Michael Henry Connery was born in Dublin in 1856. A career soldier and long time Battalion Quarter Master, he joined the 63rd Regiment of Foot (the Manchester Regiment) on April 19, 1869 when he was just a boy.
His first son, William Lawrence Connery was born in Ashton-under-Lyne on November 25, 1875. James Thomas Connery was born in Gorton on June 5, 1877 and Joseph Michael Connery in July, 1878.
In May 1886 he married Emily Field while he was a Sergeant Quarter Master for the Manchester Regiment living at the Army Barracks in Ashton-under-Lyne. The following year his son Arthur William Field Connery, named after his wife’s father, was born in Ashton.
By 1901 he had been commissioned as an Honorary Lieutenant and he and his wife were both still living in the Army Barracks at Ashton. Their son Arthur was away at boarding school. He served in the South African Campaign of 1901-02 as Quarter Master of the 6th Battalion and was mentioned in despatches (Gazetted July 29, 1902). Based upon that he was promoted to honourary Captain on August 22, 1904 “for his conduct in the field.” By 1911 he was an Honorary Major and Quarter Master of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, (Gazetted April 22, 1909), and he and his wife had moved out of the Barracks and were living at “Willow Bank” on Henrietta Street, in Ashton.
He sailed with the 1/9th to Egypt in September 1914 and subsequently landed with them at Gallipoli on May 9, 1915. On June 15, 1915 he was slightly wounded by shrapnel when a shell landed on his dugout. Two of his sons, Honorary Lieutenant Joseph Michael Connery and Second Lieutenant Arthur William Field Connery served alongside him with the 1/9th in Gallipoli. He left the peninsula with the 1/9th in December 1915 and continued to served with them in Egypt during the first half of 1916. In July 1916 he was invalided home from Egypt suffering from heat exhaustion, he was 60 years old. Later in the year he was awarded the Military Cross for his services to the Battalion and received his medal from the King at Buckingham Palace.
He died on April 25, 1921 in Ashton and was buried on April 29th at Hurst Cemetery with his wife, Emily, who predeceased him in April 1917. Thousands of people lined the streets of Ashton to pay their respects. His oldest son, Lt. Col. William Lawrence Connery, M.B.E., J.P. was later buried in the same plot when he died in April 1944.
The Ashton Reporter carried the following article published on Saturday April 30, 1921:
DEATH OF LIEUT.-COL. M. CONNERY
Fifty Years in the Service, and Four Sons with Commissions
POPULAR QUARTER-MASTER OF TERRITORIALS
We regret to report the death of Lieut.-Col. M. H. Connery, M.C., late of the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, (T.F.), which occurred on Monday night at his residence, Willow Bank. Henrietta Street, Smallshaw. Col. Connery’s end was very peaceful. Although he had been under the care of Dr. Beasedale for some time, he had been able to go about and was out of doors on Monday. In the evening he sat reading in his favourite chair. He put his book down and said to his daughter-in-law, “I don’t think I will read any more”. His head fell on his shoulder and he passed away. He died practically in harness for he had been down to the Armoury practically daily since the Defence Corps was raised.
Col. Connery was born in Dublin 65 years ago. His father was in the old 96th foot (now the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment). He joined the Manchester’s as a boy of 16, and served his country for almost half a century. He rose from the ranks and was gazette quartermaster in the Manchester Regt. in July 1887. He served in the Boer War. Once he was thrown from his horse and he often was troubled with his leg as the result of the fall.
WITH THE TERRITORIALS
When he retired from the regular forces in April 1909 he accepted the post of Quartermaster with the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment. He needed no Army Manual to teach him the duties of a Quartermaster, he knew everything laid down in regulation and a good deal more besides.
It was his association with the Ashton Territorials that has endeared the name of Connery to Ashton. When Major Connery, (everybody knew him as Major), became the Quartermaster of the First Ninth, he soon became a prime favourite amongst the officers and men. He was no slacker, and he permitted no slacking. When the Major was in a reminiscent mood he could tell stories – tinged with an unmistakable brogue, and the point well emphasized by his slight impediment in speech – until one’s sides ached with laughing. He could conjure up rations and desirables when in camp, in a manner that was the despair and admiration of other quartermasters. He worked on a system, and if he said the transport would be ready at a given time, it was ready to the minute.
THE OUTBREAK OF WAR
When the Territorials were mobilized it was a study to watch the Major’s face when the appeal was made for overseas volunteers. How it lighted up when almost to a man the Battalion stepped forward. “I knew it”, he said, “the Ashton lads were always game!” If they were ready, so was he, and despite his age, he jumped like a schoolboy at the chance of once again taking active service. He endured the heat of Egypt and the trials, the sufferings and the horrors of Gallipoli.
In July 1916 he reluctantly returned home on sick leave after being with the Battalion since it left Ashton in August 1914. His moustache was a little greyer, and the burly figure not quite so pronounced, but his healthy sun-tanned face, with its irresistible smile, belied his years. It was easy to grasp why he was highly esteemed both by the men of the Battalion and the people at home. His warm-hearted sympathy, his cheery good humour, and his solicitude must have been like balm on a sore to the nerve-strung men – some only mere striplings – as they emerged from the firing line. There are many mothers and fathers in Ashton who have thanked God that Colonel Connery was there to cheer and comfort their sons and look after their welfare amid the trials and dangers of the war in foreign lands. He was father, counsellor, and guide to them, and whilst on the Gallipoli Peninsular he saw to it that the men wanted for nothing if he could get it for them.
AWARDED MILITARY CROSS
Whilst in Gallipoli, Colonel Connery was twice wounded and was awarded the Military Cross. The record of recommendation by Major-General Douglas, in charge of the 42nd East Lancashire Territorial Brigade was as follows: –
“For his consistent devotion to duty in the performance of his duties as quartermaster. He has been twice wounded by shrapnel in carrying out his duties but continued to carry them out. He personally saw his convoy of supplies each day to their destination, under heavy shell fire. His influence for good has had a marked effect in his battalion. He has given frequent assistance to inexperienced quartermasters of other battalions. He is one of the best quartermasters I have ever known. I cannot speak too highly of his services.”
A CHAT WITH THE KING
On Dec. 9th, 1916 Colonel Connery was presented to his Majesty the King, who pinned the Military Cross on his breast, and warmly congratulated him upon his gallant conduct.
The King greeted him with a pleasant smile as he advanced and bowed, which at once placed the gallant colonel quite at ease. Then, after pinning the Military Cross on the Colonel’s breast, his Majesty chatted pleasantly with him. The King asked Colonel Connery what length of service he had and was surprised when he was told it was 48 years.
“How old are you, Colonel?”, asked the King, adding “I see you have been wounded twice.”
“Sixty your Majesty,” replied Colonel Connery.
“Have you any sons serving?”
“Four, all bearing your Majesty’s commission,” proudly replied Colonel Connery.
“Wonderful!”, observed the King. “You have done well – very well.”
FOUR SONS WITH COMMISSIONS
Colonel Connery was justifiably proud of the fact that he and his four sons all gained commissions from the ranks. His sons are Captain and Quartermaster W. L. Connery, M.B.E., now stationed at the Ashton depot; Captain J. T. Connery, who holds an appointment at the War Office; Captain Joe Connery, now retired; and Captain Arthur Connery, M. C., who is now in the Argentine.
Colonel Connery was a man of abstemious, almost Spartan, habits. He lived simply and sparingly and was a staunch teetotaller. He has gone, but his memory will live long in the hearts of those who realized the heart of gold which throbbed under a brusque exterior. Simple in tastes, and a man who sincerely tried to do his duty for his King and country; a man who did many a good deed by stealth and blushed to find it fame. The loss of so true a man will be sincerely mourned.
The following paragraph was published in the Manchester Regiment Gazette regarding his funeral:
“The Requiem Mass took place, at St. Mary’s Church, Ashton, on Friday April 29th was attended by a large number of people. Full military honours attended the funeral. Those present included the Colonel’s relatives, a number of officers from the Depot, and a number of Territorial officers who had served with him during the war. A party of Territorials, and also another party from the Depot, marched in the rear. The interment took place at Hurst Cemetery, where, as all along the route, large numbers had assembled to pay their last tribute to an old comrade.”