30 May 2010


Private 55915 Machine Gun Corps
Died: Tuesday 26 March 1918
Buried: Worthing (Broadwater) Cemetery, Sussex, Grave A9.I.18

Stephen Monnery was born in May 1887, the son of John and Kate Monnery. John originated from Henfield, and his family moved to Sompting at some time in the late 1850s. By the time of Stephen's birth the family were in Worthing where John worked as a market garden labourer, and in 1901 were living at 2 Jessamine Cottages, Thurloe Road, Broadwater. Stephen joined the Post Office as a thirteen year old telegraph messenger and stayed with them in a variety of jobs until he joined the Army.

On 16th March 1915 he enlisted into the 8th Battalion City of London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) as Rifleman 3327 and transferred on 12th September 1916 to the Machine Gun Corps, being posted to France on 26th October 1916. Initially it was difficult to determine which company of the Machine Gun Corps he was attached to, but thanks to information received from St. Dunstan's Archives it is now known that he was with the 23rd Company. He was wounded on 17th November 1916 during the last days of the Battle of the Somme, and suffered gunshot wounds to his head, both eyes and right arm, injuries which resulted in him having both his eyes removed. Stephen Monnery's war was over.

On his return to England he spent some time in hospital and then went home to recuperate. As there was no possibility of him ever being fit for service again, he appeared before a medical board in London on 5th March 1917, and his details on discharge were as follows:

Discharged: 5th March 1917
Place of Discharge: 91 York Street, Westminster
: 29 years 282 days

: 5ft 9ins

: Fair

: Light brown
Eyes: Both excised
Occupation: Postman
: 9 Victoria Terrace, Penhill Road, South Lancing

Tattoo marks
: Right and left arms

Military character
: Good
Suffered gunshot wounds to head, both eyes and right arm - both eyes excised. No longer fit for military service.

He was transferred for rehabilitation to St. Dunstan's Home which was then in Regent's Park, London, with an annexe in Brighton, where he was training to be a masseur - the forerunner of the modern day physiotherapist. In March 1918 he developed meningitis, and he died at St. Dunstan's on 26th March 1918. The Worthing Gazette reported his funeral which took place four days later at Broadwater Cemetery:

MILITARY FUNERAL - Former Postman Blinded in the War
Military honours were accorded at the funeral, at the Cemetery on Saturday, of Stephen Monnery, a former member of the Post Office staff.
The deceased, who was thirty years of age, and whose home was at Penhill-road, Lancing, was blinded in both eyes in the War. He became an inmate of St. Dunstan's Hostel at Brighton, where he was being trained for massage work, and his death occurred at that institution a few days since, from meningitis, due to a fragment of shell which had lodged in his head. In 1900 Monnery entered the Post Office as a telegraph messenger; in 1905 he became a postman at Lancing; three years later he was transferred to the Angmering district, and in 1915 he came back to Worthing. Then he enlisted in the Post Office Rifles and went on active service, with the result recorded.

Mr. G. Stacey, the local Postmaster, and several members of the staff joined the relatives at the graveside on Saturday, thus showing their regard for a conscientious and useful member of the service. The bearers and firing party were supplied by one of the Battalions of the Coldstream Guards from Shoreham.
There were several floral tributes from, among others, his mother and father; Edie and Percy (sister and brother); Walt and Mary (brother and sister); Edie, Micky and Jacky; Kitty, Aunt Alice, Uncle Harry and Ally; his cousin Ted, Nance and Jessie; Sir Arthur Pearson, Bart.; his comrades at West House, St. Dunstan's Annex; the Blind Boys of Queens Road, St. Dunstan's Annex; the Boys of St. Dunstan's; the Postmaster and Staff of Worthing Post Office; Hector and Mr. Genatt; Mr. F. Bartlett and children; Mr. F. Howell; Miss Gilbert; Mr. and Miss Hobbs; Mr. and Mrs. C. Evans; and Mr. Lisher and Marjory.

Stephen Monnery is buried in a family grave in Broadwater Cemetery, Worthing, joined in later years by his parents John and Kate Monnery in the adjoining grave. He is also commemorated on Worthing town war memorial and on the memorial plaque to post office employees at Worthing main post office. Harry Monnery and William Monnery also mentioned on these pages as having lost their lives during the Great War were the sons of John Monnery's elder brother William, and were first cousins to Stephen.

With thanks to Mary Monnery for the images of both Stephen Monnery's grave and also the memorial plaque at Worthing main post office.



Paul Nixon said...

One of many tragic stories. If you've not already done so, and can fit in a few minutes here and there between your various WW1 researches, I'd recommend "My life at St Dunstan's" by Lord Fraser of Lonsdale. As plain old 19-year-old Captain Ian Fraser he was blinded on the Somme in 1916 and by the age of 24 he was the chairman of St Dunstan's, Sir Arthur Pearson, the then chairman, having recently died. It's a very uplifting book which I dip into frequently. I wrote about Ian Fraser and blindness in India on my own blog: http://india-aaagh.blogspot.com/2010/02/kingdom-of-blind.html

Sue Light said...

Thanks Paul - I've just ordered it from the library. When I'm out walking I often go along the cliffs east of Brighton and go past St. Dunstan's. As a child driving past I remember being fascinated by the white rails everywhere, and astonished that someone had been so clever to think of the idea :>)
And typo corrected thanks - blasted spellchecker didn't tell me about that one.