Saving Private Geoghegan?

Published in Issue 1 (Spring 1999), Letters, Letters, Volume 7

Sir,—Timothy Bowman’s review of the latest Myles Dungan book (They Shall Not Grow Old: Irish Soldiers and the Great War, HI Winter 1998) is too kind. Dungan’s previous compilation, Irish Voices from the Great War, was a dissapointment to many, including myself. Consider the following passage on page 202:

But even in its final moments the Great War was capable of dispensing destruction and further tragedy. The three Geoghegan brothers, who had served in separate units during the war met up, by coincidence, near the shifting front with the Germans on the night of 10 November 1918. Somehow they contrived to spend the night together, celebrating the imminent ceasefire. Early on the morning of the 11th they were in a tent behind the lines, one of the three was shaving, when a German shell burst over them killing all three.
[Footnote 74, chapter 8: ‘Information from family sources supplied by Michael Colgan’.]

To add to my One Name Study for the name Geoghegan I applied to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at Maidenhead for confirmation and received the following reply:

I have checked our First World War records for casualties with the name Geoghegan but have failed to find three who died on the same day, let alone 11 November 1918 (none died on this day). The circumstances described in the passage you enclose with your letter sound rather unlikely and it would be wise to examine sources carefully.

So it seems that unlike the film Saving Private Ryan no three brothers were killed on the same day during the entire war, and certainly none named Geoghegan on 11 November 1918. For those readers without access to reliable Irish military histories we must either suspend disbelief or read fiction.—Yours etc.,

MRS JOSI BIRKBECK
(née GEOGHEGAN)

Geoghegan One Name Study
Norwich

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