Every family who had a relative on duty with one of the armed forces in World War 1, dreaded a knock on the door which would bring news their loved one was injured or died.
For Mary Heenan, the telegram arrived at her home in Chelsea, near London, on the morning of February 23, 1919. He'd survived the war only to succumb to pneumonia.
Telegram received London 03.15
REPORTS DIED 22/2/19 79551 PTD J J HEENAN 782 A E CO INFLUENZA BRONCHO PNEAMONIA (note this is the spelling in the telegram).
She now had two young sons and a daughter to bring up alone. Their first son John George was coming up to his seventh birthday, their daughter Charlotte had just turned five and their second son Patrick James was less than 2 years old. Perhaps an indication of how much a struggle this would be comes in a letter she sent to the War Office in April 1919, asking them to provide official notification of her husband's death because "I cannot get any money until I get the certificate."
The required notification was sent. His personal effects which included a letter, rosary, registration card, tobacco box, cigarette case, spectacles and safety razor were also sent to his widow. But she had disappeared. A police officer from the Metropolitan Police went to the house in Chelsea where she was said to have been living but could find no trace of her.
Enquiries have been made at 14 Blantyne St, Chelsea where I was informed by the current occupier Mrs Stevens that prior to enlistment Pte JJ Heenan lodged at the above address. He was a married man but lived apart from his wife and family. Mrs H was unknown to Mrs S and no information could be obtained as to her whereabouts. Further enquiries in the vicinity failed.
John Joseph Heenan was 36 years old when he signed his attestation papers and was attached to the 5th Battalion of the Queens Regiment on May 29, 1916. He was working as a painter's labourer at the time.
After almost a year in army reserve he was despatched to France in May 1917, arriving at Etaples on May 3. Within two weeks he was transferred to the Labour Corps and posted to 133 company.
On June 16, 1917 he reported for medical attention for defective vision but was returned to hus unit the following day. He died at casualty clearing station number 11 in France on 22nd February for a condition which the file service report said was "due to active service condition."
Private John Joseph Heenan's family
In his attestation papers John Joseph Heenan gave his wife's name as Margaret Harris and said they had been married at Marlborough St in Dublin on 16 Nov 1909. His parents and grandparents were no longer alive and he had no nephews/nieces or uncles and aunts by blood. He gave the names of his siblings as William, Joseph, Mary Jane and Charlotte.
Civil registration records show that the marriage took place at St Mary's Pro Cathedral in Marlborough street. John Heenan (he did not use a middle name) was described as a bachelor "of full age" working as a labourer and living at South Cumberland Street. His father John is a painter. Margaret Harris is a spinster aged 19 of Buckenham Road, Dublin (this may be a misspelling of Buckingham Road). Her father George is a labourer.
In 1911 John and Margaret Heenan are living in a small dwelling at 25 Luna St, Chelsea, London where John works as a painter's labourer. He gave his age as 28 and said he was born in Dublin. Her age is 20 and she was also born in Dublin.
Their daughter Charlotte Mary did not live long after her father's death. She died in the fourth quarter of the same year.
His son Patrick James continued to live in Chelsea. In the 1939 National Register he is a single man living at 35 Cremorne Road and working as a Ledger Clerk for a coal merchant.
Of his first son I have not been able to find any information as yet.