40422 Private Stephen BYRNE

Private No. 1 Coy. 1st Battalion., Royal Dublin Fusiliers aged 30, executed on Sunday 28th October 1917. (Served as M. Monaghan). Brother of Thomas Byrne, of 32, Usher's Quay, Dublin. Shot for desertion. RAMC doctor statement: ’I certify that no. 40422 Private M. Monaghan 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers was executed by shooting at 6.25 am on 28th October 1917 at Basseux. Death was instantaneous’’ Stephen Byrne had given an alias when he enlisted. From Dublin, he joined the 1st Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the spring of 1917, He had lived in a three-storey house in Usher's Quay with his two brothers and sister, and in 1916 he enrolled in the British Army, using the surname Monaghan. Stephen's nephew Paddy Byrne, who is nearly eighty and lives in London, cannot understand why his uncle used an alias."It is hard to fathom really, hard to understand. I just don't know the reasons. It is possible that he may have enrolled twice - once using a false name to get extra money; maybe just to get another king's shilling. No-one really knows. It's all a bit of a puzzle". His great-nephew Derek Dunne is also mystified by Byrne's behaviour. He accepts that the alias may have been used to cover up a past indiscretion or may even have been used for political reasons."It is possible he had deserted before. It is possible he was covering something up. He might just have decided to use a different name because in 1916 in Ireland some people would have said joining the British Army was not the cleverest thing to do".

Monaghan shot for desertion medals

Private Michael Monaghan’s conduct sheet indicates a few small infringements (being dirty on parade twice and missing parade) between his enlistment in January 1916 and his subsequent arrest and courts-martial for desertion in October 1917. At his court-martial on 12 October 1917 Private Monaghan was charged with wilfully absenting himself to avoid service in the front line on 5 August, and also with escaping following his arrest on 22 September. Evidence heard that the accused was told along with the rest of his battalion to prepare for moving forward to the trenches. When called for parade later in the day Monaghan was absent. In his defence he stated that on the morning of 5 August he had felt very unwell with rheumatic pains in his head and feeling very cold and ill, he lay down in a hedge and slept. When he awoke he found his battalion had left, so he wandered around looking for them, afraid to report himself for fear of what may happen. The accused was found on 9 September by the French. On the charge of escaping while in custody, the court heard allegations that Private Monaghan and other prisoners went to the canteen on 22 September and did not return. In his defence he stated that he had gone to the YMCA hut and had his feet dressed there before reporting back the following day. A Captain Kelly testified that he may have treated Private Monaghan prior to 5 August for pains in his head, but stated that had he been unfit for duty he would have been sent to hospital. In mitigation, Private Monaghan stated that he had been over the top previously in 1917 with another battalion before his transfer to the RDF. He had been suffering with bad eyesight, and stated that in the afternoons he could sometimes not see at all. Glasses did no good for his condition. Private Monaghan was found guilty on both charges, the sentence was subsequently confirmed and he was executed on 28 October 1917.

Executions in Royal Dublin Fusiliers in WW1