People on board
John McDonnell was born about 1895 in Dublin, possibly in Blanchardstown. Neither his date of birth nor the names of his parents have been identified. In the 1901 census, aged five, he was living in Blanchardstown with a Patrick and Jane Flynn and listed as a ‘Boarder’. In 1919 Joseph and Mary Ann Cummins of Blanchardstown were identified as his Foster-parents, but he was not with them in the 1911 census.
He enlisted at Athlone in November 1914 in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Service Number 16378, and was posted to the 6th Battalion. On the 29th of June 1915, while in the Depot in Basingstoke, his record shows that he was awarded 14 days of Field Punishment 2 but his misdemeanour was not recorded. In this punishment the prisoner was placed in fetters and handcuffs but was not attached to a fixed object and was still able to march with his unit. This was regarded as a relatively tolerable punishment. The soldier was also subjected to hard labour and loss of pay.
The 6th Battalion left Devonport on the 11th of July 1915 and disembarked at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli on the 7th of August. By the 24th of August 1915 John McDonnell was back in the Depot and was posted to the 3rd Reserve Battalion in November. From the beginning of March 1916 he was with the 8th Battalion in France and was then transferred in April 1918 to the Machine Gun Corps.
A note in his record shows that he was granted leave to the UK from the 29th of September to the 7th of October but that he had not re-joined his unit. John McDonnell had possibly been visiting his Cummins foster parents in Dublin and was returning to duty on RMS Leinster on the 10th. He did not survive the sinking but his body was recovered and he was buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin. It was not until 1921 that Mr and Mrs Cummins received his personal property as he had “left no instructions as to how to dispose of his estate”.