CWG: Private Henry Teahen

Private Henry Teahen

Henry Teahen (or Teahan) was born in around 1898 in Castlegregory, County Kerry, Ireland. One of twelve children – eight of whom survived infancy – his parents were John and Catherine Teahan.

John was a wayman (or road surveyor), who was born in Kerry. Catherine was born in Wandsworth and it was in London that the couple met and married. By the time Henry was born, the family had moved back to Ireland, although Catherine had made the journey back to England in the early 1900s, after John passed away.

The 1911 census found the family living in Forest Gate in the east of the capital; Henry’s oldest brother, Joseph, was head of the household and, at 24, was working as a police constable. Schoolboy Henry was there, as was his mother, two more of his brothers, one of his sisters and his niece and nephew.

War was imminent, though, and, within a week of hostilities breaking out, Henry – who had been working as a waiter – enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Private Teahen’s service records show that he was 5ft 8ins (1.72m) tall, had a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. They also give his date of birth as 22nd June 1896, although he may have adapted this, as he would have been underage at the point he joined up.

Over the next few years, he served on a number of ships, switching between the Plymouth and Chatham divisions of the regiment. Full details of his duties are not immediately apparent, although is seems that he was injured while on board HMS Valiant in February 1916 – six months before her involvement in the Battle of Jutland – receiving a contusion to his right knee.

By the closing months of the war, Private Teahen had transferred back to the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. It was while here, early in 1919, that he fell ill. Details of his condition are lost to time, but it is known that he succumbed to them, passing away on 1st March 1919; he was 21 years old when he died.

Henry Teahen was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, within walking distance of the dockyard at which he was based.

Henry’s older brother James, also fought in the First World War. Full details are not clear, but documents show that he enlisted in the 6th City of London Regiment (also known as the City of London Rifles).

James’ regiment fought in many of the fiercest battles on the Western Front, including Loos, Vimy, High Wood and Messines, but it was at Ypres in the late summer of 1917, that he was injured. He died of his wounds on 30th September, aged just 23 years old.

Private James Teahan was laid to rest at the Mendinghem Military Cemetery in Poperinghe, Belgium.

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