Known as the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ this bronze Memorial Plaque was presented to the family of John Condon who was killed in action in the second Battle of Ypres, 24th May 1915. Condon is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Archives as the ‘youngest known battle casualty of the war.’ He was from Wheelbarrow Lane off Ballybricken, Waterford.
A monument to John Condon and to all Waterford men, women and children who lost their lives as a result of armed conflict at home and abroad was unveiled in May 2014 in Cathedral Square in the Viking Triangle on the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh, with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret scripture of the poor.
- Tom Kettle
John Condon enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment at Waterford on Friday the 24th of October 1913. This was a reserve battalion composed of soldiers who served on a part-time basis but were liable to be called up for regular service in the event of mobilisation.
On Wednesday the 16th of December 1914, he was drafted to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. The battalion was posted to France at the outbreak of hostilities as part of the 4th Infantry Division in the British Expeditionary Force and in December was holding part of the line in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front.
In the early hours of the 24th of May 1915, the Germans commenced a heavy artillery attack followed by clouds of lethal chlorine gas along a 4.5-mile front, part of which was held by the 2nd Battalion. John Condon was among the casualties of this attack on the second last day of the battle. He was buried on the battlefield in a temporary grave near St Julien. After the war his body was recovered and reburied at Poelkapelle, about five miles north east of Ypres.
The stone over his grave bears the inscription:
Royal Irish Regiment
24th May 1914 age 14
John Condon is recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records as follows:
In Memory of
Private JOHN CONDON
6322, 2nd Bn., Royal Irish Regiment
who died age 14
on 24 May 1915
Son of John and Mary Condon, of Waterford. Youngest known battle casualty of the war.
Remembered with honour
His gravestone in Poelkapelle Cemetery, Belgium, records his age as 14 when he was killed and his is one of the most visited Allied war graves in Europe. Condon is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Archives as the ‘youngest known battle casualty of the war.’