Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Charles Chidley 1903-1975

Charles Chidley was born in 1903 to William and Minnie Chidley at Medway, Kent. William was a labourer at chalk quarry. By the time of the 1911 census, Charles was living with his cousin James Gore a bricklayer’s labourer in Rochester.

Age 14, Chidley, is believed to have joined the army as a band boy in the Middlesex regiment in 1917. He was discharged in 1918 after a bout of ill health. In 1920, by which time he described himself as a green grocer’s assistant, he reenlisted in the artillery.

Shortly afterwards he was discharged once again but managed to join the Queens Own Royal Kent regiment and was deployed as part of the British force in Silesia, in late 1920. Finally in April 1921 he was transferred to Birr Barracks where he served as a chauffeur to senior officers.

As the British forces withdrew from Ireland in the spring of 1922 Chidley decided to defect to the IRA. Sean McGuinness later recounted …

‘It must have been the end of February or early March 1922 that Chidley joined the forces. Wearing a British soldier’s uniform with side caps and ribbons flying, Chidley and his companion as they marched through the town of town on the way to our barracks attracted the attention of many Tullamore people.’ (1)

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Chidley mobilised with an anti-Treaty column operating along the Laois Offaly border. In early August 1923 he was wounded and his companion Patrick Phelan died following a firefight with National Army troops near Britas House Clonaslee. Press reports claimed Chidley had been shot accidentally by his own side.

An official inquest held by pro-Treaty authorities in Maryborough/Portlaoise ruled that 18-year-old Phelan had died from heart failure, while republicans continued to insist, he had been shot dead. A memorial was later erected to Phelan on the roadside near Britias. In 1946 the National Grave Association unveiled a monument at his grave in Mountmellick cemetery.

In October 1922, another ‘Ex-British Army man’, George Mines from London was captured fighting with the Offaly IRA between Kilbeggan and Rahugh. 

Conscious that he might be arrested as a deserter if he returned to England, Chidley remained in Ireland following his release from internment at the Curragh. Through republican contacts he found work as a lorry driver and lived for many years in in Sligo. He applied for and received a military service pension in the 1930s and at that time was granted a Protecting Certificate which allowed him to return to Britain without fear of prosecution.

Charles Chidley passed away in a Liverpool hospital in 1975.

The Author wishes to Acknowledge the lifetime of work carried out by the late Paddy Heaney regarding the history of the Slieve Bloom area and the research into Childeys career by both the Cairio Gang Blog and the Military Service Pension Collection Blog.


Sources:

Military Service Pension Files. Charles Joseph Edward Chidley DP1644. Patrick Phelan DP1929. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923

Freemans Journal. 19 August 1922. 21 October 1922.

Irish Press. 14 January, 16 January, 28 January 1938.

Nationalist and Leinster Times. 27 April 1946.

Cairo Gang website online at https://www.cairogang.com/missing/chidley/chidley.html

Military Service Pension Collection Blog. International Connection in the MSPC. Online at https://militarypensions.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/international-connections-in-the-mspc/

(1) Sean McGuiness in reference provided for Charles Chidley’s Military Service Pension (DP1644)

Scroll to Top