Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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6976983   Sergeant Frank McAleer D.C.M.
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 29/12/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 19/06/1911
Died: 08/05/1943 (Died by accident)
Age: 31
Summary      
Francis McAleer was the eldest son of Frank and Elizabeth McAleer. He was born on 19th June 1911. He was the eldest of at least three children, all born in the Dungannon area. Frank McAleer was the husband of Grace McAleer. Sergeant Frank McAleer was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.). Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M. was serving with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he died on 8th May 1943, age 31. It is believed he was killed by a truck in an accident.
Sergeant Frank McAleer D.C.M.
Further Information
Francis McAleer was the eldest son of Frank and Elizabeth McAleer. Francis McAleer and Elizabeth Cassidy were married on 4th May 1911 in the district of Dungannon.
Francis McAleer was born on 19th June 1911. He was the eldest of at least three children, all born in the Dungannon area.
Known family: Francis McAleer, Elizabeth McAleer, Francis McAleer (born 19th June 1911), Mary McAleer (born 24th August 1912), Patrick McAleer (born 16th July 1914).
Frank McAleer was the husband of Grace McAleer.
Possibly an image of Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M.
Sergeant Frank McAleer was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.).
During the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers operations in the Goubellat plain on the morning of 24th January 1943, he unilaterally and single-handedly went out from his position south of Hill 286 in revenge for the loss of a patrol the previous night in which his friend Norman Nelson was part of.
He spotted machine gun post, went to the flank of it, surprised the crew of two, collected the gun and disabled the two prisoners. The information obtained was later used and caused about 30 casualties to the enemy. Sergeant McAleer was awarded a D.C.M. for this action.
Frank McAleer - action for which commended DCM
Frank McAleer - action for which commended DCM
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 1st May 1943: Dungannon Sergeant Wins the D.C.M.
Newspaper report
The capture of a German machine gun together with ten German prisoners while on a lone patrol in No Man’s Land has won Sergeant Frank McAleer, serving with the First Army in North Africa, the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
All night long Sergeant McAleer peered into the darkness listening for the footsteps of his pal, who had left him a cheery ‘See you again’ to go on patrol. But Lance Corporal Nelson did not return. Here is Sergeant McAleer’s own story:-
‘Shortly after Norman had left I heard a burst of machine gun and tommy gun fire. At dawn I was very depressed. Norman was a great pal, so I took my revolver, thinking he and others were lying out there wounded. I scribbled a note and left it for my officer, telling him where I had gone, for I thought if I had asked permission, he would have said no. I had only gone about one thousand yards when I saw a trench. Next thing I saw was a German helmet above the top of the trench. It moved. On the parapet was a machine gun, the one that had killed Norman. I got right up to the trench and told the German to stick up his hands. He made a grab for his gun, but when I screwed the muzzle of my revolver into his ear and told him to forget it, he put his hands up and said ‘Kamerade’. I told him to wake the second German who was asleep at the bottom of the trench and he did so with a kick. I made them both double back across open country to my post carrying their gun. One of them offered to guide me back to his trenches where he said there were 23 others who would like to be captured. They had had no food for two days because our guns were shelling their only ration route. My officer said no, but that evening we attacked and took eight prisoners. The rest tried to get away but our Bren guns stopped them. We had only one casualty.’
Sergeant McAleer is a ‘line’ soldier. He is 31 years of age and six foot high. His father, Mr Frank McAleer, resides at Mulboy, Dungannon. He served with the Royal Garrison Artillery prior to the last war. Sergeant McAleer’s uncle is Mr Michael McAleer, of Linfield Street, Dungannon, a driver on the N.I.R.T.B. Sergeant McAleer is married and his wife lives in Aldershot.
Norman Nelson, Sergeant McAleer’s pal, is a Cookstown man, the eldest son of Tom Nelson, a veteran of the last war, serving in the Inniskillings. He was on the reserve and was called up on the outbreak of the war. He was also in the Inniskillings and was playing in the band at the recruitment meeting in Cookstown. His wife resides in Coagh.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 8th May 1943:
Newspaper report
In reference to the statement made by Sergeant McAleer, D.C.M., first given in an English paper, describing the incidents for which he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal with the First Army in North Africa in which he referred to Lance Corporal Norman Nelson as killed, Mrs Nelson has informed us that her husband is a prisoner of war. The official intimation to this effect is dated 12th April. Following the publication of Sergeant McAleer’s statement, given in the last issue, Mrs Nelson received a letter from Major Buhan, of the Records Office, who wrote:-
In view of the soldier having reported missing, believed prisoner of war by the military authorities, and his name subsequently appearing on the Infantry record of the International Red Cross telegram as a prisoner of war, it would appear that the sergeant was mistaken in presuming that the machine gun killed Norman.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 19h June 1943: Coagh (Lance Corporal Norman Nelson)
Lance Corporal Norman Nelson, of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, is a prisoner of war in Italy. He had been with the First Army in North Africa, and for some time had been as constant pal of Sergeant McAleer, a native of Dungannon, who won the D.C.M.
Missing since 24th February last, Nelson was reported in the English press as killed early in March, and later was reported a prisoner of war. After so many vague rumours, anxiety was only lessened when his wife, who resides at Urbal Road, Coagh, received a letter from himself, the first direct communication received from him since he became a prisoner of war.
Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M. was serving with the 6th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he died on 8th May 1943, age 31. It is believed he was killed by a truck in an accident.
Frank McAleer - details of death
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 25th December 1943: Escaped Prisoner of War (Lance Corporal Norman Nelson)
Lance Corporal Norman Nelson, of Cookstown, who was taken prisoner while serving with the First Army in North Africa, and escaped from Italy where he was being held as a prisoner, gives a brief description of his adventures after he was captured.
In the prison camp, in which there was very little space, were many British, South African, Free French, Poles and Greeks. The prisoners were given little food and it was of very poor quality, and were it not for the Red Cross, it would be impossible for them to live. When Italy capitulated, the Germans took over the camp and began moving the prisoners to Germany, in order to make room for Italian internees.
Nelson said the regarding his escape, together with another chap, he walked the roads for 32 days before getting to the Allied lines. They tramped during the daytime, but had to lie in during the night owing to curfew. During their long and arduous walk, Italian people were very kind to them and gave them food and directed them on the correct roads. They first liked up with the American lines. The Americans showed overwhelming hospitality towards them and gave them everything they required, and also provided them with transport to their own lines.
Corporal Nelson, who was on the reserve on the outbreak of the war, was also in the evacuation from Dunkirk. He is serving in the Inniskillings and was playing in the band at the recruiting meeting in Cookstown soon after the declaration of war. He is at present at home enjoying a well-earned holiday.
Norman’s father, Mr Thomas Nelson, a veteran of the last war, also served in the Inniskillings.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 25th December 1943: (Lance Corporal Norman Nelson)
Lance Corporal Norman Nelson, whose story of his escape from a prison camp in Italy is given in another column, has been presented with a wallet of notes, being a gift from Mr Joseph Allen, J.P., and a few friends in Cookstown.
Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M. is buried in Medjez-el-bab War Cemetery in Tunisia.
Frank McAleer gravestone
Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M. is commemorated locally on Dungannon War Memorial.
The comic, The Victor, featured the story of Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M. on the front page of its 18th June 1966 issue.
The Victor - 18 June 1966 - McAleer's Revenge - page 1
The Victor - 18 June 1966 - McAleer's Revenge - page 2
The CWGC record Sergeant Francis McAleer D.C.M. as the son of Frank and Elizabeth McAleer. He is also recorded as the husband of Grace McAleer of Aldershot, Hampshire.
Lance Corporal Norman Nelson survived the war.
Read more
Relevant Dungannon Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Mulboy, Derrygortrevy Dungannon Town South Newspaper lists father in Mulboy, Derrygortrevy 54.485498 -6.792798
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 Forum discussion (WW2 Talk) Details of Sergeant Frank McAleer
2 Imperial War Museum Footage of Frank McAleer
3 Irish Brigade -6 Innisks War Diary 6th Inniskillings War Diary from February 1943
4 National Archives UK Official details of Gallantry Award
5 War Graves Photographic Project Photo of Sergeant Frank McAleer's gravestone can be purchased here
Dungannon District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2015-2021