by jdurney on June 7, 2013

Maurice Alwyn Adams, ‘killed in action’

James Durney

It was the worst news a family could receive during the years 1914-1918, that their son, brother, father or husband, had been killed in action. Those words were visited upon Co. Kildare households by the hundreds during the long, bloody years of the Great War. Kildare Collections and Research Services, based in Newbridge Library are endeavoring to create a definitive list of those Kildaremen who were killed in action, or in accidents, or who died of wounds and disease during the Great War. However, as soon as a definitive list is printed or recorded it no longer becomes definitive, because someone, somewhere, will point out an unrecorded name or come up with an overlooked casualty. So it was this week when a local man was nearly omitted from the list at present being compiled.
In the late 1990s a list of all known Co. Kildare casualties was compiled by the FAS Leinster Leader projects in Athy and Naas. The list was the result of years of research, co-ordinated by Susan Kelly and Mary Carroll from information gathered together by Anne Maria Heskin, Frank Taaffe and Pat Casey. In the days before the internet made research so much easier trainees went to view the War Memorial Records, in the National Library, to painstakingly record the Co. Kildare casualties. The trainees included: Noelle Delaney, Rita Doyle, Paula Foley, Jacqueline Hyland and Sandra Clarke. Trainees Tanya Moran, Susan White, Annette Dempsey and Suzanne Reid spent many hours compiling the list, while Leinster Leader journalist Liam Kenny assisted on the final draft. The finished product, ‘World War I. List of the dead,’ was a monumental record to the county’s war dead. For years it has been a welcome source used by researchers, historians and family genealogists.
In 2012 Kildare Collections and Research Services decided to update the ‘World War I. List of the dead’ and hope to have the ‘definitive’ list finished by November 2013. The new list is being compiled by Mario Corrigan, James Durney, Clem Roche and Chris Holzgräwe using the original list as a foundation. Naturally, there are many pitfalls in compiling a list and mistakes can be easily made. One of them occurred last week, which was quite simple. The ‘World War I. List of the dead’ had an entry for ‘Maurice Adams. Reported killed in action June 16 1917. Son of Ven. Archdeacon of Kildare and Mrs. Adams. Born Kildare.’ A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website threw up several Maurice Adams, but none that could be linked to our Maurice Adams. For a time Maurice Adams was consigned to the ‘Unaccountable and spurious connections’ list. However, further research provided a huge amount of personal information and eventually a photograph of Maurice Adams.
The Census of Ireland 1901 provided the first clues and verified that Maurice Alwyn Adams was indeed a native of the Short Grass. Residents of a house number 1 in Kill East recorded:

Adams, James. (57) Male. Head of Family. Church of Ireland. Born: Martland, New South Wales, Australia. Clerk in Holy Orders. Rector of Kill and Rathmore. Precentor of Kildare Cathedral.
Adams, Frances Maud. (51) Female. Wife. Church of Ireland. Born: Monkstown, Co. Dublin.
Adams, Amy Maud. (20) Female. Daughter. Church of Ireland. Born: Kill, Kildare.
Adams, Edith Marie. (18) Female. Daughter. Church of Ireland. Born: Kill, Kildare.
Adams, Maurice Alwyn. (17) Male. Son. Church of Ireland. Born: Kill, Kildare.
Adams, Blanche Eileen. (13) Female-Daughter-Church of Ireland. Born: Kill, Kildare.
Adams, Alice Ruth. (13) Female. Daughter. Church of Ireland. Born: Kill, Kildare.

There were also a niece, a female visitor, and two servants present in what turned out to be the rectory in Kill, now known as ‘Kill House.’ The 1911 Census recorded seven residents of the same house, this time referred to as number 7, in Kill East. They were James Adams, his wife, Frances Maud, daughters, Amy Maud, Blanche Eileen, and Alice Ruth. There were also two servants present. Maurice Alwyn Adams is not recorded and it is assumed he has moved elsewhere. He was mentioned as being present at the funeral of Charles Hendrick Aylmer, of Kerdiffstown, in December 1906.
A website recording the deaths of men from New Zealand revealed that Maurice Alwyn Adams had emigrated to New Zealand and when war broke out joined the armed forces. He enlisted at Tokomaru Bay, in the Military District of Wellington, his service number being 2/2350. In the meantime he had married, because his next of kin was given as Mrs. Lily Adams (wife), 34 Adelaide Road, Wellington, New Zealand. The first rank Maurice Adams achieved was as an artillery gunner; his last rank was a driver.
On 13 November 1915 the 8th Reinforcements, New Zealand Field Artillery, sailed for the European and Middle East war zones, on board two transports, the Willochra and Tofua. Among the men, horses and equipment was Maurice Alwyn Adams. The first stop was at Suez, Egypt, on 18 December 1915. After a period of training and assignation to units the reinforcements continued on to England and then the Western Front. The New Zealand Division settled in on the stalemated Western Front as part of the Second Army in 1916. In the spring of 1917 the Second Army began preparations for a major attack on Messines Ridge. Wire-cutting and artillery bombardments began on 21 May as troops, tanks and artillery massed for the main attack to begin on 4 June.
Maurice Alwyn Adams never saw the major offensive. He was killed on 28 May 1917, probably by German counter battery fire on the New Zealand positions. The dreaded news reached his home in mid-June that Maurice Adams was ‘killed in action’. Maurice Alwyn Adams was buried in Dranoutre Military Cemetery, Heuvelland, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
Three years later, on 17 May 1920, a service conducted by his father, the Ven. Archdeacon Adams, was held at St. John’s Church, Kill, for the purpose of unveiling a memorial tablet, placed in the Church by the parishioners, in memory of those who died during the Great War. The names on the tablet were as follows: Lieut. G. H. Aylmer, Royal Innis. Fusiliers; Lieut. C. F. Blacker, Conn. Rangers; Lieut. R. B. C. Kennedy, Royal Dublin Fusiliers; M. A. Adams, N. Z. F. A.; A. R. Goodman, 23rd Batt. Canadians; J. H. Goodman, Seaforth Highlanders; Sergt. T. B. Goucher, Royal Innis. Fusiliers.
Lady Mayo, of Palmerstown, accompanied by the Archdeacon, unveiled the tablet, and addressed the congregation:

I have been asked by my old friend and rector of this parish, to say a few words. We have subscribed for and placed this tablet in our parish church in memory of those gallant men who went forth to fight for home and country against the German hordes. These young men went to the war full of hope and ambition, and, no doubt, when in France looked to coming home again to our little village of Kill and the green pastures of Kildare. Alas, they fell. They made the great sacrifice. The grass grows over their graves in France, but their memory remains green in our hearts. As long as the walls of our parish Church stand, so long will this memorial be there to remind you, your children, and children’s children of what these men performed, how they suffered and fell. This marble tablet is a tribute to their memory ‘Lest we forget.’

The father of Maurice Alwyn, James Moore Adams, was well-known in the Co. Kildare area, having arrived in Kill in 1881. James Adams married Frances Maud Johnston in 1878, in Rathdown, Dublin. In 1883 Rev. Adams was present at the consecration of St. Michael’s Church, at Millicent, Clane, and was conferred as Precentor of Kildare Cathedral in July 1898. At the time he was Rector of Kill and Rural Dean of Naas. According to the Kildare Observer of 9 July 1898 Mr. Adams had been over twenty years working in the Diocese and had raised a large amount of money for restoring and beautifying the churches under his care. He was a Representative of the Diocese on the General Synod, the Diocese Council, the Joint Finance Committee, the Board of Education, and the Temperance Society. During the restoration of Kildare Cathedral he was an active member of the Committee. James Adams retired as Rector of Kill and rural Dean of Naas and moved to York Road, Kingstown, Dublin. In January 1928 Rev. Adams officiated at the funeral of Lord Mayo, a fellow member of the County Kildare Archaeological Society. Frances Maud Adams died in 1923, aged seventy-three, and was buried in Deansgrange Cemetery. Rev. James Adams died c.1939-40 as it was mentioned at the County Kildare Archaeological Society meeting, of 11 March 1940, that he had passed away since the previous gathering.

Note: Thanks to Mario Corrigan, Karel Kiely and Brian McCabe for their help and contributions in researching this article.


It was the worst news a family could receive during the years 1914-1918, that their son, brother, father or husband, had been killed in action

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