Private 22295 Martin Melia

Died Mesopotamia on Wednesday, 7th June 1916, age 40.
Buried in Grave XXII. F. 16. at Amara War Cemetery, Iraq.

9th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 39th Brigade of 13th Division.

Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed Balkans, 14th September 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/629507/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
8 Court 8 House New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton.
In residence of Henry James and his wife Ellen James were:
Hannah Melia (67, widow, born Ireland), and presumably two of her children: Catherine Melia (31, born Tipton) and Martin Melia (25, Bricklayer's Labourer, born Tipton).

1911 Census
2 Court 2 House New Road, Great Bridge, Tipton.
Martin Melia (35, Labourer in Forge, born Tipton), his wife Martha (45, born Ocker Hill), and their son Martin (7, born Chesterfield).

Personal Data

It is possible that Martin Melia was a friend of David Baxter who was killed on 20th April 1916 also serving with the 9th Royal Warwicks. They had enlisted at the same time as their Army Numbers which were just 2 different, were the same age, and lived quite near to each other.

After Martin's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £7/3/0d (7 pounds and 3 shillings); this was paid to his wife and Sole Legatee, Martha, in February 1917. His War Gratuity was £4/0/0d (4 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Martha in September 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Martin had enlisted in approximately May 1915.

Martin's widow, Martha, was awarded a pension of 15/0d (15 shillings) per week from 20th February 1917; her adddress at this time was given as 87 Eastwood Lane, Rotherham. The pension would have ceased on her re-marriage in September 1920, but she received a Gratuity on re-marriage of £11/6/9d (11 pounds, 6 shillings and 9 pence).

Action resulting in his death

The 9th Worcesters were in 39th Brigade of the 13th (Western) Division, and landed in Gallipoli in July 1915. When Martin Melia arrived as a reinforcement on 14th September 1915, most of the Gallipoli campaign battles had already been fought.

The Gallipoli campaign was abandoned, and the 9th Worcesters were evacuated in January 1916. They were transported via Mudros, Eygpt, then on to Basra in early March 1916. At this stage General Townshend's forces had been besieged in Kut for 2 months, operations in this theatre had the sole aim of relieving the garrison at Kut.

Attacks by the 13th Division along the north bank of the River Tigris had been successful at Hanna and Falahiya positions, but the third attack, at Sannaiyat, had failed badly on 9th April. A continuation of this attack seemed impossible, so the focus moved south of the Tigris to Bait Isa.

The 3rd Indian Division successfully took Bait Isa on 17th April, but strong counter-attacks on that evening as it became dark caused the 3rd Indian Division's line live to break. The 9th Worcesters were able to advance and stem this breach by the morning of 18th April. Kut was still besieged so the resumption of the advance was imperative.

The attack was planned for early in the morning of 19th April. Unfortunately, the river level rose and during the night the Turks were able to flood the ground in front of the Worcesters. The advance was impossible, with men sinking up to their armpits. Attempts were made over the 19th and 20th April to find a route through the marsh, but it was impassable. The advance was abandoned and the Worcesters relieved on the night of the 20th. Further attempts in the next week to reach Kut also failed, and the garrison surrendered on 29th April.

The 9th Worcesters remained near Bait Isa for most of May, during this time the Turks withdrew to the outskirts of Kut. On May 23rd, the 13th Division marched back to camp near Mason’s Mound, a real camp with tents – the first for a long time. After this time, the searing heat made further operations impossible.

Martin Melia is recorded as having ‘Died’ on 7th June 1916. This is significant as it means that his death was not due to injuries sustained during action, but due to sickness or accident. Conditions in Mesopotamia were very trying, malaria, typhoid, dysentery, as well as heat-stroke, were wide-spread; it is likely that Martin’s death was due to one of these causes. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Gazette June 29th 1916
The following casualties amongst warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are reported under various dates:
Worcesters- Melia 22295 M., (Tipton).