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WW1 Casualty: Private 8541 John Cunningham -

Private 8541 John Cunningham

Unit/Regiment 2nd Bn, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death 25/01/1916 Age at Death 21
& Reference
Voi Cemetery, Mombasa.
VI B 1
Census Details 1901 - 6 years old John is living at Court No. 2 - 53 Houghton Street, Prescot with parents Francis (32), Bridget (32) and two siblings: James (3), Francis (8 mths)
Also at the address is Bridget's mother - Margaret Conroy (62).

1911 - Sees 16 years old 'Pony Lad in Pit' John living at 5 Roughleys Square, Elephant Lane, Thatto Heath with parents Francis (41), Bridget (41) and five siblings: James (13), Francis (10), Catherine (9), Mary (6), Margaret (4).
Also at the address is Francis's brother - John Cunningham (28).
SDGW – Where Born St Helens, Lancs
Enlisted Liverpool
Resided Prescot, Lancs
How Died Died Theatre of War East Africa
Research Ref. No. P073

Service Details

Private Cunningham is also remembered on the St Helens Rolls of Honour to whom I am obliged for the provision of census data.

He was a pre-War regular soldier, as can be seen from the 1911 census listing referred to above.

Private Cunningham's citation in the London Gazette

The publication 'Twenty Years After', reported the raid on Tanga as below:-

"From the outset the movements of the expedition were far too dilatory, moreover the German authorities at Dar~es~Salaam had entered into some sort of unofficial agreement with the British by which they undertook not to molest British ships so long as the latter did not fire on any coast town. This arrangement had, so it turned out covered Tanga. Consequently at dawn on November 2nd 1914, HMS Fox, flying a flag of truce, steamed into Tanga to inform the German commissioner that the truce was to end and he was given an hour to haul down his Flag. This not being done by 9.30a.m., it was decided to land. The force disembarked at three points just south of Ras Kone, east of Tanga, Ras Kone and Tanga Bay. The ground was densely overgrown scrub and maize plantation, over 8 feet high, and rubber plantation.

After wasting most of November 2nd, a greater part of Force "B" was ashore by 16.30 hrs. Advancement was arduous and a protracted action involving 13th & 61st Indian Regiments made it clear that Tanga would not be taken without more troops & some stiff fighting. The sole British Battalion with the force, the 2nd Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ,then landed, dug some trenches and put out outposts. But it was not until 10.00 a.m. on the 4th that the Force was fully ashore ("The enemy's resistance disorganised our plans" runs the War Diary}.

von Lettow Vorbeck had all day been reinforcing the Town by way of the Usambara Railway, from around 400 Men and 6 Machine Guns to over 1300 Men & 30 Machine Guns.

The attack restarted around 13.00 Hours on the 4th. The Indian Imperial Service Brigade were on the right; the Loyals, on the right hand side of the left, being the directing unit with the 27th Brigade on the left. No guns were landed by the Imperial forces as it had been decided to fire from aboard HMS Fox.

The British advance proceeded slowly impeded by the assistance of swarms of Wild Bees, that when disturbed proved a more effective assailant than enemy snipers!

By 15.00 hrs the attack started to go the right way for the British and Indian Force, and by 16.00 hrs the 2nd Loyals & 2nd Kashmir Rifles were in Tanga. House to house fighting ensued & the Loyals lost cohesion in their stubbornly contested advance; at 16.30 von Lettow Vorbeck launched his counter attack, having been reinforced further by the Railway, throwing everything he could at the 101st, virtually putting them out of action.

The British attack had been roughly handled but the situation was far from hopeless. Casualties amounted to little more than 800 men. Water however necessitated a fall back to the Hospital Buildings on Tanga Bay, where under the orders of General Aitken, who was dismayed at the reports reaching him, the whole force was ordered to withdraw to the landing beaches, followed the next day by a complete re-embarkation and return to British East Africa. Thus ending one of the "Most deplorable events of the whole War". To our initial reverse at Tanga must be ascribed the original cause of the remarkable resistance which General von Lettow Vorbeck eventually offered to British Forces in East Africa."

John Cunningham's Medal Index Card confirming his arrival in Africa on 16th October 1914

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