Introduction - Background to this blog

Contents (click to jump to)

Posts to come.......

1920 - Fighting in Africa
1920-1939 - Captain in KAR and Game Warden
1945-1971 - Farming, Malta, Car Crash

Very young, fresh faced Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (not sure which Battalion) marching in Scotland

I started researching my family history in 2007 when I turned 40.

My Father's surname is Carroll and my Mother's surname is Minnery.  Overall I made good progress in both lines of the family, getting back as far as 1769 on my maternal line and 1840 on the paternal line.  The surname Carroll is not as rare as the name Minnery.  Tracing the Minnery line has proven easier due to that simple fact.

For the most part I managed to find only the basic facts for each ancestor.  Date and location of birth, parental details, marriage details death details are about as much as I got to know about deceased relatives.  There is one exception to this and it is John Minnery.  John was my Grandfather William's brother and I was vaguely aware of John's existence whilst growing up.  Mentions of a relative that lived in Africa, some black-and-white photographs.... and not much more.

I first saw John's name when compiling the list of the children of John and Mary Minnery, my Great Grandparents.  John, born in 1894, was one of ten children born to my Great Grandparents. When I later looked the family up in the 1901 Scottish Census I could not find John with the family. My Great Grandparents had already seen one of their ten children die (Elizabeth, 3 days old). I assumed they, sadly, had lost another and that John has died prior to the 1901 Census.  I looked for his death certificate but could not locate it.  By accident, some three months later, whilst looking at the 1901 Census entries for my Great Great Grandfather (the Gaffneys in Barrhead, Mary's parents) I found the 6 year old John Minnery's name beside theirs.  He had most likely been visiting his Grandparents on the day of the Census.  I can still recall the feeling of happiness I had that he had not died after all.

More snippets of genealogical information regarding John only served to further whet my appetite.  Especially facts about his involvement in World War One.  Over the last few years I've enjoyed putting his jigsaw together.  It may be the case that another relative has compiled a much more comprehensive and accurate story about John.  However, I have become addicted to the "game" of researching John.  It has become a fabulous vehicle for learning more and more about one of my favourite historical subjects, World War One.  An added bonus has been acquiring knowledge about a relative who played a proud and brave part in a time where many equally brave individuals viewed duty (whether to their country, their comrades or their community) as a key part of their being.

John's fortunes are inextricably linked with two regiments and two theatres of war : The 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on the Western Front in World War One and with the 6th Battalion Kings African Rifles (Tanganyika) in Tanganyika and Somalia.  

He joined the army in 1912 aged 17 (though the army thought he was 18 the minimum age at that time).  

Landing in France in 1914, seven days after war was declared on August 4th, he experienced his first action at the battle of Le Cateau, France where he was wounded badly enough to be shipped home to Blightly for two months.  

On his return to France he remained in the ranks winning the DCM in 1915.  He was then posted to the Officer Cadet Training School in France in 1916 passing out as a 2nd Lieutenant before his promotion to Lieutenant, then a Captain, before becoming a Colonel by the end of his military career.   Following his promotion to an officer, he continued his battle experience on the Western Front and in 1916 won the Military Medal.

I have spent many hours reading the War Diary of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  This is a handwritten journal kept by the commanding officer of the Battalion from August 5th 1914 through until the end of the war.  Every day of that conflict has an entry recalling the activities of John's Battalion.  From receiving their Orders to "Mobilize". through arriving in France, their first actions against the Germans, the details of life in trenches, what went on during periods behind the lines, the Christmas Truce 1914, the first use of gas in 1915, endless casualties and deaths and, finally, the armistice the War Diary makes for fascinating, sorrowful and exciting reading.

The War Diary of the 2nd A&SH records John Minnery's name in a couple of places, but more importantly it allows a picture to be painted of what he and his regimental "brothers" were going through, good and bad.

Wounded a further two times in World War One, John transferred to the Kings African Rifles in 1917.  General Hoskins ordered an expansion of the forces in East Africa and one of the Officers transferred there to create new Battalions was John Minnery.   In Africa he was awarded the Military Cross during the 1920 Campaign in British Somaliland (now Somalia) against the Dervishes led by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, the "Mad Mullah" (though he was neither a Mullah nor mad).  The brave deeds that saw him awarded the MC are recorded in the regimental history and I will detail them in the blog.

During World War Two, recalled to active service, he was the Camp Commandant of Tengeru Polish Refugees Camp.  

In his almost 50 years in Africa he was listed as a Game Warden, a Snake & Reptile collector, a Farmer and as working for the Colonial Office.

During the Mau Mau troubles of 1960's Kenya John appears again.

I have woven John's World War One service into the events recorded in the 2nd A&SH War Diary. The mud, fighting, casualties, hardships, bravery, towns, battles the battalion fought were witnessed and participated in by John (unless he was recovering from wounds). 

In addition, newspaper articles about his military service have been used to flesh out his story - they are included in the posts where appropriate.

If there are inaccuracies in the story they are accidental.  I have been careful not to allow poetic licence to creep into the story.  Where John's presence can be confirmed I have confirmed it.  Elsewhere, I have explained what the Battalion were doing and I leave it up to you to imagine John being involved.  In addition I have added useful related snippets of information that help explain the environment John and thousands of other brave young men found themselves in.

I hope you enjoy the postings.  Comments are welcome - as are any corrections you would like to offer.

John's Military History - Summary

John's Military Service Records - original and my transcribed version

If you have any further pictures of or facts about John I would love to hear from you.  Email me at