b. 28/10/1887 Walton, Lancashire. d. 16/10/1918 Solesmes, France.
John McNamara (1887-1918) was born on 28th October 1887 to John Thomas McNamara and Margaret McNamara (nee Kelly) in Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire. His parental heritage was Irish, his grandfather (also John) was born in Ireland about 1842. In 1911, John was living with his uncle, John Eckersley at 6 Charnley Fold, Bamber Bridge and was working as a ring jobber at A. S. Orr's cotton mill. He was courting his future wife at this time, Mary Ann Atkinson of Higher Walton and they married in 1912 at the Preston register office. They would go on to have four children together.
John's service record does not survive, but we know from various records that he at first enlisted with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and transferred sometime later to the 9th East Surreys. He is famous for the gallant action that saw him awarded the British Army's highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross.
On 3rd September 1918 north west of Lens, France, when operating a telephone in evacuated enemy trenches occupied by his battalion, Corporal McNamara realised that a determined enemy counter-attack was gaining ground. Rushing to the nearest post, he made very good use of a revolver taken from a wounded officer and then, seizing a Lewis gun, he fired it until it jammed. By this time, he was alone in the post and, having destroyed the telephone, he joined the nearest post and maintained a Lewis gun until reinforcements arrived.
The award was made posthumously. John was killed in action on 16th October 1918 in fighting in and around the town of Haussy, where the East Surreys were pushing the Germans back in what was increasingly becoming a mobile war as the German army began to crack. He is buried at the Romeries Communal Cemetery near the town of Solesmes. He is remembered by a plaque on an earth bank where his house used to stand in School Lane, Bamber Bridge, and his is one of the names on the Brownedge St. Mary R.C. Memorial at Brownedge Green, Bamber Bridge.
On 22nd November 1918, John's C.O., Lieutenant Colonel Ewan A. Cameron wrote to his widow. He wrote “he was one of the most gallant fellows I have ever seen and he richly deserved the V.C. which has just been awarded him. It is particularly sad that he did not live long enough to hear of it, the highest and most coveted award any soldier can get…. I will esteem it an honour, if when the time comes, and if it can be arranged, you allow me to take you personally to His Majesty the King to receive the V.C.”
His medals including the VC, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 were donated to the Queen’s Royal Surrey Regiment Museum at Clandon Park, Surrey. The Museum was destroyed in a fire in April 2016 but fortunately, John’s medals along with the other VCs in the Museum’s collection were safely stored in a bank vault.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL SURREY RGT MUSEUM, CLANDON PARK.
BURIAL PLACE: ROMERIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY, FRANCE.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT IV, ROW D, GRAVE 17.
School Lane, Bamber Bridge, Lancashire
All Saints, Kingston upon Thames
Condolences Letter to McNamara's widow from Lt Colonel Cameron
McNamara Gardens, Bamber Bridge (Ian Robinson)