  Michael, Thomas, Dennis and Patrick. Katie died in 1947.


Why did he fight in the war?

I was lucky enough to meet the grandson of my soldier, Michael O' Loughlin, and he had an interesting theory on why John O' Loughlin fought in World War I. He believes his grandfather had been in the British Army prior to World War I, and when the war broke out he was called up from the reserves. Michael O' Loughlin had gathered quite a bit of evidence to suggest this theory. We know that John O' Loughlin had been an instructor with the Irish Volunteers before World War I broke out. If you look at the picture of John O' Loughlin you can see what looks like an X on the sleeve of his uniform, this is actually crossed rifles. This symbol indicated he was a marksman, which is somebody who is skilled in precision shooting. Both of these facts would suggest he had previous training in weaponry.


Above are two photos of the army before the First World War that were found in the house at 21 Bogberry Street.


Michael found a John O' Loughlin recorded in the 1901 census at Thomcliffe Camp, a military camp in England. This John O' Loughlin was recorded as being nineteen and Irish, which fits the profile of his grandfather. Above on the right is the handwritten entry for the census.

John in the War and his death

John was a sapper in the 3rd Division, 56th Field Company, Royal Engineers and his service number was 4827.

A sapper is a soldier who carries out a number of military engineering tasks. Sappers would be involved in repairing and constructing communication links for their own side, while impeding those of their enemies. Sappers are also trained to serve as infantry personnel. Sappers would be the equivalent of a private in other corps.

To the right is a picture of the War Diaries for the 3rd Division, 56th Field Company, Royal Engineers. We can see that the 3rd Division, 56th Field Company, Royal Engineers departed on the 16th of August 1914 from Southhampton on the SS Fauvette. On August 17th the company reached Rouen before continuing onto Landrecies. The company reached Landrecies on the 19th of August and joined up with the rest of the 3rd Division. Over the course of the next three days they marched about 40 miles before arriving at Mesvin. On August 23rd they participated in their first battle, the battle of Mons. We can also see record of some of the work they were involved in, for example sections one, three and four were ordered to build bridges over the canal. There were 22 casualties on this day.

John died on the 14th of January 1915, according to his medal card index he was killed in action. To the right is a picture of the War Diaries entry for the 3rd Division, 56th Field Company, Royal Engineers for the beginning of January. We can see that on the 14th of January one man is recorded as dead, and we presume it is John O' Loughlin. Unfortunately, the entries for the 8th to the 13th of January are recorded as missing so I don't know what exactly he was doing before his death. He would have died around the region of Kemmel and is buried in the Wytschaete Cemetery in Belgium.

John's grave in Wytschaete Cemetery in Belgium.

Catherine, John's wife, grave on which he is also remembered.

On the left is a picture of John's medal card. He was awarded three medals- the 1914 Star Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

I found out about the My Adopted Soldier project through my teacher and immediately decided I wanted to enter, and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions of my life. This project was so special and I'd like to begin by thanking Gerry Moore and all his team for giving me this opportunity because it was incredible and I know I'll never forget it.


Like many others on the project I used the census and genealogy sites, but I was also lucky enough to meet the grandson of my soldier, Michael O' Loughlin. After founding out where my soldier had lived, my parents and I drove up to Ennistymon to see if we could locate his home. Having found the street we proceeded to ask a man cutting his lawn if he know of the house or the family, we were extremely fortunate as he know both. He pointed out the house to us, which turned out to directly opposite, and also gave us directions to Michael's house.  I then headed back down to the village, along with my parents, to knock on Michael's door and explain our purpose there. I cannot describe how welcoming and friendly he was to us. He was more than willing to help us with any information needed, and even took us to visit the wife of my soldiers' grave. He was absolutely invaluable to my research, and I owe him a huge thanks.

The Trip

The trip to Belgium was a whirlwind of memories and emotions. It's hard to convey what it felt like to stand in these cemeteries. It really hammered home the sheer number of deaths that occurred during the First World War. I know that you read about the figures but when you're out there you actually begin to put a perspective on it, when you're standing in these cemeteries and realise all these graves represent just a tiny fraction of the number of men who died.

On the Friday we visited the German cemetery at Vladslo which again showed the death toll and highlighted the cruel nature of war. There are about 25,000 soldiers buried at Vladslo, with 20 soldiers per grave. In terms of figures that's my whole town, with my whole class in just one grave. It was sad and disheartening to see that the German soldiers' graves weren't as well kept as those of the Commonwealth soldiers, when they too had fought bravely and died in horrific conditions.

On the Thursday I visited my own soldiers grave, which was a surreal experience.  I brought stones and soil from his house at Bogberry street to place on the grave. I was glad to be able to bring a piece of home to the grave of a man, who had died so far away from his home and family.

Our final stop on Thursday was a visit to a cell and execution site used by the British in Poperinge. It was heart-breaking to hear of soldiers being shot by their own comrades for 'cowardliness', one such soldier being Josh's own soldier. We entered the cell where the soldiers spent their last night before they were executed. It was horrible to imagine anyone being in that situation especially people as young as ourselves. Looking around the walls of the cell brought up conflicting emotions and thoughts, some of the carvings like names were things that wouldn't be amiss on a school desk, yet some were much darker. I couldn't fathom for the slightest how one would feel in that position alone and thousands of miles from home.

Finally, undoubtedly one of the best things of this trip was the fourteen new friends I have made out of it. I would be lying if I said I had not been worried about going on a trip with fourteen others I did not know, however these doubts were gone after the very first meeting. These are some of the kindest, funniest people I have met and I feel so privileged to have embarked on this project with them and to be able to call them my friends.