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Voices from the past
Technical Sergeant Dan Kirwan, U. S. Army

Dan Kirwan, younger brother of Pat and Joe Kirwan, entered the school in 1923 and had the advantage – for a new boy – of having an elder brother in a position of authority in the school hierarchy, for brother Pat Kirwan was a senior prefect (see his biographical sketch in this section). The father of the Kirwan children (the boys had an three sisters) was a company sergeant-major in the Rifle Brigade who had fought in the Boer War, served in India and was among the first wave of British troops, known as the British Expeditionary Force or BEF to be shipped to France at the outbreak of World War I. He was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. Dan Kirwan
at the Duke of York's in 1927
Dan survived school life, reached the rank of boy corporal, and left in August 1928 armed with a certificate testifying to the fact that he had been trained as a signaller and had a 2nd Class Certificate of Army Education to his credit. His conduct was described as exemplary. During his time at school, Dan Kirwan was in the 'Toy Soldier' performance at the Olympia Tattoo (see his contribution to this site under 2003 Reminiscences in which he is one of the two drummers shown). At the invitation of the Prime minister of France, Dan was in the party that spent a week in France.
Certificate issued on leaving school
– a crime-free record with exemplary conduct
  Technical Sergeant Dan Kirwan, U.S. Army (1940-1945

Leaving school, Dan worked in Sunderland for two years before he was able to take passage for the United States of America to join his Uncle Joe Kirwan and family. The reason for his delayed travel was that the U.S.A. had a quota system for European immigrants. Dan's Uncle Joe was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Dan became part of his Uncle's family. Becoming a naturalized citizen, Dan enlisted in the U.S. Army on 4 November 1940, more than a year before the 7 December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. However, the United States did not enter the Second World War in Europe until 11 December 1941 when Germany declared war on the U.S.A.

Dan Kirwan was in the 113th Infantry and, on completion of basic training, the first three grades were held back as a training cadre. His final rank was Technical Sergeant in training the draftees. He was in charge of the company in the field. His time spent at the School from 1923 to 1928 stood him in good stead. He finished doing the work and duties of a First Sergeant (equivalent of a company sergeant major in the British Army) without the pay, of course. The experience of working in a higher rank without the pay or recognition of the more senior rank happened to most of us who saw service in the armed forces. Dan's work as a First Sergeant is proof enough that the same thing happens in the Army of the United States as in the British Army, so Dan Kirwan has no special grounds for complaint on this score.

When the war ended and Dan returned to civilian life, he obtained work on a U.S. railroad that meant travelling the length and breath of the North American continent. He married his wife, Miki, and raised a family. He kept in touch with his alma mater by occasionally attending the school on grand day with his wife and, later, his granddaughter. Dan retired from the railroad and spent a happy 23 years living in South Carolina. When Miki died, Dan moved to Totowa in New Jersey where he now lives with his daughter Patricia.

At the time of writing, Dan is in his 91st year, but active and out walking daily for exercise. Despite failing eyesight, he still manages to write snail mail to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. So long may he live.

Patrick Kilduff (1909-1989)

Patrick Kilduff (1909-1989), was the middle one of three Kilduff brothers who entered the Royal Hibernian Military School, Phoenix Park, Dublin, following the death of their mother in the great flu epidemic of 1918. He was also one of the two brothers who were evacuated from Phoenix Park to Shorncliffe, Kent, when Ireland became a Republic.

Patrick Kilduff with his younger brother Michael were in the two companies of Hibernians amalgamated with the Duke of York's School in 1924. Two company houses constructed of timber and designated J and K companies accommodated the Hibernian boys and this fact explains why this note on Patrick Kilduff appears in the 'Voices from the past' column for the Duke of York's School. There is insufficient material and images of ex-Hibs available to make a similar page under the RHMS banner. This small bio on his life and times will find good company with other Irishmen: Dan Kirwan and Debroy Somers.

Kilduff records in a letter written to Field Marshal Sir Gerald W. R. Temple, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, that he had been a Hibernian boy. He had been among those transferred to Shorncliffe in 1922, that the band of the regiment in which he enlisted as a boy, the Royal Irish Fusiliers led the march of the boys from Shorncliffe Station to Somerset Barracks in 1922. Here is confirmation that the Hibernian boys were moved from Liverpool to Shorncliffe by train.
Regimental Sergeant Major Patrick Kilduff of the Royal Irish Fusiliers with Field Marshal Montgomery of El Alamein

Patrick who ran away from the Duke of York's after the Hibernian school was amalgamated with it in 1924. With a fellow Hibernian, he returned to Shorncliffe in the belief that was the best route back to Ireland. He must have been very homesick. In any case, he and his companion were caught and returned to the Duke of York's. He enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at Shaft Barracks, Dover, in January 1925 and spent his entire military career in the regiment.

He was a dedicated soldier and traveller well before the outbreak of the Second World War, with postings to Egypt, China, Malaya and Sudan and, during the war, to service in India, Iraq, Cyprus, Palestine, Madagascar and Italy during the Italian campaign. Having been 'mentioned in despatches' and awarded and MBE, he accumulated a chestful of campaign medals along with the Coronation (George VI), Long Service and Meretorious Service medals. By the time he came to his retirement year of1959 – almost thrity-five years – he had achieved the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major. He was also on the waiting list to become a Beefeater in the Tower of London, which led to the letter from Field Marshal Temple who in a personal letter dated 9 September 1958 wrote:

I have just heard from the Deputy Governor of the Tower of London that you are now top of the waiting list for appointment to Yeoman Warder.
He must know within the next week or so whether you are going to take the appointment which I think falls vacant at the end of this year or early next year.

Patrick Kilduff answered the Field Marshal saying that he'd decided to return to Ireland where he had relatives and to find a civilian job there. He didn't move to Ireland, but remained in London. He'd been offered, and declined, the job of supervisor in his local ex-serviceman's club in London. He was a regular visitor the club during his retirement, but resigned after the Civil Rights March in Derry in January 1972, the march that became known as Bloody Sunday after troops of the Ist Parachute Regiment killed 13 civilians. Faced with such acts of stupidity and disregard for life, disillusionment for those of Patrick Kilduff's stamp who had spent his working life in the British Army must have been the lot of many old soliders.

Patrick, in common with his brothers, came from strong Irish stock and served his time with devotion, but after Bloody Sunday, he had scant regard for the British Legion throughout which the scab of civil strife torn off and the old wounds of Irish-English relations opened up. It was a hard time for all those Irishmen like the Kilduff brothers who'd 'fought for King and country'. Patrick visited Ireland two or three times during his retirement, but remained in London in self-imposed isolation from his beloved Dublin. With a sense of isolation and resentment over the slaughter of fellow Irishmen and women on Bloody Sunday, he spent the rest of his days in London living on his pension. He died and was buried in London in 1989.

Pat Kirwan (1906-1994)

Editor's note: Pat Kirwan, whose account of the retreat to Dunkirk appears elsewhere on this site, is the first candidate in a new series being offered to alumni. That is, biographical data together with illustrative images of any Dukie with an interesting history is welcome for consideration to be posted on the site. Pat was the brother of one of our older Dukies, Dan Kirwan of Totowa, New Jersey. Pat lived a long retirement with his wife, Nora, in the Colchester area. He was active until the day he died, which happened when, in his eighties, he fell out of a tree he was trimming. No one would have appreciated more the observation that by his action he gave meaning to the phrase to 'fall off the twig'. Pat, by all accounts, had a great sense of humour.

As published in the 29 Aug. 1974 issue of the Evening Gazette (probably in the Colchester area), the following article appeared over the by-line of Susie Kelman).

Lieut. Pat Kirwan, RAEC (c.1938) wearing the ribbon of the 1937 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal Close-up view of the 1937 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal issued to all serving personnel of the armed forces

Rifleman turned teacher has packed up his books

Even though he's 67, retiring Maj Pat Kirwan, still has more than a twinkle in his eye when he recalls his early military career, yesterday. Maj Kirwan was presented with a silver slava by the education staff to honour his retirement from teaching in the Military Corrective Training Centre.

  Major Jim Corke shown presenting a silver salva to retiring Major Pat Kirwan, a teacher at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester. Major Kirwan retired at age 67 having served for over 50 years

Maj Kirwan and his wife, Nora, live quietly in Margarine Farm War, Colchester. But the major's travels have taken him to India, Singapore, France, Egypt, Palestine and Germany.

He started life in India – his father was the youngest lance-sergeant in the Rifle Brigade. And to this day, the major says, "I should have been a rifleman."


But somewhere along the line, young Pat was sidetracked into Army education.

He recalls, "In 1916 I passed off the square proficient in foot-drill, stick-drill, and saluting from the Duke of York's Royal Military School. That was just after my 10th birthday."

He remembers the time when British soldiers saluted with either hand – whichever one was furtherest (sic) away from the officer at the time. "That was until we learned from the Indians that the left hand was unclean," he laughs.

"I worked my way through the ranks, and it cost me three fights. I lost the lot. As lance-corporal I had loose teeth, a thick lip and a black eye."

Maj Kirwan joined the educational staff in July 1925, and until recently taught a broad spectrum of subjects including Army history and the life of a soldier over the centuries.

Pat Kirwan with his sister May on her 18th birthday, 1919. Pat wears two GC stripes on his left sleeve that suggest he entered the School in 1917 at age 11

Of all the places Pat Kirwan has travelled he says: "I would love to go back to Palestine. There I found that the Bible – the Old Testament – really lived. It wasn't a story any more, it was a fact.

He recalled an incident when he and other soldiers wanted to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but could not put down their guns. So, Pat Kirwan suggested that they take their guns – unloaded. A sensible proposal by a sensible man.

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