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Featured Family Member - Michael Joseph Kavanagh M.C.


Michael Joseph Kavanagh (later to become Walsall’s most popular Lord Mayor) was born in Walsall, Staffordshire, England on 20 February 1879. He was the eldest of seven children of Irish immigrant parents whose ancestors came from an ancient settlement twelve miles from Galway City on the eastern shores of Lough Corrib called Annaghdown. Little is known to me of his early life in Walsall except fleeting childhood memories of my grandfather’s brother Michael Joseph Kavanagh (Great Uncle Mike)

He joined the South Staffordshire Regiment of the British Army and served in the Anglo/Boer War of 1899 to 1902 in operations in Cape Colony, The Transvaal and at Wittegbergin. At the outbreak of World War 1 he reenlisted into the same regiment as a private and advanced to the rank of Colour Sergeant while serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium from 14 May 1915 to 27 September 1916 and from 17 March 1917 to 29 April 1917. He served at the Battle of the Somme, probably the most infamous battle which British troops took part – approximately 20,000 Allied soldiers lost their lives on the first day of this battle on 1 July 1916. He was wounded twice during the Somme offensive. He was appointed to a King’s Commission as a second Lieutenant on 12 January 1915 and was prompted to Lieutenant on 27 September 1915. On 4 January 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for Gallantry (one of the top British military awards) on 16 November 1916.

The notification of his award was published in the London Gazette with the following citation – “For conspicuous gallantry during operations. Though knocked over and wounded by a shell, he took over command of a machine gun company two days later, and, suffering from shock and considerable pain, stuck to his command and did good work.” He was promoted to Acting Captain on 8 March 1918.

Captain Michael Joseph Kavanagh M.C. retired on retired pay on 28 November 1919 and was granted the full rank of Captain. He is mentioned for his gallantry in J.P. Taylor’s book, “History of the South Staffordshire Regiment”

Captain Kavanagh lived at mount street, Walsall and his occupation is listed as secretary and later as a retired army officer. He was elected to Walsall Council in November 1931 for Caldmore Ward. He was elected Lord Mayor of Walsall in November 1945. He served on many committees including: Blind Persons health and Housing Committee, Public Works Committee and General Purposes Committee. He always fought for better conditions for his fellowman and was extremely proud of his Irish blood.

During World War 2 he served as Platoon Commander of No. 21 Platoon of the 27th., Staffordshire of the Home Guard.

In 1948 he became a Alderman and represented Paddock Ward on Walsall Council until he retired from political life in 1962. He is buried in Walsall at St. Mary’s on the Mount Catholic Church and some of his descendants still live in Walsall where his portrait hangs in Walsall Town Hall. Captain Michael Joseph Kavanagh M.C. was awarded the following military medals for service during three wars:

Anglo Boer War 1899 – 1902

  • Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with clasps Cape Colony, Transvaal and Wittebergen
  • Kings South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with clasps South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902


  • The Military Cross
  • 1914/15 Star
  • British War Medal 1914/18
  • Allied Victory Medal 1914/1919

World War II

  • The Defence Medal 1939/1945


This item originally appeared in the 1998 Clann Chaomhánach Annual and was contributed by Mavis Chaomhánach Hill.