THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

Thiepval Memorial

On high ground overlooking the River Ancre in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place, stands the Thiepval Memorial. Towering over 45 metres in height, it dominates the landscape for miles around. It is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world and is maintained by the CWGC.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial was designed by the famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and comprises a series of intersecting arches which increase in height and proportionate width. Construction began in 1928 following lengthy negotiations about the site with foundations dug to a depth of thirty feet. Wartime tunnels and unexploded ordnance were discovered during its construction.

Thiepval Memorial side detail

Thiepval Memorial was unveiled on 1st August 1932 by Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales. The ceremony was in English and French. Each year on the anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme (1916) on 1st July, a ceremony is held there.

On 1st July 2016, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, thousands of people attended a special ceremony including members of the British Royal family, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, French President François Hollande, President Michael D. Higgins and Minister Heather Humphreys from Monaghan, who was then responsible for Commemorations. I attended in my capacity as a member of the Irish veterans’ group, O.N.E. along with its Chief Executive Ollie O’Connor.

Michael Fisher and British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP at the Somme 100 ceremony at Thiepval in July 2016

Behind the memorial is the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves of 300 Commonwealth servicemen and 300 French servicemen. The majority of these men died during the Battle of the Somme, but some also fell in the battles near Loos and Le Quesnel.

OCEAN VILLAS WW1 MUSEUM

Sign for Ocean Villas Tea Rooms, Auchonvillers

In 1992 Avril Williams and her two children arrived at Auchonvillers and moved into an abandoned farmhouse. Over the past twenty-five years the family has renovated the farmhouse and it has become well-known as a popular venue for visitors to the Somme battlefields. Among the many regimental and other plaques on the wall was one left by my colleagues in the Military Police Association of Ireland, who were there last year.

MPAI plaque at Ocean Villas

The village of Auchonvilliers was renamed “Ocean Villas” by the British soldiers after they arrived on this part of the Somme battlefront in the summer of 1915.

Avril and her family named their farmhouse “Ocean Villas” and have expanded the site to comprise numerous educational facilities for visitors, including a venue for lectures, the museum and an orignal section of British trench.

This is a collection of rare and important militaria and memorabilia from the First and Second World Wars, gathered over many years by military historian and collector André Coillot. To prevent the collection from being dispersed Avril Williams purchased it in its entirety and has re-housed it in a refurbished building next to her guest house and tea rooms.

Plaque at Hamel for Essex Regiment, Battle of the Somme

This plaque on the side of the rebuilt church at nearby Hamel remembers the men of the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment killed there on the first day of the Battle, July 1st, and the other Essex battalions who fought on the Somme in 1916. It is not far from Thiepval Wood where the 39th Ulster Division went into action.

Map (table mat) of British lines around Thiepval 1916

This museum at Auchonvillers is the only military collection on the Somme battlefields which comprises First and Second World War artefacts. This museum was opened on 1st July 2008 by Major Tonie and Mrs Valmai Holt.

Plaques on the wall including MPAI at Ocean Villas tea rooms and museum

UK AMBASSADOR AT MUSEUM

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Carmel Thornton (Monaghan Co. Council) with Ambassador Robin Barnett, Eamonn O’Sullivan CEO Monaghan Co. Council and Museum Curator Liam Bradley

British Ambassador visits Monaghan County Museum

The British Ambassador to Ireland, Robin Barnett CMG, paid a visit to Monaghan County Museum recently. The Ambassador was met by the Curator, Liam Bradley, Monaghan County Council Chief Executive Eamonn O¹Sullivan and Administrative Officer Carmel Thornton. The Ambassador was taken on a tour of the museum¹s current exhibition, “From a Whisper to a Roar: Exploring the Untold Story of Monaghan 1916.” Liam Bradley explained what life was like in the county directly before the Easter 1916 Rising politically, economically and socially and how that changed so dramatically following the bombshell of the historic events in Dublin and around the country.

The other focus of the display is the Battle of the Somme. The Curator noted it was estimated that nearly one hundred Monaghan men died during that terrible battle which took place from July 1st to November 18th 1916. Ambassador Barnett noted that this year of commemorations was an opportunity to explore the full story of this period in Irish history. He remarked on the recent event at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, where a Castleblayney man, Thomas Hughes, was commemorated for receiving the Victoria Cross during the Battle of the Somme. Private Hughes VC is one of the key characters explored in the museum¹s exhibition on the historic year of Monaghan 1916.

At the end of his visit the Ambassador thanked the Museum Curator and the staff of the museum for developing such a fascinating display. He expressed a keen interest to return when he had more time to view all of the museum displays. Chief Executive of Monaghan County Council Eamonn O’Sullivan thanked Ambassador Barnett for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit the museum and also thanked the museum staff. The exhibition formed the backdrop for the special celebration marking what would have been the 100th birthday of Sir Jack Leslie of Castle Leslie, Glaslough.

THIEPVAL COMMEMORATION

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Ulster Tower, Thiepval  Pic. IRFU Charitable Trust

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO DIED AT THE SOMME 100 YEARS AGO

 Michael Fisher in Thiepval  Northern Standard  Thursday 7th July 2016

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Northern Standard, Thursday 7th July 2016

As she laid a wreath at the Ulster Tower in France last week, Minister Heather Humphreys stepped back and reflected on the carnage that had taken place on the battlefields of the Somme exactly one hundred years ago. She thought of the young men, including those from Ulster and other parts of Ireland, who had joined the British Army and had gone out to fight for their country and what they believed in. Some had written home to their mothers days before the offensive began and would die in the conflict.

The memorial which is similar to Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye, Co. Down, is beside Thiepval Wood where soldiers from the 36th Ulster Division including some Monaghan men left the trenches at 7.30am on July 1st 1916 to advance towards the German lines. Heather Humphreys laid a wreath along with the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster MLA, the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers MP and Britain’s Prince Charles.

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NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers M.P. at the Thiepval Memorial commemoration #Somme16

The service included representatives of the four main churches in Ireland. For the first 6time, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, was present at Thiepval along with his Church of Ireland counterpart, Archbishop Richard Clarke. The Presbyterian Moderator Dr Frank Sellar and the Methodist President Reverend Bill Mullally joined them.

They jointly called for Christians of all traditions in Ireland to pray for peace in these challenging times.  The Church leaders said: “Let us put our faith into action: love our neighbours, reach out to the stranger, care for the vulnerable, build community and be agents for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Addressing the service Archbishop Clarke referred to how the Somme and Ulster had belonged together in the imagination of succeeding generations over the last century. He noted that the Somme represented “a connectedness for all time with many men and women, and not only in Ulster nor only for one Christian tradition.”

He also recalled the recent pilgrimage to the Somme last month which he jointly led alongside Archbishop Martin, and which included a cross-community group of young people from across the island of Ireland. Archbishop Clarke encouraged the present generation to relate the sacrifice of the Somme to its hopes, prayers and aspirations for the future. “We must believe in a hope of the future for our young people, as they must believe in it for themselves”, he said.

The Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Frank Sellar, spoke afterwards of how for many families like his own, the Battle of the Somme was still personal. He said the Great War had changed the course of human history and a century later the world is still living with the consequences of its aftermath. The Somme, as a particularly poignant part of that conflict, changed the lives of countless thousands and indelibly shaped whole communities in Ulster and throughout the island of Ireland. It was a time of terrible carnage and incredible heroism, he added.

“For us today, 100 years on, it is difficult to imagine, or even contemplate, the shear scale of the loss of life and the impact that it had then. My grandfather lost two of his brothers on the battlefield, while a third, who survived, received the Military Medal for his bravery,” Dr Sellar said.

“For many families, like my own, the events of 1916 are still personal. It is however an enormous privilege and honour to represent the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at such an historic occasion, as we pause and remember those who died and reflect on their loss.”

“I am also reminded of our own fractured society and troubled world we live in and the vital importance of critical reflection and inclusive remembering. I am also very conscious of the necessity to always search for true reconciliation and for the creative reimagining of a civil society humbly modeled on Christ Jesus for the common good,” he said.

The objective of the 36th Ulster division was to dominate the area between Beaucourt to the north and Thiepval to the south, necessitating the capture of all German trench systems in front of them, particularly the strongly defended Schwaben Redoubt. In addition to its twelve battalions, there were four battalions of Tyneside Irish and seven regular Irish battalions distributed in other divisions, giving a total of twenty-three Irish infantry battalions involved on this front.

The Somme campaign lasted 147 days, from 1st July to 24th November 1916. The Allies captured 120 square miles of land, and advanced six miles. They suffered 419,654 casualties: forty men killed or wounded for every yard advanced.

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Wreaths Laid at the Memorial Stone, Thiepval Memorial

At the start of her visit last Thursday, the Minister laid a wreath at the Ginchy Cross in Guillemont. It remembers the sacrifice of the 16th Irish Division of the British Army, which entered the Battle of the Somme in September 1916. Minister Humphreys will return there for a separate ceremony to mark the centenary in September.

She then visited one of the many cemeteries in the Picardy area maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. Delville Wood contains the graves of over 5,500 servicemen, of whom 3,500 remain unidentified. They include some Irish casualties.

Heather Humphreys also attended a special Abbey Theatre production of ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’, which was supported by her Department, at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens. It was attended by the playwright, Frank McGuinness.

On Friday morning the Cavan/Monaghan TD accompanied President Higgins at the Thiepval Memorial for an international service marking the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916. This ceremony was attended by a number of senior members of the British royal family, the British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster MLA along with her counterparts from Scotland and Wales.

The Minister said it was very important that the Irish Defence Forces led by Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett had been included in the ceremony along with British and Commonwealth servicemen and women.

CQMS Gerry White from Cork read from the last letter of Lt Tom Kettle, journalist and soldier with the 16th Irish Division. Students from St Paul’s community college in Waterford also played a role at the service, which was attended by 10,000 guests, mainly from the United Kingdom. Solicitor Brendan O’Reilly from Cootehill and his son Aoghan from Dernakesh National School travelled from Co. Cavan. They saw the grave of Mr O’Reilly’s grand uncle Rifleman J.P. O’Reilly. He served in the Royal Irish Rifles and was killed in September 1916. He is buried at the nearby Lonsdale Cemetery.

Speaking about her visit to France Minister Humphreys said:

“The Battle of the Somme was a seismic event, which had a huge impact on the island of Ireland. The Somme has particular resonance in my own province of Ulster, due to the very heavy losses suffered by the 36th Ulster Division on the first day of the battle. There were more than 5,500 casualties in the 36th on July 1st 1916, including 2,000 deaths. Over the four years of World War One, it is estimated that 50,000 Irish men were killed while serving in the British, Commonwealth or United States armies.”

“This had a profound effect on the island of Ireland, and almost certainly had an impact on every community across the country. For decades, the stories of these men went largely untold, and many of those who returned home from the Somme and other battles, felt forced to conceal their own experiences. The Decade of Commemorations has allowed us to explore some of these stories for the first time, giving those who fought and those who died their rightful place in Irish history.”

“During 2016, our centenary year, it has been incredibly important to me that we remember those who died fighting abroad, as well as those who died fighting during the Rising here at home. One hundred years on from both the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, we are hearing a more complete narrative on the Irish experience in 1916, and the impact the events of that year had on our culture, our society and our psyche.”

PTE ROBERT HAMILTON: WW1 TALK BALLINODE

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Heather Stirrat, Marie McKenna, Michael Fisher and Ruby Heasty with the three WW1 medals Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

Heather Stirrat, Marie McKenna, Michael Fisher and Ruby Heasty with the three WW1 medals Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

Michael Fisher at the plaque for Robert Hamilton at St Dympna's Church, Ballinode Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

Michael Fisher at the plaque for Robert Hamilton at St Dympna’s Church, Ballinode Photo: © Evelyn Fisher

A WORLD WAR I SOLDIER FROM BALLINODE

Private Robert Hamilton from Kilmore East in Ballinode is one of the thousands of Irishmen killed in World War I whose stories were forgotten for nearly 100 years. Now to coincide with the centenary of the start of the Great War in August 1914, his story was recalled in a talk by local journalist Michael Fisher at St Dympna’s hall in Ballinode on Friday evening.

According to his obituary in the Northern Standard in May 1918, Private Hamilton was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force in County Monaghan. He had signed the Ulster Covenant in Ballinode in September 1912. The UVF ranks joined the British Army to fight in World War I and became part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, headed by a Cavan man, Major General Oliver Nugent.

General Sir Oliver Nugent: Photo courtesy Cavan County Museum

General Sir Oliver Nugent: Photo courtesy Cavan County Museum

Ballinode Parochial Hall Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Ballinode Parochial Hall Photo: © Michael Fisher

Robert Hamilton enlisted in Monaghan in the 9th  Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (the ‘Faugh-a-Ballaghs’) when a recruitment party came to town in February 1915. The Johnston and Madden Memorial Orange Hall on North Road was one of the places used by the British Army, along with the Town Hall. The recruits were sent to a barracks in Belfast and then to England for training. In October 1915 the regiment was on the move from Southampton across the English Channel to France.

Robert fought at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 but was invalided with a fever at some stage and appears to have been sent back to England to recuperate. He left Ballinode on Easter Saturday at the end of March 1918 and returned to his unit on the western front. Three weeks later he was killed in the fighting during a German offensive in the Ypres Salient at Kemmel Hill in Belgium. He was 26, not 24 as some records show. His body was never identified, so he has no grave, but his name is included in the vast Tyne Cot memorial near Ypres.

There is also a plaque in his memory at St Dympna’s Church in Ballinode, which provided the springboard for the talk. It would not have been possible without the interest shown by Marie McKenna and her research along with two distant Hamilton relations, Ruby Heasty and Heather Stirratt. Ruby still has the three war medals awarded to Private Hamilton.

Private Robert Hamilton world war one medals Photo: © Michael Fisher

Private Robert Hamilton world war one medals Photo: © Michael Fisher

WW1 TALK: PTE ROBERT HAMILTON – PART 4

Detail from UVF Somme mural East Belfast Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Detail from UVF Somme mural East Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

Private Robert Hamilton survived unscathed during the five-months long Battle of the Somme in 1916. But some time afterwards, possibly in 1917, he was ‘stricken with fever’ and was brought back to Britain as an invalid. I notice that in the case of another Fusilier, he was taken to Leeds Infirmary for treatment, but it’s not yet clear where Hamilton would have been sent. He appears to have been allowed to return to Monaghan at some stage and might have been treated in the old Infirmary there.

His obituary in the Northern Standard in May 1918 gives us some more clues as to how he met his end. It tells us he went out again from Ballinode, never to return, on Easter Saturday (March 30th 1918). Three weeks later on April 19th he was listed as being killed in action. He was 26, not 24 as the plaque in Ballinode states. This has become clear as a result of finding a copy of his birth and baptismal record, thanks to Mrs Armstrong in Clabby.

Private Robert Hamilton Photo from Northern Standard obituary May 1918

Private Robert Hamilton Photo from Northern Standard obituary May 1918

Looking at the regimental war diary of the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and the 2nd North Irish Horse which was amalgamated with them it is apparent that this was the time of the second German offensive on the western front, which had begun a month or so earlier. The Germans were determined to recapture much of the ground that had been held by the Allies and to push the British Army back to the French Coast.

Kemmel Berg 1918 (German archive)

Kemmel Berg 1918 (German archive)

On April 18th the diary records the action at Kemmel Hill, not far from Ypres, where the Germans attempted to recapture this high ground from which the occupiers could observe the surrounding countryside for miles around.

View from Kemmel Hill

View from Kemmel Hill

2am. Moved to Kemmel as composite Battalion with 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Kelly. Heavy casualties, while moving into position, from enemy shelling. Captain Despard wounded and died soon after.

8pm. Relieved by French troops and marched to Siege Camp. 

Sheet 27 NW.

Note 41: Killed in action this day – Captain Charles Beauclerk Despard DSO MC, formerly of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, aged 37, son of William and Mary Despard of ‘Sheelagh’ Malone Park, Belfast, husband of Josephine Despard of The Acacias, Portarlington, Queens County, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 3.

Died of wounds this day – Private John Bales (43229) formerly Notts and Derby Regiment (36090), born and enlisted Nottingham, buried at Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery, grave II.F.23 (Soldiers Died shows Bales’ date of death as 18 July 1918, the CWGC database as 18 April); Private Edward Morton (28773), born Kilmore, County Cavan, enlisted Armagh, aged 17, son of Mr R Morton of 6 Lonsdale Street, Armagh, buried at Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery, grave II.F.19; Private Walter Henry Smyth (23793), born Ballinderry, County Antrim, enlisted Newtonards, County Down, residence Ballinderry, aged 21, son of James Smyth of Lakeview House, Ballinderry, Lisburn, County Antrim, buried at Mendinghem Military Cemetery, grave X.A.41.

19 (April 1918) Note 42:

MY NOTE: The following entry is included here under killed in action this day. We will remember them:

Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 140/1 Naming R.Hamilton Photo: Friends of 36th (N.Antrim) website

Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 140/1 Naming R.Hamilton Photo: Friends of 36th (N.Antrim) website

PRIVATE ROBERT HAMILTON (18259), born Clabby, County Fermanagh, enlisted March 1915 at Monaghan, residence Ballinode, County Monaghan, aged 24, son of Mary Hamilton of Kilmore East, Ballinode, Monaghan, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141;

Died of wounds this day – Private Thomas John Ingram Dickson (23697), born Madden, County Armagh, enlisted Lurgan, County Armagh, residence Madden, aged 19, son of David and Rachel Dickson of Drumhillery, Madden, Keady, County Armagh, native of Drumhillery, buried at Haringhe (Bandaghem) Military Cemetery, grave I.F.10; Private Joseph Seeley (5978), born Shankill, County Armagh, enlisted Lurgan, County Armagh, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141.

Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium Photo: CWGC website

Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium Photo: CWGC website

Killed in action this day – Private Herbert Ruddick Bark (43431) formerly 1/24th London Regiment (721539), born Peckham, SE, Surrey, enlisted Surrey, Kennington, aged 27, son of Edward John Bark, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private John A Bell (41333) formerly North Irish Horse (2245), born Loughbrickland, County Down, enlisted Antrim, residence Newry, County Down, buried at Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Military Cemetery, grave V.C.23; Private Joseph Arthur Bowden (41287) formerly North Irish Horse (1965), aged 21, born Cootehill, County Cavan, enlisted Antrim, residence Cootehill, son of Joseph and Lydia S Bowden of Cortober House, Cootehill, County Cavan, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Frederick St George Cooke (41694) formerly North Irish Horse (2182), born Carrigallen, County Leitrim, enlisted Belfast, residence Lisburn, County Antrim, son of the late Francis and Anne Cooke of Gortermone House, Carrigallen, County Leitrim, husband of Jeannie C Cooke of ‘Norton’, 6 Hawthornden Road, Knock, Belfast, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Leonard Walter Crook (45754) formerly Royal West Surrey Regiment (67320), born West Ham, E, Essex, enlisted Stratford, E, Essex, residence West Ham, aged 18, son of Julia Eliza Crook of 82 Gladstone Road, West Ham, London, and the late Henry John Crook, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Allan Davey (41589) formerly North Irish Horse (1312), born Carrickfergus, County Antrim, enlisted Belfast, residence Carrickfergus, aged 30, son of Mr and Mrs W.J Davey of Dunloskin, Carrickfergus, husband of Sarah E Davey of 1 Lancasterian Street, Carrickfergus, County Antrim, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141;Private William Thomas Elliott (41159) formerly Dragoons of the Line (UD/284), enlisted Enniskillen, residence Letterbreen, County Fermanagh, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Sergeant Herbert Firth (43469) formerly London Regiment (721651), enlisted Kennington, SE, Surrey, residence Brixton Hill, SW, Surrey, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private James Gillespie (14242), A Company, born and enlisted Armagh, aged 33, son of Thomas and Jane Gillespie of 83 Callan Street, Armagh, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Patrick John Glass (3428), born and enlisted Balleymoney, County Antrim, residence, Hordle, Hants, aged 26, son of Sarah and the late James Glass, husband of Annie May Glass of 8 Council House, Hordle, Lymington, Hants, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private William Gribben (20986) formerly Connaught Rangers (4358), born Loughinisland, County Down, enlisted Belfast, residence Clough, County Down, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Arthur Gribbin (23011), born Dromore, County Down, enlisted Belfast, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Arthur James Hall (45745) formerly 24th London Regiment (5615), enlisted Highbury, N, Middlesex, residence Finsbury Park, N, Middlesex, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Robert Hamilton (18259), born Clabby, County Fermanagh, enlisted March 1915 at Monaghan, residence Ballinode, County Monaghan, aged 24, son of Mary Hamilton of Kilmore East, Ballinode, Monaghan, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Henry Harper (21119) formerly Connaught Rangers (2306), enlisted Belfast, residence Hollywood, County Down, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Albert Gordon Keller (25103) formerly Royal Army Service Corps (T/S/3482), born Staveley, Derbyshire, enlisted Liecester, residence Staveley, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Henry Lavery (26841), born Lurgan, County Armagh, enlisted Glasgow, residence Lurgan, aged 32, husband of Analysia Lavery of 31 North Street, Lurgan, County Armagh, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Edward Lawley (40016) formerly West Yorkshire Regiment (33932), born and enlisted Leeds, aged 35, son of Mr and Mrs R Lawley of 12 Armenia Place, Sheepscar, Leeds, husband of Edith Nicholson (formerly Lawley) [sic] of 128 Bayswater Road, Leeds, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private William George Leinster (41266) formerly North Irish Horse (1469), born and enlisted Cavan, residence Belfast, aged 26, son of George and Elizabeth Leinster of Drummullen, Farnham, Cavan, husband of Georgina Leinster of 123A Longstone Street, Lisburn, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private William Lindsay (41084) formerly Dragoons of the Line/ Inniskilling Dragoons (UD/60), born Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, enlisted Enniskillen, residence Letterbreen, County Fermanagh, aged 31, son of James and Margaret Lindsay of Raholland, Letterbreen, County Fermanagh, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Sergeant Ernest Charles Miles (43449) formerly London Regiment (721582), enlisted Kennington, SE, Surrey, residence Feckham, SE, Surrey, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Robert McConnell (41445) formerly North Irish Horse (1859), born Cloughfin, County Antrim, enlisted Antrim, residence Belfast, aged 23, son of Mary McConnell of 11 High Street, Greencastle, Belfast, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Willaim McGahey (41609) formerly Dragoons of the Line (UD/292), enlisted Enniskillen, residence Blacklion, County Cavan, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private William McGrane (10752), born Stamullen, County Meath, enlisted Drogheda, County Louth, residence Julianstown, aged 27, son of Denis McGrane of Julianstown, Drogheda, County Meath, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Lance Corporal Randal Edmund McManus (41505) formerly Dragoons of the Line (UD/88), born and enlisted Dungannon, County Tyrone, aged 26, son of Jane McManus of 6 Howard Terrace, Dungannon, County Tyrone, and the late Samuel McManus, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private William Nowell (45746) formerly London Regiment (722363), A Company RIF, born and enlisted, Battersea, SW, Surrey, aged 26, son of William and Martha Nowell of 54 Theatre Street, Lavendar Hill, London, husband of Charlotte Ann Nowell of 13 Kassala Road, Battersea Park, London, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Robert Park (41353) formerly North Irish Horse (2325), born Magherafelt, County Londonderry, enlisted Antrim, residence Magherafelt, aged 29, son of John Park JP and Margaret Park of Grange, Magherafelt, County Londonderry, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private William Pilkington (45817), formerly Royal West Surrey Regiment (66613), born and enlisted Camberwell, SE, Surrey, aged 20, son of Mrs Emma Pilkington of 7 Avenue Road, Camberwell, London, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private John James Raynor (43273) formerly Notts and Derby Regiment (22385), born and enlisted Ikeston, Derbyshire, aged 33, son of the late Aaron and Catherine Raynor, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private Clifford Skee (40082) formerly West Yorkshire Regiment (11251), born South Shields, County Durham, enlisted Newcastle-on-Tyne, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141; Private George Soper (45739) formerly London Regiment (722478 [or 5571]), born Southwark, SE, Surrey, enlisted Surrey, aged 26, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Soper of 73 Crampton Street, Newington Butts, London, husband of Elizabeth Soper of 37 Newport Street, Lambeth, London, no known grave, commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 140 to 141.

(to be continued)

Regimental Crest, Royal Irish Fusiliers: Nick Metcalfe website

Regimental Crest, Royal Irish Fusiliers: Nick Metcalfe website

WW1 TALK: PTE ROBERT HAMILTON – PART 3

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo: © Michael Fisher

Private Robert Hamilton was in action with the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers at the Battle of the Somme in France.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME July 1st 1916

Des Blackadder from Ballymena has written a very moving account of the role played by the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles who fought alongside the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers. Hellfire Corner describes how the two units manned a line of trench which stretched between two strongpoints. These two battalions of 108 Brigade were separated from the remainder of their comrades in the Ulster Division by the marshy valley of the River Ancre – a zone deemed impossible for troops to operate in because of the nature of the ground.

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo: © Michael Fisher

Their objective on 1st July was to clear the German trenches which protected the approaches to Beaucourt Railway Station, a main supply and communications centre of the German army in the Thiepval area. No-man’s land was about 400 yards deep, about the length of four football pitches, and about half way across was a seventy yards wide ravine with twenty feet deep, steeply sloping sides.

Rifle remnants from Somme Cavan County Museum Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Rifle remnants from Somme Cavan County Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

Barbed wire and cutters from the Somme, Cavan County Museum Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Barbed wire and cutters from the Somme, Cavan County Museum Photo: © Michael Fisher

At zero hour the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers (Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan Volunteers) attacked ‘in fine style’. In fact, the first wave got away with few casualties but succeeding waves were advancing onto ground which was now a cross-fire zone for the elite German machine gun teams who had raced to their emplacements the moment the British bombardment had ceased. P1180268 (2) (800x547)

Despite their losses, the Fusiliers charged on, by this time ignoring all previous orders to advance at a walking pace, and swept over the German front line.

Some men did get into the German lines – most of those who did were next to the 9th Fusiliers and a few small groups fought (alongside) the Armagh men during their harrowing struggle towards Beaucourt Station. Others attempted to clear a breach for their comrades who were hampered by the uncut wire but the fight was unequal and the battalion’s war diary makes it plain that the attack was now doomed to failure.

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo: © Michael Fisher

Philip Orr, in ‘The Road to the Somme’ records how those men who had breached the enemy line came back, retreating one by one, or paying the price as the enemy attack swept over them. (The attack had) been a military failure. The bombardment had failed to cut the wire properly and had not destroyed the deep German dug outs. In 1916, officers could not request artillery support to deal with a particular problem. The barrage was totally inflexible and the gunners themselves inexperienced. Even the ground was against the two battalions. The ravine had been far too difficult to negotiate and its steep sides slowed the advance allowing the Germans to win the race to mount and fire their machine guns.

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Trench display Cavan County Museum, Ballyjamesduff Photo: © Michael Fisher

Many casualties occurred when men had to leave the cover they had sought to ‘fall back’. It could be argued that those who made their way back to the British lines despite wounds and trauma on July 1 were amongst the bravest of the brave. While in the trenches they were at least sheltered from the hail of machine gun fire and shrapnel which swept the open ground. But going ‘above ground’ almost guaranteed a wound of some kind. (DES BLACKADDER)

(to be continued)

Plaque in St Dympna's Ballinode to Vivian Abbott, Canadian Infantry, died August 1917 Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Plaque in St Dympna’s Ballinode to Vivian Abbott, Canadian Infantry, died August 1917 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Plaque in St Dympna's Ballinode to Francis Hazlett, Canadian Infantry, died June 1916 Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Plaque in St Dympna’s Ballinode to Francis Hazlett, Canadian Infantry, died June 1916 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Detail from bottom of Abbott Plaque in St Dympna's Ballinode Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Detail from bottom of Abbott Plaque in St Dympna’s Ballinode Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mullyhara orange hall plaque

Mullyhara orange hall plaque

The talk was made possible with the assistance of a team. The vestry of the church (especially Ronnie), Ruby Heasty, a distant relative who gave the introduction, Heather Stirrat, another Hamilton connection, and Marie McKenna, who provided the encouragement and also the technical support. I thank them all, and Jonathan Maguire of the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum in Armagh, who provided details of Robert Hamilton’s military service. He also suggested the excellent book by Nick Metcalfe, Blacker’s Boys, in which you will find the name of Robert.

St Dympna's Church of Ireland church, Ballinode, Co.Monaghan Photo:  © Michael Fisher

St Dympna’s Church of Ireland church, Ballinode, Co.Monaghan Photo: © Michael Fisher