Charles Francis Conway

Co. Kerry

Early life

Due to discrepancies in the census the exact date of Charles' birth is not known however we do know it was either the 10th of August 1897 or the 10th of August 1899.

Charles was born to John Conway and Mary Jane Ruttle in Lower Abbey Street, Tralee, Co. Kerry.

According to church records, Charles was baptised on the 15th of August 1897 (we therefore assume that he was born in 1897) and his godparents were Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Corridan, both of whom also lived in Abbey Street.

The 1901 census shows that Charles had 4 brothers at this time, John (6), Michael (4), William (2) and Robert (not yet 1).
Charles' mother was a Protestant however records show that she converted to Catholicism on the 5th of July 1894, the day of her marriage to Charles' father. All of the children were then raised as Catholics.

The family were raised in a three roomed private dwelling on Abbey Street. A newspaper article from The Kerryman April 19th 1919 describes the conditions of Abbey Street;

The slums of Tralee speak for themselves, mostly with fetid stench and fierce conditions of living…I accidentally happened to hear a recital a few days ago by a young girl touching on the state of certain parts of Abbey Street “the maggots were walking around the road” there, and how a month’s accumulation of evil smelling manure was competent to make the worst kind of odour feel like mere attar of roses by contrast."

The census form of 1901 shows the residents of 29 Lower Abbey Street as the Conway family.

View the 1901 census form here

View the 1901 House and Building Return Form of the Conway family here

This map shows the layout of The Abbey and the families that lived in each residence.

It is seen here that the Conways lived in number 43 Abbey Street between 1901-1920

An interesting article from The Kerryman in 1912 reports that Charles and his two friends were accosted by a local constable as they stood at a street corner flicking lighted matches and cursing at people passing by.

It read:

"Constable Keogh summoned John O’ Brien, J. Michael Sullivan, Thomas Meara and Charles Conway from Abbey Street for using bad language. Constable Keogh said that they were using very bad language. Chairman- To each other? Constable- No, your worship, to respectable people passing. Chairman- This is disgraceful."

Charles was fined 5s.

Charles is missing from the 1911 census however it does show that Charles’ mother gave birth to two more boys Daniel Joseph and Richard between 1901 and 1911.

Charles’ mother Mary Jane Ruttle died in 1911 aged 39.

Interestingly the 1911 census shows that a 21 year old servant girl moved into the Conway household that year and that her name was also Mary Jane.

Mary Jane Ryan would soon marry John Conway and they would go on to have more children.

View the 1911 Census form here 

View the 1911 House and Building Return Form of the Conway family here


Autumn 1914 saw a large number of Tralee recruits and we can only assume Charles was one of them.

He would have enlisted in Ballymullen Barracks which was the hub of military activity in Kerry and home to The Royal Munster Fusiliers. 

We do wonder however how a boy as young as Charles (either 15 or 17 at this stage) was allowed to join an Army that specifically stated that only men between 19-30 could enlist. 

Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee, Co. Kerry.

8th Battalion royal munster fusiliers.

Charles joined the 8th Battalion of The Royal Munster Fusiliers. 

The Battalion joined the 47th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division under the command of Major General William Hickie. 

The battalion's movements

Training commenced in October 1914 in Fermoy. The Battalion then moved to Mitchelstown in November and to Templemore by February 1915. They returned to Fermoy in May 1915 and had obtained a full battalion of 950 men at this stage.

The Battalion were moved to Dettingen Barracks, Aldershot, England in August 1915 for final training. They were ready for battle on the 8th of December 1915 and traveled to Southampton.

They set sail from Southampton on board the “Empress Queen” at 6.00 a.m. on the 17th of December and arrived at Le Harve on the 18th.

The Battalion headed for the trenches near Loos-en-Gohelle where they remained until August 1916 carrying out many raids along the Loos sector.

They were then transferred to the Somme on the 30th of August. Here the 8th Battalion fought alongside the Connaught Rangers as they took Guillemont Village. 

Charles' Death: The Battle of Ginchy.

After failing during the summer of 1916, the British decided to try to take the village of Ginchy again on the 9th of September 1916. This mission was to be undertaken by the 47th and 48th Brigades (Charles being part of the 47th)

The attack was planned for 4.45 p.m. and at this time the 48th Brigade rushed the German lines from the south west.

At 4.48 p.m. the 47th attacked from the south. It is said that the 47th came under fierce German fire. 

Eventually by 5.30 p.m. the 48th Brigade had taken Ginchy. The 47th however lost 450 men, including Charles.

It can therefore be concluded that Charles Francis Conway died between 4.48 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. on the 9th of September 1916.

Men from the 16th Irish Division. Charles may be present in this picture however we don't have a picture of Charles to compare with.

Members of The 16th Irish Division on the 09/09/16, the date of The Battle of Ginchy and Charles death.

The death penny

 Pictured above is the death penny Charles' family received after his death.

The figure of Britannia can be seen holding a wreath of leaves and acorns.

The two dolphins represent the British sea power. 

The lion symbolises the British Empire. 

The lion can also be seen at the bottom attacking the imperial eagle of Germany. 

The penny reads, “He died for Freedom and Honour”.

Charles’ parents would also have received two other medals, The Allied Victory Medal and a medal with the face of King George V on it.


Charles is buried in Delville Wood Cemetery in Longueval, France.

His grave reference number is XVI. 0. 3.

Charles is one of only 6 Royal Munster Fusiliers buried in this cemetery.

This is an original Headstone Document. These documents provide details of what was actually inscribed on an individual’s headstone. Their main purpose was to help manage the enormous programme of headstone production and engraving the Commission embarked on in the immediate aftermath of the First World War.

Charles' name can be seen in the list of names in the above picture.

                It can be seen here that Charles' name was added in in red. The reason for this is unknown.

Visiting the grave

On the 27th of June 2015 I visited Charles' grave in Delville Wood Cemetery. It was an extremely moving experience to stand at the final resting place of my soldier. I placed some soil from the garden of his nephew on the grave and I also read a poem that Charles' nephew Martin Conway wrote especially for the occasion.

PowerPoint on Charles Francis Conway - Click here

my story

 My name is Leslie McCarthy and I'm a 17 year old secondary school student from Tralee Co. Kerry. I heard about the My Adopted Soldier programme through my history teacher Margaret Barry and I was instantly intrigued by what sounded like an unbelievable opportunity to visit the Somme region in France. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to enter this competition.

 Each applicant had to write a short 300 word essay detailing why they should be chosen to represent their county in the Somme. I wrote about my deep love of history and the family connection I have with this specific historical time frame of WW1.

 My Great-Grandfather, Denis Edward Tangney, fought in and survived The Great War. He sustained a shrapnel injury to his thigh during the Battle of Ypres and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. 

 I was astonished and thrilled when my history teacher took me out of class one day to tell me that I had been chosen to represent Kerry in this project. I was delighted to be given such a unique opportunity.

my soldier

 A short time later I received the name of the soldier that I would research as part of this trip to the Somme. The name I was given was Charles Francis Conway. Immediately I began to research this solider in order to find out as much as I could about him.

 The 1901 and 1911 census gave me some basic family details about Charles. The Kerry County Library provided me with a small amount of information on his rank, battalion and date of death. I found out that Charles fought in the same battalion as my Great-Grandfather ( The 8th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers) and as this battalion was known for its high number of Limerick recruits the Tralee men would have stuck together, meaning it was quite possible that Charles and Denis would have known each other. Charles and my Great-Grandfather would have also been quite close in age, Charles being either 17 or 19 and Denis being in his early twenties. However all in all the amount of information I received about Charles from online sources was nowhere near enough.

tracking down family

 Months went by and I was still clinging on to the limited information I had unearthed about Charles. It became increasingly evident that I needed to find living relatives of Charles in order to gain sufficient information about my adopted soldier and so I embarked on a media campaign!

 Being a naturally shy person, this period of my research was particularly challenging. It was a frequent occurrence to see me at a laptop on a Saturday afternoon attempting to gain contact with newspapers and radio stations so I could somehow get the message out that I was looking for Charles' relatives.

 I got in touch with a local website, Tralee Today, who cover news from Tralee and the surrounding areas. They were very helpful and offered to do an article in order to help me track down some of Charles family.

Check out the article from Tralee Today here

I also got in contact with RadioKerry and I was able to organise an interview on their morning show on a Monday morning. Not only did this interview allow me to miss three hours of school it also provided me with exactly what I intended to obtain from my media endeavors. Charles nephew Martin Conway contacted the show and left his contact details in order for me to talk to him again.

This was the article posted by RadioKerry on their Website and a snippet of the interview can be played here. The full interview can be found on iTunes under RadioKerry Podcasts.

The Kerry's Eye were very kind in running an article about how I was able to track down Charles' family and find out more about his life.

meeting the family

After calling Martin Conway, we were put in contact with various other members of the extended Conway family who had previously researched Charles, in particular Stephen Fernane . Stephen's wife is Charles' niece. Both Stephen and Martin had carried out extensive research on Charles and were very kind in lending me anything they had found that would contribute to my research.

We decided to dedicate a day to meeting any of the Conways who had research to present or who wanted to find out more about the project and what it entailed.

From left to right:

~Martin Conway (Charles' nephew)
~Robbie Tangney (On Skype, my Grand-Uncle and son of my Great-Grandfather who fought in The Great War.)
~Maureen O' Sullivan.
~Stephen Fernane (Charles' nephew-in-law)
Also on the table a WW1 bayonet can be seen to the right of the laptop.


Martin Conway can be seen showing Charles' death penny to my Grand-Uncle Robbie over Skype.


My Uncle Robert (Author of "The History of Ballymullen Barracks") can be seen showing Charles' family some old maps and pictures of Ballymullen Barracks. A Christmas 1914 gift box can also be seen on the table. These boxes were sent to soldiers in the trenches during the Christmas of 1914 and contained small presents such as tobacco and sweets.

Collins' barracks 07/03/2015

On the 7th of March every student that's participating in the My Adopted Soldier programme along with all the organisers and teachers involved met in Collin's Barracks. A few of the participants gave PowerPoint presentations on their soldiers and we also split into groups according to our provinces to get to know each other a little bit better.

This is a video from the day at Collins' Barracks.

MyAdoptedSoldier on YouTube

The My Adopted Soldier programme has established its own YouTube Channel! On this channel you can find videos providing information about the project, video diaries from the participants themselves and vlogs from the trip to The Somme.

This is my short introduction to my soldier Private Charles Francis Conway.

Subscribe to our channel which can be found here to receive video updates on this amazing project.

my adopted soldier 2015 somme trip

On the 26th of June the every participant met in Ratra House in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. We said goodbye to our parents and we said hello to the participants that we would share four unforgettable days with. We boarded our bus and headed off to Áras an Úachtaráin.

Here, we all met Michael D. Higgins and had some tea and cake before driving to the airport.

That evening we arrived in Brussels Airport and got a bus to our hotel in Albert.

On the 27th of June we embarked on a day long trip to countless cemeteries to visit the graves of many of the soldiers that were researched.