Michael Cornelius Heenan was born in 1878, at Julunder, in Bengal, India where his father was employed by the public and military works department.

After his education in India and Wimbledon in Surrey, he joined the 18th Royal Irish Regiment. In 1901 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant with the 5th Battalion of the regiment. He subsequently transferred to the Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment, seeing action with the 2nd Battalion in the closing stages of the Boer War, gaining the Queen's Medal with four clasps.

In the Roll of Honour Citation he is described as a keen polo player while on duty in South Africa. Later, while posted to West Africa he developed an interest in hunting, often taking expeditions on foot into the interior in search of elephants.

For a period of time he was stationed in Mauritius and West Africa. At the time of the 1911 census he is listed as a Lieutenant and located in Egypt, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Sudan. At the time when war was declared he was with the regiment in India leaving there from Bombay on October 1914. They arrived in Portsmouth, England on November 1914 whereupon they joined the 82nd Brigade, 27th Division. In December that year the regiment was deployed to the western front, arriving at Le Havre, France shortly before Christmas.

Michael Cornelius Heenan was wounded twice while serving in the Expeditionary Force in France, once in January 1915, when he was also admitted to hospital with a bout of malaria, and then in May that year. On the latter occasion he was invalided home and after a period with the reserve battalion in Ireland, was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment and sent back to France.

He was killed on Jan 12, 1916 at the Somme while visiting an outpost near Carnoy. He is buried at the  Carnoy Military Cemetery, his grave bearing the inscription “Alive Unto God”

Michael Cornelius Heenan: the man

He was educated at Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, (Himachal Pradesh, India, one of the oldest boarding schools for boys in Asia, and one of only a handful of private schools in India at that time. He was also a pupil at a Roman Catholic School in Mussoorie, a hill station in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand. In the Roll of Honour Citation he is described as a keen polo player while on duty in South Africa. Later, while posted to West Africa he developed an interest in hunting, often taking expeditions on foot into the interior in search of elephants.

Army Service Details

1901: Transferred to Leinster Regiment

1901: completed machine gun training

January- April 1902: Posted in South Africa

1904: Promoted to Lieutenant

January 1906-October 1909: Posted in Mauritius

Oct 1907-April 1908: posted in India

April 1908-March 1912: posted in West Africa

1910: Promoted to Captain

March 1913:  posted to East Indies. Appears to have been promoted to Major in March that year although his service record contains a note "has yet to pass in subject (c)" perhaps indicating that the promotion was never confirmed

1914: Joined Expeditionary Force, France

Michael Cornelius Heenan’s family

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records indicate that Michael Cornelius Heenan was the son of Mark and Mary Gertrude Heenan. The couple had a daughter Otello Ellen Mary Heenan in Julunder, India in 1880

On May 8, 1912 he married Lorna Stephanie Fisher in the Roman Catholic church at Tiverton.  She lived in Dorset where at the start of World War 2 she is recorded as being secretary of the Dorset Women's Land Army Committee and organiser of the Women's Institute in Northern Ireland. She died and was buried in Shipton Gorge, Dorset in 1978. 

Sources:

  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission [https://www.cwgc.org]
  • India, Select Births and Baptisms, 1786-1947 from Family Search, accessed via Ancestry
  • De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-1919, Navy & Military Press Ltd, accessed via Ancestry 
  • The London Gazette 15 February 1901, accessed via Ancestry
  • Hart's Annual Army List, 1908
  • Admission and Discharge Book, Medical Research Committee, 1915
  • Service Record WO76_24_0_0195
  • Civil Registration Marriages 1837-2005 Registered at Tiverton Q2 1912 Vol 5b page 942