b. 17/04/1941 St Helens, Lancashire. d. 25/12/1964 London.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 25/12/1964 London.
Michael Joseph “Joe” Munnelly (1941-1964) was born on 17th April 1941 in St Helens, Lancashire, the son of John and Theresa Munnelly (nee Mulligan). Joe, as he preferred to be called, had three brothers, Kevin (who later served in the Grenadier Guards), Mark and James who became a Shakespearan actor. Despite being born in England, Joe and his brothers spent their childhoods in Ireland, and all attended St John’s School in Sligo.
After finishing school, Joe became a journalist, firstly for the Jewish Chronicle, then the Glasgow Herald. In the early 1960s, he became the South Wales correspondant for the Sunday People newspaper.
In the early hours of Christmas Day 1964, he was staying with his brother James at his flat in Regent’s Park Road, London. During the evening, fourteen youths had been drinking at Kentish Town and had travelled in a van to Regents Park Road to a flat where two of them had been invited. They were in an extremely rowdy mood shouting and swearing. The fourteen were refused entry to the flat and some of them immediately attacked the occupier. Others went to a dairy opposite and from crates left outside began to bombard the flat with milk bottles, resulting in all the windows being broken, also the window of the shop next door. Some of the youths were attacking the occupier of the flat, some were throwing dozens of bottles and all were shouting, swearing and milling about.
Although there were several onlookers, it appears they were all too frightened to interfere. In an endeavour to protect his property, the dairyman went into the street where he was immediately attacked by being butted, kicked and knifed in the groin. Michael Joseph Munnelly, his brother and a friend were the occupants of a third floor flat and hearing the noise of breaking glass and shouting, looked out of the window and saw the dairyman was on the ground being kicked. All three men decided they must go and help him and ran to the street. They detained two men but Munnelly was hit on the head by some person and released the man he was holding.
The van, which had left the scene, then returned and was followed into the next turning by Munnelly's friend who in an attempt to stop the van banged on the side. The van stopped and he grabbed a youth who was sitting next to the driver. This resulted in a cry for help, the rear door of the van opened and several of the youths attacked him until they had kicked him senseless.
Munnelly immediately went to his rescue. Bottles were thrown at him, he was kicked and received a fatal stab wound in his lower left abdomen. The youths then fled. Munnelly and the others were mere onlookers who could have stayed in the safety of the flat but without thought for themselves they went to the assistance of the dairyman. Munnelly saw his friend being attacked with knives and immediately went to his rescue.
In the aftermath of the incident, 18 year-old Frederick Charles Bishop was charged with the murder of Michael Joseph Munnelly and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He had also been charged with the offence of wounding the dairyman with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Twelve other youths (oldest 21) were remanded in custody for affray. On 25th June 1965, the London Gazette published the citations announced the award of a posthumous George Cross to Munnelly, a George Medal to Donald Smith, the friend of the Munnelly’s, and a British Empire Medal to the dairyman William Griffiths. Munnelly was also awarded the Binney Memorial Medal in April 1965 which was presented to his family. His George Cross was presented to his mother Theresa in an investiture at Buckingham Palace.
Munnelly’s body was returned to Ireland and he was buried in Sligo Cemetery. His headstone was paid for by the Sunday People newspaper. His GC was owned by his mother for a number of years but its current whereabouts are not known.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: SLIGO CEMETERY, SLIGO, IRELAND.