MAHAFFEY John William 1890 – 1918


T3/026963 Driver John William Mahaffey, Royal Army Service Corps, died of influenza, 2 December 1918, aged 28.  He is buried at Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, France[1] and is commemorated on the Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

John William Mahaffey was born in 1890,[2] at Shildon, the son of John and Margaret Mahaffey.  There were at least 6 children:[3]

  • James bc.1886 at Shildon
  • Jane Ann bc.1888 at Shildon
  • John William born 1890 at Shildon
  • Margaret bc.1895 at Escomb
  • Elizabeth bc.1897 at Escomb
  • Agnes bc.1900 Witton Park

In 1891, the family lived at Escomb and John senior worked as a coal miner.[4]  In 1901, the family lived at Garden Street, Witton Park where John worked as a coal miner.[5] In 1911, John William lived with his uncle Robert Mahaffey at Black Road, Witton Park.  John aged 20, worked as a coal miner, (onsetter).[6]  In 1912, John W. Mahaffey married Elizabeth Ann Bowen.[7] They had 3 children:[8]

  • Jeffrey born 4 August 1913
  • Sarah Jane born 27 January 1915
  • John born 1 January 1918

Elizabeth A. Mahaffey lived at 8 Jackson’s Row, Woodside, Witton Park. In 1922, Elizabeth married John J. Hogg.[9]

Elizabeth with Sarah Jane and John

Military Details

John William Mahaffey enlisted in the Army Service Corps (ASC) and was given the service number T3/026063.  He did not enter France until after 31 December 1915.[10]

The ASC was given the Royal prefix in late 1918.  At its peak, it numbered 10,547 officers and 315,334 men.

The ASC was organised into units known as Companies, each fulfilling a specific role. In most cases the Company also had a sub-title name describing its role.  Some of the Companies were under orders of the Divisions of the army, the rest were under direct orders of the higher formations of the Corps, Army or General Headquarters of the army in each theatre of war. They operated as part of the Lines of Communication.  Many men of the ASC were not, however, with ASC Companies, for many were attached to other types of unit in the army for example, as vehicle drivers.[11]  The prefix “M” means that the soldier served with the Mechanical Transport Company and “T” refers to Horsed Transport.  When accompanied with a number, this denotes recruitment into Kitchener’s (New) Army – in Driver J.W. Mahaffey’s case, T3, Kitchener’s 3rd appeal for volunteers.   [12] 

T3/026963 Driver John William Mahaffey,
Army Service Corps

The above photo shows him wearing spurs and this seems to confirm that he was in a horsed transport section.  It is believed that he served with the 254th ASC Company [13] which was formed at Enniskillen in November 1914 and came under the command of the 36th (Ulster) Division.[14]  At the end of the war, the 36th (Ulster) Division was at Ooteghem in Belgian Flanders (east of Kortrijk otherwise known as Courtrai in French).  However, Driver J.W. Mahaffey is buried at Valenciennes which is about 50 miles to the south, in northern France.[15]  Therefore, it seems likely that he was transferred to another unit.  Other CWGC details record that at the time of his death, he was attached to the 54th Labour Company but this possibly is a typing error with “2” missed from the number.[16]Valenciennes had been in German hands from early in the war until 1/2 November when it was entered and taken by Canadian troops.

Driver John William Mahaffey died of influenza 2 December 1918 at the 57th Casualty Clearing Centre, Valenciennes, France. 

Awards and Medals

Driver John William Mahaffey was awarded the Victory and British War medals.[17]

Medal Roll Card Index


Driver John William Mahaffey died 2 December 1918 and is buried at grave reference I.F.23, Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, France.  His widow, then Elizabeth A. Hogg, arranged for the following epitaph to be inscribed on his headstone:[18]

Peace Perfect Peace

Spanish Flu

“…the pandemic death rate as high as 1 in 3 of those affected and claimed an estimated 21 million lives worldwide in the course of the year.” [19]

For all the destructive ingenuity of men, nature proved to be the far superior killer. Plague struck in 1918 and 1919.  It was called “Spanish influenza”.  The pandemic may have originated in the American military post at Fort Riley, Kansas.  Soldiers were diagnosed with influenza, many died.  American troopships disembarked at Brest and St. Nazaire.  French “Poilus” (soldiers) began to fall ill, then British soldiers.  As the illness rolled across France, German troops were stricken.  Influenza eventually accounted for nearly one third of all Americans who would die in the war. 

Civilian deaths dwarfed those in the military.[20]  The pandemic of the great “Spanish Flu” wreaked such havoc and caused such fear, with up to 50 million people dying worldwide before the end of 1919. 

In the UK there had been somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 cases each month during the spring of 1918 but over 30,000 registered in June alone.  During July 1918, in England the disease hit the coal-mining areas of Northumberland and Durham.  It began serious depredations in the capital, swiftly accounting for over 700 Londoners.[21]    The lighter type of flu was usually not fatal and had died down by the late summer.  The much more lethal and dangerous strain emerged over the winter of 1918 and into the following year.  The second strain of influenza was the killer. [22]     


Illustrated Chronicle 28 May 1918


John William Mahaffey’s widow, Elizabeth was awarded his pension and effects.[23]


John was born in Shildon in 1890 to John, a coal miner from Pittington and Margaret Munn, from Glasgow. When first married his parents lived in Hardy’s Row, Shildon then later moved to Escomb. In 1901 the family lived at 9 Garden Street in Witton Park with five children still at home. John William, at the age of 20, was an onsetter in a coal mine (a worker who transferred full and empty wagons to the cage at the shaft bottom) and was recorded as living with Robert and Mary Ann Mahaffey (his Uncle and Aunt) in Black Row, Witton Park.

Driver T3/026963 John William Mahaffey, Royal Army Service Corps, died of influenza, 2 December 1918 and is buried at Valenciennes (St. Roch) Communal Cemetery, France.  He left a widow, Elizabeth and 3 children.


Ann Dobson and Dale Daniel


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission & Roll of Individuals entitled to the V & BW medals dated 27 February 1920

[1] CWGC

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.215 Auckland 1890 Q1

[3] 1891 & 1901 census

[4] 1891 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] 1911 census

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.468 Auckland 1912 Q3

[8] Pension card index

[9] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.450 Auckland 1922 Q2

[10] Medal Roll card index



[13] CWGC


[15] http://www.warpath.orbat,com/battles_ff/1918_pt.2.htm

[16] CWGC record (Army Form W.3372) Driver J.W. Mahaffey attached to the 54th Labour Company and also the 254th Labour Company.  I have no found details for the 54th Labour Company yet.

[17] Medal Roll card index and Roll of Individuals entitled to the V & BW medals dated 27 February 1920

[18] CWGC

[19] “The Unknown Soldier” Neil Hanson 2005 p.298

[20] “11th Month 11th Day 11th Hour: Armistice Day 1918, World War 1 and its violent climax” Joseph E. Persico 2004 p.303/4

[21] “1918: Year of Victory” IWM & Malcolm Brown 1998 p.171

[22] Lloyd p.18/19

[23] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.882985 and Pension card index