b. 08/01/1895 Rathdowney, County Laois, Ireland. d. 10/11/1980 Roscrea, County Tipperary, Ireland.
John Moyney (1895-1980), known as Jack, was born at Rathdowney, Queen’s County (now County Laois), Ireland on 9th January 1895. His parents were James Moyney and Bridget nee Butler. John had a brother. He was educated at Rathdowney School and worked on a local farm as a labourer. He applied to join the Royal Irish Constabulary but an officer stated, “I do not consider the above-named a suitable candidate…He joined the Irish Guards because he had seduced a young girl named Bowe of Moore Street, Rathdowney. Apart from this his people are of such a low class that the prestige of the Constabulary would be very much lowered in the eyes of the public….”
John enlisted in the Leinster Regiment on 6th April 1915 at Maryborough, County Cork, but his attestation papers were amended to Irish Guards. He reported to the Depot (5th Company, 2nd Irish Guards) on 8th April and went to France on 5th October after training. He was promoted a number of times – unpaid Lance Corporal 17th February 1916, Lance Corporal 10th July 1916, Corporal and unpaid Lance Sergeant 18th September 1916 and Lance Sergeant on 8th October 1916.
On 12th/13th September 1917 north of Broembeek, Belgium, Lance-Sergeant Moyney was in command of 15 men forming two advanced posts. Surrounded by the enemy he held his post for 96 hours, having no water and very little food. On the fifth day, on the enemy advancing to dislodge him, he attacked them with bombs, while also using his Lewis gun with great effect. Finding himself surrounded, he led his men in a charge through the enemy and reached a stream, where he and a private (Thomas Woodcock) covered his party while they crossed unscathed, before crossing themselves under a shower of bullets.
He was promoted to Sergeant on 27th September, and the VC was presented to him and Thomas Woodcock by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 9th March 1918. John married Bridget Carroll at Kilmartin, Roscrea, Queen’s County on 17th March 1918, and they went on to have six children – Mary (1919), James (c.1924), and four other daughters. John and Thomas Woodcock were due to return to the Battalion on 20th March but John did not arrive. His absence is almost certainly connected to his marriage three days before his leave ended. He finally returned on 2nd May, after being absent for six weeks and was charged with breaking out of camp and being absent without leave while on active service. He was found guilty by a general court martial on 13th June 1918 and reduced to the ranks.
He was awarded the Medaille Militaire by France on 10th October 1918. John served in France and Germany until 1st March 1919. He was demobilised and transferred to the Class Z Reserve on 4th June 1919. Returning to Ireland, he felt disillusioned about the future, but refused to fight in the Civil War with the Irish Republican Army, although many of his comrades did. John struggled financially and sought help on numerous occasions from a number of charitable organisations. He first appealed to the Irish Guards in October 1921 when a severe bout of trench fever prevented him from working consistently. He was awarded a 20% disability pension from 1921 to January 1923. Financial problems continued and he made more appeals. The Irish Guards Charitable Fund responded, but it was barely sufficient. Captain Alfred Pollard VC, MC, DCM sought help for him from the VC Remembrance Fund, but the Irish Guards were reluctant to offer further assistance.
John was eventually employed as a porter by the Great Southern Railway in Ireland. He attended Dublin’s Festival of Remembrance in November 1956 with fellow VCs Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, James Duffy and Joseph Woodall. John retired in 1960 as head porter at Roscrea Station. He watched Queen Elizabeth II present new Colours to the Irish Guards on 10th June 1966. John’s wife died in 1969 whilst they were living in Roscrea. Despite his own financial troubles, he raised thousands of pounds for the St Joseph’s Young Priests Society.
John died at Roscrea, County Tipperary, Ireland on 10th November 1980 and was buried in Roscrea RC Cemetery. He was the last surviving Irish VC. His VC action had appeared in the Victor Comic in 1974 and 1984. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977 and the French Medaille Militaire. The VC was bequeathed by John (despite his poor treatment when he asked for financial help) to the Irish Guards, and they are held in the Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London. A set of wire-cutters used by John was also donated to the Museum in 1999.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: IRISH GUARDS RHQ, WELLINGTON BARRACKS, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ROSCREA CEMETERY, ROSCREA, COUNTY TIPPERARY, IRELAND.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Moyney VC Medal Group at the Guards Museum, London.
Aidan Kavanagh – Image of the Moyney VC Stone at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.