Sergeant Jim Maguire's Survival

The following letter was published in the Sunday Times of 30th January 2011:

"The Extraordinary Tale of a Battlefield Survivor

Your article on the American congresswoman who survived a gunshot wound to the head ("Giffords saved by surgery learnt on the battlefield", World News last week) reminded me of my maternal grandfather Jim Maguire's experiences in 1916 during the first world war.

He was part of the Manchester Regiment that joined the ultimately failed attempt to relieve Major-General Townshend's troops at the seige of Kut then in Mesopotamia, now in Iraq. Whilst assisting a wounded comrade, he was shot from behind, the bullet entering his head behind the left ear and exiting through his left eye.

His company were retreating and he was left for dead. Then, on trying to resist marauding tribesmen stealing his boots, belt and other posessions, he was bayoneted three times in the back. Later, on hearing voices, he managed to walk into an enemy camp of Turks and Germans and so became a PoW. He was put on a cart and taken hundreds of miles to Baghdad, where, being a Catholic, he was turned over to nuns who cared for him with nothing more than bandages and iodine.

His commanding officer wrote to Jim's wife and family reporting his death, and a requiem mass was then held in Manchester. He returned from the war as a result of prisoner exchange and lived almost 60 more years, dying eventually at 93. He survived his commanding officer, his wife and most of the people at his requiem by many years.

Sir Terry Farrell    London NW8"

 

The Museum of the Manchesters holds the original copy of the following letter:

Nr 8224 L Sgt J Maguire

Ist Manchester Regt.

Cumballa War Hospital

Bombay, India

Sept 17th 1916

 

Dear Sir,

Excuse me taking the liberty of writing this letter to you,but I feel it my duty to let you and my brother N.C.Os know that I am back to the land of freedom once again.

I was severely wounded on March 8th. I received a bullet through my head, it entered about an inch below the right ear and came out of my left eye, taking an eye with it in its flight. I was placing a field dressing on Sergeant Cratés(No 2 Coy) thigh as it happened. Afterwards when the bombardment stopped I made an attempt to get back to the Battalion. I walked about 200 yards when the Arabs stopped me at the point of the bayonet, threw me to the ground, and made me take off my puttees, boots, socks, waist belt, jacket and then one of them turned the bayonet on me. I received two thrusts in the right arm, two on the right breast, and as I turned over to avoid any more he gave me another one in the spine of the back.

I laid there thinking it was all over with me, and as it got dark and cold I made up my mind to try again to get back . I had lost a considerable amount of blood by this time and became very weak, however I got up and walked on straight into a Turkish trenchfull of Turks, they got hold of me. I asked for a drink of water, one of them gave me his water bottle but just as I put it to my lips someone knocked it out of my hand . Then I was taken by an escort along with two more of my Compy (Ptes Barking and Diskin) to a sort of first aid post of theirs, there was a Turkish Doctor and an orderlly with him, the officer spoke a little English, he asked me if we had left many dead on the field. I said no. I asked him for a drink and also to put a dressing on my breast which would not stop bleeding., they didnt seem to have anything there, no medicine or dressings.

He went off and left me to the Turks who gave me a poke with the butt end of a rifle and signalled for us to move on. We were dragged about all that night from post to post, looking for a Ghurka who had escaped, they had his knife and I thought they were going to use it on us but they didnt. One post consisted of about 15 Turks or Arabs who got round and struck each one of us, somebody hit me in the middle of the back with a shovel.

Well we went back to the first aid post and there was a chap of our Regiment laid on a stretcher, wounded in the legs, there were also some of our Natives who had been captured, the Turks made the Natives carry the stretcher and myself. Barking and Diskin they tied together by the wrists with one of our puttees. We were then given another dig with the rifles and had to move on, we got to a hospital behind the ridges at Es. Simm, and I dropped with exhaustion and weakness.

All night long marching about without my boots, or socks, or jacket, and I had to hold on to my trousers with the hand that was untied to keep them up.

Our wounds were dressed at the Simm Hospital and the worst cases were placed on carts ( I was one of them) and sent on the way to another Hospital,  where we were put into another tent and kept there about 5 days, then from there we were sent in a cart again to Shamran Camp , kept there for about 4 days and at last sent by boat to Baghdad where we were placed in a Turkish Hospital and there I remained until we were exchanged which was a Godsend for me.

Hospital treatment was absolutely rotten, there were 22 of us went into hospital and in less than a fortnight 14 (including Ptes Rounds, McLelland, and another of my Regiment whom I didnt know) died.

We used to get a very little boiled rice (dirty) as soon as we opened our eyes in the morning, and then about 8 o'clock a pint of milk, more water than milk, a little bit of mutton and a little soup with plenty of dirt, about 4 pm soup again and so it continued day after day. Medical treatment was also very bad, they had no medicine, they uised to paint my eye with iodine every other morning.

We received the news that we were being exchanged about the 1st of August and a Turkish Officer came round the hospital to inspect us on the 4th August. We were placed on the boat on the 8th of August and proceeded down river on the 9th. We arrived at Shamman Camp on the 15th and transferred onto another Turkish boat, we were kept on this boat until Sept 6th when we set sail again to Magasis, we were transferred from the Turkish boat to our own boat and "very nice too" to get back on our own food and under the "good old Union Jack", and I am now in Bombay in Cumballa Hospital doing very nicely. It is with the deepest regret I have heard of the deaths of so many of our Battalion since I left it. I hope you will pass this letter on to the other N.C.Os and so save me writing a letter to each one. I am a little handicapped yet with the loss of the eye. I cannot say what they will do with us here."

 

Reproduced Courtesy of the Museum of The Manchester Regiment

Post Script. I have been unable to discover to whom Sergeant Maguire addressed this letter to. Any information would be welcome.