Private Andrew McNally
Andrew (Andy) McNally was born on May 24, 1924, in the District of Dromore, Union of Omagh, in the County of Tyrone Northern Ireland, to Parents Andrew and Annie (McCormick) McNally. Andy’s father was a Sergeant in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Mother Annie was a member of the Catholic Parish. It was a dangerous thing at the time, for Protestants and Catholics to marry but marry they did. Andrew Sr. had been offered a position with the Vancouver Police department in Canada and after careful consideration, Andrew and Annie left Northern Ireland, with now 2 sons in tow, Andy and Albert. They boarded a ship in England called The Madagamon and began their journey, arriving in Canada in May of 1927.
Onboard the ship there was a large group of Irish settlers, who were headed to Vermillion Alberta. As Annie had become very lonesome for home and kin, she spoke with her husband about joining the group for Vermillion, of which they did. From there they went to a Settlement in Clan Donald, Alberta. Upon arrival, it was soon realized there was not enough housing for their family, so they travelled to Red Deer, Alberta in anticipation for houses to be built. It was during this time their third son was born, Joseph.
In 1928, they moved back to Clan Donald to try farming. Although Andrew Sr. had very little experience farming, they stuck it out for 5 years. Then in 1933, now with 7 children in tow, Andy, Albert, Joseph, Anna, William, Gloria and Agnes. The family moved to Edmonton, Alberta where Andrew Sr. joined the Edmonton Police force. Their family would grow to 11 children in total. The two Oldest boys Andy and Albert attended St Alphonsus elementary school, then on to St Josephs High school where both boys were very active in sports and very athletic. Andy especially liked boxing. The family also attended St Alphonsus Church regularly, where Andy was an Altar boy for many years. It is believed that his mother had hoped he would become a Priest.
Andy being the oldest of his siblings, was a huge help to his parents, rounding up those who were old enough and organizing a cleaning bee each Saturday. Andy acting as the Sergeant-Major would assure that all chores were being done. When Andy was seventeen and in Grade 10, many of the students were enlisting in the Military as WW2 had just begun and Andrew Sr had taken a position as a Sergeant in the recruiting office. As Andy was too young to join Andrew Sr. had to sign a permission form to allow Andy to join. It was thought Andy would be safe and stay in Canada where he got his driver training and Bren Gunner training.
It would be one year later that the Army was looking for Volunteers to train for the 1st Parachute Battalion. Andy was keen and volunteered as the Paratroops would be paid the highest wage and Andy could send money home in the form of Victory Bonds. Andy was accepted and was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for training. It was remarked in one of Andy’s letters home that the training was very rigorous and hard, of which very few passed. Andy graduated on March 12, 1943, and was now a proud paratrooper and joined the ranks of the elite 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
After leaving Fort Benning, Andy was given leave to visit home for 2 weeks. His parents were very worried for him and although the family did not know, Andy would confide in his father that he was being sent overseas. Andy was then sent to Shilo, Manitoba briefly for additional training before heading to Bulford England, where he would learn a new parachute technique of jumping without a reserve parachute. It was his time at Shilo that Andy met Jim Miklos and they became close friends. Andy would head to England before Jim but would meet up some months later at the Carter Barracks. Jim would later remark to his son Gerry in later life that Andy kept all the lads in stitches with his jokes and an immense sense of humour, his love for Vera Lynn music and a listening ear, for those who needed it. Jim also mentioned that had it not been for Andy to take him to church and confession before each mission that Jim would have lost his faith.
Andy was assigned to C Company, Platoon 7 and would be in aircraft #1 with the British 6th Airborne that would drop into Normandy in the early hours of D Day behind enemy lines. Jim would travel by sea with B Company. C Company was given a mission to destroy German outposts, Pillboxes and Bridges to stop the German advance. Although they sustained heavy losses of life, they met every one of their objectives. Varaville was next. It would be in Varaville that Andy would sustain his first injury from shrapnel after witnessing a fellow comrade being blown up. After 3 days of rest and healing, Andy would be back with his Company and heading towards the Battle of the Bulge. Andy would be hit again in the right thigh by a sniper bullet on January 27 but again C Company met all their objectives.
Andy wanted to be back with his battalion, although it was thought he was not quite well enough, Andy insisted and Volunteered to be a part of Operation Varsity. He would be back with his brothers and his best friend Jim. In the early morning of March 24, 1945, Andy and Jim would board a C-47 Bomber with their battalion to jump into Germany along the Rhine. It was the last big push and Andy was not going to miss it. Before boarding Andy was heard to say, “I’ve been hit twice, I am safe this time”, but would confess to his Friend Jim, that he did not have a good feeling and had a premonition he would not make it. Jim and Andy made a pact, that if either of them was killed the other would write the family. They would be close together on the static line before the jump but got separated. It would be an hour later that Jim would find Andy, still warm but killed from a large chest wound. He would hold his friend until help arrived.
Jim Miklos would later write about Andy’s family and begin a lifelong friendship with Anna, Andy’s younger sister. Letters, cards and table centrepieces for Christmas would be sent to each other. In 2009 Jim and his wife would come to Alberta to visit the memorial at Siffleur Falls that was erected to honour the 1st Parachute Battalion and visit with Anna and her husband Bob. Jim never got to visit Andy’s Grave in the Netherlands but in later life, sent a note with a family friend that was heading there, to place a note on Andy’s Grave at Groesbeek Cemetery, saying he never forgot him. Jim passed in 2019. To note, A Dutch family was assigned each a grave to tend to the fallen, 3 generations later, they still do.
Today, Andy’s niece Constance McCall (Daughter of Agnes McNally) and Gerry Miklos (Jim’s Son) continue the friendship and hope to meet up in Bulford England in 2022 at The Rose and Crown, where the lads used to drink and share laughter and tears. There they will toast to Andy and Jim’s memory and all the lads of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. It is to note that there is a plaque erected on the outside of the pub memorializing the men of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
Much thanks to Andy’s Sisters Anna, Dymphna and Agnes for sharing their memories of their brother. As well as to Gerry Miklos (son of Pte Jim Miklos)
They shall not be forgotten.
Bren Light Machine gun
This is a Bren Light Machine Gun, Pte McNally would have used one similar to this during his training with the 6th Airborne Division. The Bren Light Machine Gun weighed 25 lbs with a rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute and an effective range of 600 yards. Read more about the Bren in the equipment section of this website.