Papers of John McCauley

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of McCauley's manuscript account of his experiences in the First World War, a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings of the account's serialization in the Isle of Man Examiner (July 1932 - November 1932), newspaper cuttings of 'My Boy...' series in the Isle of Man Examiner (1939), correspondence regarding the diary and its possible publication (including a letter from Ernest Bevin, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union) and an issue of the magazine Manx Life of January-February 1981 which carried a feature on 'A Manxman's War' (pages 22-29).

Administrative / Biographical History

John McCauley (1895-1980) was a Manx soldier who fought in the First World War (1914-1918) and later went on to write down his personal experiences. Born in Douglas, McCauley immediately volunteered once war broke out and joined the Border Regiment. His company was shipped from Southampton to Le Havre and then by small boats up the Seine to Rouen: from there the troops marched to a village near Murville and then on to the German trenches. McCauley saw many horrors whilst at the front and sustained a serious leg injury from flying shrapnel. Brought back to Britain, McCauley met his future wife while recovering at St Thomas’s, London. Edith Mary Abell (c.1893-1990), a chambermaid at the Charing Cross Hotel, met McCauley while visiting a fellow patient. The couple married him on 19 May 1917. Once he was fully recovered John was sent back to the Western Front, remaining until the end of the war in 1918.

Returning to Britain the McCauleys lived in London for nine years with John working as a railway worker. By the late 1920s the couple with their two daughters moved back to the Isle of Man. John found work at the brass and ironworks Gelling’s Foundry, Douglas. In the early 1930s McCauley decided to record his own experience of war in an attempt to give an intimate glimpse into the mind of an ordinary soldier. The project resulted in a series of weekly articles throughout July to November 1932 published in the Isle of Man Examiner. After his time at Gelling’s McCauley and his wife worked as caretakers at the White Hoe Hospital, Braddan, before he worked for thirty years in the carpet department at R.C. Cain’s store, Duke Street, Douglas. During the Second World War McCauley was a lieutenant in the Home Guard. He served as chairman and secretary for the Isle of Man branch of the Royal British Legion and took a keen interest in Labour politics. McCauley died in 1980 at the age of 84 at White Hoe Hospital.

In 2005 John McCauley’s story was featured in the Channel 4 television series ‘Not Forgotten’ (episode four - Survivors), a programme examining the attitudes to war of those who fought in the Great War and the effect their experiences had on their families.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Dollin Kelly’s (ed.) New Manx Worthies (2006:300-302) and the Manx newspaper the Isle of Man Examiner (20 April 1999 & 6 December 2005) .

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), January 2016.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heirtage includes a transcription of McCauley's war diary (reference number: MS 13187), papers of the McCauley family (reference number: MS 13232) and numerous photographs of John McCauley and family. Reference numbers: PG/7058/1 - PG/7058/20.