MOONEY John 1876-1917

51618 Private John Mooney, 146th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps was killed in action 22 November 1917 and is buried in Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel [formerly Palestine].[1]  He was about 41 years old and is commemorated on the Bolckow, Vaughan Company Limited memorial housed in Kirkleatham Museum, near Redcar. 

Family Details

John Mooney was born c.1876 at Dundee, Scotland.[2]  In 1896, John Mooney married Mary Jane Brown at South Shields.[3]  Mary Brown was born at West Auckland 5 May 1878,[4] the daughter of William and Elizabeth Brown who were originally from Cornwall. About 1872, the Brown family moved north to Northumberland then Crook, before settling in the St. Helen’s area by 1876.[5]  The family had previously lived at St. Helen’s, West Auckland, Fylands Bridge before finally, making a home at the Square, St. Helen’s by 1881.[6]  William was then 43 years old and worked as a coal miner.  In 1891, William and 12 years old Mary lived at Boldon, County Durham with William’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband, John Dodds and their young family.[7]  This explains why her marriage to John Mooney in 1896 was registered at South Shields.  Boldon is in the South Shields administrative area and presumably she met him there. 

In 1901, now married, Mary Mooney lived with her parents William and Elizabeth Brown, 3 siblings and her 3 years old son, James at the Square, St. Helen’s Auckland.  Her father, 65 years old William, was recorded as a retired coal miner.  John Mooney is not recorded as living there and has not been traced on the 1901 census.[8]  By 1911, John Mooney lived at Oates Yard, St. Helen’s Auckland with Mary and their 2 children, both born at St. Helen’s Auckland:

  • James born 3 June 1897 [9]
  • Jane Ann born 26 September 1902[10]

John worked as a coal miner [hewer] at West Auckland Colliery [11] which was owned by Bolckow, Vaughan & Company Limited.  By 1918, Mary Jane Mooney lived at 27 Front Street, St. Helens with her daughter Jane Ann.[12]  The Pension Ledger Index Card does not record her son, James Mooney.  By 1917, he would have been 20 years old and not regarded as a “dependant”.[13]  James may have died about 1925.[14]

Service Details

John Mooney enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps [RAMC], was given the regimental number 51618 and served with 146th Field Ambulance at the time of his death.  The service details of Private John Mooney and the war diary of the 146th Field Ambulance have not been researched.

The Field Ambulance [FA] was a mobile front line medical unit, manned by troops of the RAMC.  The theoretical capacity of the FA was 150 casualties but in battle, much greater numbers were attended to.  The FA was responsible for establishing and operating a number of points along the casualty evacuation chain from the Bearer Relay Points which were up to 600 yards behind the Regimental Aid Posts in the front line, taking casualties rearwards through the Advanced Dressing Station [ADS] to the Main Dressing Station [MDS].  It also provided a Walking Wounded Collecting Station, as well as various rest areas and local sick rooms.  The FA would usually establish 1 ADS per Brigade and 1 MDS for the Division.  At full strength a FA was composed of 10 officers and 224 and was divided into 3 sections, each section had Stretcher Bearer and Tented subsections.  RAMC officers and men did not carry weapons or ammunition.[15]

8 October 1915: Private J. Mooney entered Egypt.[16]  The 146th Field Ambulance came under the orders of the 75th Division.  This formation was created during the war, June 1917 and 146th FA joined at Rafa, 14 August 1917.[17]  By this time, Private J. Mooney had been in Egypt for almost 2 years, since October 1915.   

The following account is derived from a number of sources and provides some background to the circumstances surrounding his death.[18]

At the outbreak of the Great War, Palestine [now Israel] was part of the Turkish Empire and was attacked by Allied Forces in December 1916.  The advance to Jerusalem took a further year. 

The 75th Division took the field in time for the Third Battle of Gaza and remained in action in Palestine, taking part in the following engagements during 1917 when Private J. Mooney served with it:

  • 27 October – 7 November:  The Third Battle of Gaza including the Capture of Gaza on 6/7 November
  • 13 – 14 November: The Capture of Junction Station
  • 17 – 24 November: The Battle of Nebi Samwil

22 November 1917: Private J. Mooney was killed in action [19] therefore it is assumed that he was caught up in the Battle of Nebi Samwil. This battle was the first British attempt to capture Jerusalem during the 1917 invasion of Palestine.  The capture of Junction Station had split the Turkish Army in 2 by capturing the railway west of Jerusalem.  The British held the coastal plain towards Jaffa and the railway beyond Ramleh and Ludd and advanced east towards Latron.  After capturing Junction Station, General Allenby altered his plans and decided to make an attempt to capture Jerusalem, always a difficult operation.  The Turks held a series of defensive positions in the Judean Mountains and the British lacked good maps and were moving away from their own railhead at Deir Sineid, north east of Gaza. 

  • 18 November: A cavalry attack on Latron suffered heavily and was abandoned.
  • 19 November: A new attack commenced using 2 infantry divisions with cavalry in support.  There was limited artillery support and some progress was made.
  • 21 November: The hill, known as Nebi Samwil, north west of Jerusalem was captured which gave the British a good vantage point over the city.  234th Brigade, 17th Division is credited with the capture of Nebi Samwil.  The British suffered 2,000 casualties but killed and captured many more Turks along with artillery and equipment.[20]
  • 24 November:  Attempts to progress east towards the Nablus road failed and the offensive was called off.  

Although Jerusalem had not been captured, the offensive had pushed the Turkish line back from Latron nearly 15 miles outside Jerusalem to Nebi Samwil, only 5 miles north west of the city.  Jerusalem was deliberately spared bombardment and direct attack.  Very severe fighting followed, lasting until the evening of 8 December when the 53rd [Welsh] Division on the south and the 60th [London] and 74th [Yeomanry] Divisions on the west captured all the city’s prepared defences.  Turkish forces left in Jerusalem throughout that night.

9 December:  in the morning, the Mayor of Jerusalem came to the Allied lines with the Turkish Governor’s letter of surrender.  Jerusalem was occupied that day and on 11 December, General Allenby formally entered the city followed by representatives of France and Italy.  Meanwhile, the 60th Division pushed across the road to Nablus and the 53rd across the eastern road.  From 26 to 30 December, severe fighting took place to the north and east of the city but it remained in Allied hands.

It is assumed that Private J. Mooney was involved in action at or near the front line since he was killed in action rather than elsewhere in the evacuation chain.  He may well have been a stretcher bearer, unarmed and offering medical assistance to the wounded and dying. 

51618 Private J. Mooney was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War and Victory medal.[21]  His widow, Mary Jane received his effects and war gratuity.[22]


Private John Mooney is buried at grave reference C.5, Jerusalem War Cemetery.[23]  The cemetery was begun after the occupation of the city with 270 burials and it was later enlarged to take graves from the battlefields and smaller cemeteries in the neighbourhood.  There are now 2,515 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in the cemetery, 100 of them unidentified.  Also the Jerusalem Memorial commemorates 3,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died in operations in Egypt or Palestine and who have no known grave.


Private John Mooney is commemorated on the Bolckow, Vaughan Company Limited memorial housed in Kirkleatham Museum, near Redcar. 



[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1911 census

[3] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.117 South Shields 1896 Q4

[4] 1939 England & Wales Register and England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.167 Auckland 1878 Q4

[5] 1871 & 1881 census

[6] 1881 census

[7] 1891 census

[8] 1901 census

[9] England, Selected Births & Christenings 1538-1975 film no.1894174

[10] UK WW1 Pension Ledgers & Index Cards 1914-1923 Note: Jane Mooney may have married Albert E. Gilbey about 1932, England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.383 Auckland 1932 Q1.

[11] 1911 Census

[12] Mary J. Mooney may have died in 1952 aged 74 England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.1a p.276 Durham eastern 1952 Q3

[13] UK WW1 Pension Ledgers & Index Cards 1914-1923

[14] England & Wales Death Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a p.311 Auckland 1925 Q1


[16] Medal Roll Card Index


[18] and CWGC details

[19] UK WW1 Pension Ledgers & Index Cards 1914-1923


[21] Medal Roll Card Index

[22] UK Soldiers Effects

[23] CWGC