Private 66103 C. McCarthy
Royal Army Medical Corps
Private McCarthy was the husband of Sarah McCarthy, of 6 Yew Tree Terrace, Church Street, Hungerford. He was not a native of Hungerford but came to the town in 1906 with his family from West London. He worked at the Hungerford Laundry and was the father of nine children.
His date of enlistment is not known but he entered France on the 21st September 1915 as a member of the 68th Field Ambulance, 22nd Division. Their time in France was short as on 27 October 1915, the Division, having been moved by train to Marseilles, began to embark for Salonika. It completed its concentration there in November. He spent the rest of the war in Salonika returning to England at the end of the war. He died on Wednesday, 2 Apr 1919, age 42. He is buried in St Saviour's Churchyard, Eddington.
Quentin Cook (from Victoria, Australia) kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Feb 2016) with additional information about his great grandfather Charlie McCarthy: "I can help as he enlisted on 4 Aug 1915 at Bulford. He was 5' 3¾" high with a 32½" chest according to the army info.
He was promoted early in the war but then got sick with TB and was demoted back to Private due to his illness. He struggled with his TB in Salonica and was eventually sent back to England about 3 months before he died. He died 2:10 am on the 2 Apr 1919.
The family were told he was killed at war by a sniper as I’m sure it was better to die by a bullet than by a deadly disease in those days.
He was awarded 2 medals.
Most of the rest of the family died of TB at a similar age to Charlie, including my grandmother, she died when my father was 6.
Charlie came from Hammersmith, his wife Sarah was from Chiswick."
- Private C. McCarthy pictured in Salonica
- The cap badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps. [1st World War badge image kindly sent by Michael Burroughs, Jul 2012]
- The Commonwealth War grave for Private C. McCarthy in St Saviour's Churchyard, Eddington.
- The 2nd World War cap badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps
- Family photo (c1910) of Charles McCarthy. "His wife is in black sitting down the other lady was a family friend. My father's mother is sitting on the far right almost out of the picture. She died from TB when my father was about 6 years old. My father David Cook now resides in Rangiora New Zealand. He has added to the Virtual Museum regarding the Hungerford Panthers' track bike racing. My aunty still lives in Priory Avenue Hungerford." (Sent by Quentin Cook, Victoria, Australia, Mar 2016)
(A history of this unit has not been written, but he was present during the following events)
8-13 December: the Retreat from Serbia (Advanced Divisional HQ, 6th Brigade, 9th Border and 68th Field Ambulance only)
10-18 August 1916: the Battle of Horseshoe Hill
13-14 September 1916: the Battle of Machukovo
24-25 April and 8-9 May 1917: the Battles of Doiran
The Division lost a number of units in mid 1918; they were transferred to France
18-19 September 1918: the Battle of Doiran
An Armistice with Bulgaria was signed on 30 September 1918. By 18-20 October, units of the Division had marched back to Stavros. Here they embarked on destroyers with the intention of a landing at Dede Agach to continue the fight against Turkey. After one attempt was called off due to rough weather, the infantry finally landed on 28 October 1918. On reaching Makri, the Division learned that an Armistice with Turkey was imminent. Demobilisation began at Chugunsi and the Division ceased to exist by 31 March 1919. We assume Private McCarthy was demobilized at this time and returned to Hungerford where he died.
Point of Interest:
Another soldier who served in the 68th Field Ambulance was Private Stanley Spencer who in August 1916 was sent as part of the 68th Field Ambulance unit to Salonika, a port being defended by General Maurice Sarrail and 150,000, British and French soldiers. Private Spencer, later Sir Stanley Spencer was later recognized as a great painter and is responsible for the Sandam Memorial Chapel paintings. Some of these paintings reflect the medical situation in Salonika and could only have come from his experiences with the 68th Field Ambulance. We would like to think that Private McCarthy and Spencer worked together. Stanley Spencer later in the war transferred to a front line Infantry Battalion, the 7th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, another local Link, but after catching malaria was transferred back to Britain.
The make up of the Royal Army Medical Corps cap badge:
The Rod - The rod and serpent goes back to ancient Greece and a man called Aesculapius who lived around 1256 BC. He was a doctor of such renown that legend tells that he was able to bring the dead back to life.
Pluto, the God of the underworld, was so appalled at not gaining the souls of the dead that he complained to Jupiter the head of all Gods. Jupiter obliged by slaying Aesculapius with a thunderbolt - this is the rod.
The Serpent - After his death Aesculapius himself became a god who was worshipped in hundreds of temples. The temples quickly became places of healing for the sick and were used as the first hospitals.
Within each one there was a circular pit that contained a species of snake that was harmless, but whose forked tongue was believed to have healing properties - this is the origin of the snake.
Ever since those days the Rod and the Serpent have been used as a symbol of medicine throughout the world.
In Arduis Fidelis - The motto (on the 2nd World War cap badge) underneath the cap badge can be translated as "Faithful in Adversity". It sums up the character and the ideals of the soldiers and officers who wear the cap badge, and is just as applicable to all in times of peace as it is in war.
The need for a steady nerve during periods of pressure can be found in the hospital and the playing field as much as it can be found on the battlefield.