Tom Kettle (Pic. WikiCommons)

The following story by Patricia Killeen is taken from the US website published on September 10th. It details a commemoration held by the Irish in France including our Ambassador commemorating Lt Tom Kettle (former MP), Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge from Slane and other members of Irish regiments in WWI.

Tom Kettle: Irish War Poet and nationalist was remembered by the Irish in France on the eve of the anniversary of his death.

On Sunday, September 8th 2019 the Irish Embassy Paris and the Irish in France Association invited Irish people living in France to the inauguration of the ‘Irish Peace Garden.’ The garden, located in the grounds of the Château de Péronne, in the heart of the Somme battlefields, pays homage to the WW1 Irish soldiers. The château also houses ‘The Historical Museum of the Great War’.

Our day out also included visiting the museum, the Church and village of Guillemont and the Ulster Tower in Thiepval.

As our Ambassador Patricia O’Brien rendered homage to the Irish WW1 soldiers, complimented the new garden, and spoke of the strong link between Ireland and France, at that moment in time I felt happy to be Irish in France. After the speeches, Peter Donegan led us through the gardens and entertained us with stories of his challenge transforming a 14th-century dried-up moat, constructed to keep people out, into a welcoming garden that drew people in.

The village of Guillemont, a short drive away and the neighboring village Ginchy, are soaked in Irish blood. More than 1,200 men from the 16th (Irish) Division were killed in the liberation of these two villages on 3rd and 9th September 1916. The church is at the very centre of the small village, which has neither a shop nor a café. However, we did locate the ‘Rue de la 16ème Division Irlandaise’!

One again French officials and the Irish Ambassador spoke. I lost the battle of keeping tears in check in the beautifully decorated church, where the dead Irish soldiers are so honored. Plaques on the wall list the different battalions of the 16th Irish Division including the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in which Thomas Kettle and many Irish Volunteers had enlisted. Our Ambassador paid homage to Kettle (economist, journalist, barrister, writer, poet, and former Member of Parliament for John Redmond’s constitutional nationalist party) who died at the Battle of Ginchy on 9th September 1916. She said she hoped that Kettle would be proud of the progress that had been made for peace in Europe and Ireland.

Lt Kettle’s name on WWI memorial at Westminster Hall

Kettle, an ardent Irish nationalist, donned the British uniform knowing many of his fellow countrymen wouldn’t understand why. He enlisted after witnessing the horrors in Belgium after the German invasion and said “while a strong people has its own self for centre, it has the universe for circumference.”

He went to war for European civilization and to fight for the freedom of another small country, fully aware that after Irish independence eventually came he would be seen as one of the ‘foolish dead,’ in contrast with the 1916 Rising ‘heroes’. In the final lines of his poem, ‘To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God’, Kettle explained his decision: “Know that we fools, … Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor, But for a dream, born in a herdsmen shed, And for the secret Scripture of the poor.”

In the lead up to the centenary of the 1916 Rising, the Irish President Michael D. Higgins, acknowledged Kettle’s place in Irish history and said he was “an Irish patriot, a British soldier and a true European and understood that be authentically Irish we must also embrace our European identity’.

Francis Ledwidge, the other Irish WW1 war poet who died at the Battle of Ypres on July 31, 1917, like Kettle is now also considered as an Irish patriot and a WW1 war hero.

More Irish men, many of them members of the Irish Volunteers, died defending France than died creating an Irish republic. Many of them died for European freedom and in the hope that a grateful Britain post-war would pass the shelved Home Rule bill. On the other hand, other brave Irish men from Ulster enlisted in WW1 in the hope that the British would throw out the same Home Rule Bill!

Our final stop was at the Ulster Tower, Northern Ireland’s national war memorial, constructed in 1921 opposite the Thiepval Wood from where the 36th (Ulster) Division made its historic charge on July 1st 1916. The Irish Ambassador, the Mayor of Péronne and the Sous-Préfet de Péronne once again laid wreaths, as they had done at the Celtic cross and French monument outside the Guillemont church.

As I looked at the orange flowers in the green, white and gold Irish wreath, I remembered in ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somne,’ how Frank McGuinness’s had described that Protestant soldiers exchanged their Orange sashes before going into battle.

Over the course of the day, I saw how revered our Irish WW1 soldiers were in France. The men, whose place in Irish history had been a long time enigma, had apparently always been honored in the French villages they defended. Tom Kettle and Francis Ledwidge were friends with many of the 16 men executed in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Francis Ledwidge’s poem “The Lament for Thomas MacDonagh” is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful WW1 poems.

When young people are struck down in their prime we can’t help but wonder about the outcome if they had lived. How would the combined talents of Tom Kettle, Tom Redmond and the 16 executed men have impacted the course of Irish history and the 1921 peace terms if they had been spared?

Kettle wrote from the Somme that if he were to live he would “spend the rest of his life working for perpetual peace.” He had enlisted for ‘Liberty’ and after being wounded insisted on returning to the Somme out of ‘Fraternity’, for his Dublin Fusiliers. The WW1 soldiers were denied ‘Equality’ in a world where ‘bumbling’ deciders sacrificed young men as fodder. Kettle described the Great War as ‘an outrage against simple men’.

In the Irish Peace Garden, Ambassador Patricia O’Brien expressed her hope in people’s ability to assemble and discuss. I hope many will have the opportunity to visit the Peace Garden and museum in Péronne, the village of Guillemont and the Ulster Tower for the pleasure of a great day out, and ‘lest we forget’ peace can never be taken for granted.


Lt TJ Kennedy of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Lt Thomas James Kennedy was Editor of The Northern Standard newspaper in Monaghan when he enlisted in the British Army. He was killed in action in France on 9th September 1916.

He was the eldest son of Samuel and Mary Kennedy, Terressan, Moneyhaw, County Derry near Cookstown, and brother of Mr. Joseph A. Kennedy, journalist, Lisburn.


Placing a cross in memory of Lt Kennedy at Thiepval Memorial July 24th 2019

For five years previous to the outbreak of war Mr Kennedy was Managing Editor of the newspaper, The Northern Standard, in Monaghan. He was described as “a journalist of much ability”. In March 1915, he joined the 16th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Shortly afterwards was given a commission in the 12th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He had served during the Easter Rising in Dublin and a month later on May 25th 1916, he was sent to France.

Lieutenant Kennedy was attached to the 8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Somme where he was killed in action on 9th September 1916.

Panel 4D on Thiepval Memorial with name of TJ Kennedy

His unit was part of the 16th Irish Division, composed mainly of former members of the National Volunteers, who played an important part in capturing the towns of Guillemont and Ginchy, although they suffered massive casualties. During these successful actions between 1st and 10th September, casualties amounted to 224 officers and 4,090 men.

The Irish conquest of Ginchy turned out to be one of the few victories the Allies could claim in the terrible year of 1916. It gave them control of a series of vital observation posts overlooking much of the Somme region that would prove to be a game-changer in the inch-by-inch battle for the Western Front.


Thiepval Memorial

Lieutenant Tom Kettle was among the casualties recorded by the 16th Irish Division and he was commemorated in Dublin last week. His name and that of Lieutenant Kennedy would later be carved upon the Thiepval Monument to the Missing of the Somme along with 72,194 others whose remains were never identified.

Panel 4D on Thiepval Memorial

They include the names of Monaghan men from the 9thBattalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, part of the 36thUlster Division who were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st1916 (see Northern Standard July 14th2016). When I visited the memorial in July 2016 for the Somme centenary commemoration I had not realised that all these names were on the memorial, especially that of a former journalist from the Northern Standard. So on this latest visit in July 2019 I checked the relevant panel with the help of an intern from the CWGC who told me she came from Belfast and that a relative had served in the same Battalion as Lt Kennedy.

Cross left by me at Thiepval Memorial remembering Lt TJ Kennedy

Thomas James Kennedy was born in County Tyrone about 1881. The 1901 census lists him as age 20 living with the family at house 4 in Terressan, Moneyhaw, near Cookstown. Thomas was working as a printer; his father was a farmer. Before the war he had served his apprenticeship in the offices of the Mid Ulster Mail as a reporter, and was well known in journalistic circles in Dungannon, Derry, Dublin and Dundalk.


From the Belfast Newsletter dated 10th March 1915:

A Journalist’s Commission. Compliment to Mr T J Kennedy, Monaghan. A deputation, representing the journalists of county Monaghan, waited on Mr. Thomas J Kennedy yesterday at the headquarters of the Ulster Division Cadet Corps at Brownlow House, Lurgan, and made him the recipient of a presentation on the occasion of his departure from Monaghan. Mr Kennedy, who has occupied the position of managing editor of the Northern Standard, Monaghan, for a period of five years is extremely popular in that town, and particularly so amongst his colleagues in journalism.

He is a member of the Ulster District of the Institute of Journalists, and is well-known in newspaper circles in Ireland. He has joined the Cadet Corps at Lurgan prior to taking up a commission in the Royal Irish Rifles. The presentation, which took the form of a handsome gold wristlet watch, with luminous dial, was made by Mr Samuel Bothwell, who succeeds Mr Kennedy in the position of managing editor. He paid an eloquent tribute to the many good qualities of Mr Kennedy as a journalist and gentleman , and wished him every success in his military career.

He also conveyed to him the sincere good wishes of Mr William Swan, the proprietor of the Northern Standard. Mr J J Turley spoke of his association with Mr Kennedy in Monaghan and of the kindly, cordial, and genial relationship that always existed between them. He regretted the temporary departure of such a warm personal friend, and trusted that Mr Kennedy would return decorated with high military honours.

Mr Kennedy, having suitably replied, the proceedings terminated.


During the Easter Rising in April 1916 he was recommended for promotion for services in the field. While attached to the 12th Inniskillings he was deployed to the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, where he signalled to have the iron gates and doors open, and arranged to have his men cross under heavy fire without loss. It was through his courtesy afterwards that arrangements were made for a fifteen minute ceasefire so as to enable Mr. Richard Bowden, Administrator at the Cathedral, to procure provisions for a large number of refugees who were compelled to take refuge with the men in the building.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 15thJanuary 1916

Second Lieutenant T J Kennedy, 12th (Reserve) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, has been promoted Lieutenant. He is a son of Samuel Kennedy, Tyressan, Cooktown, and well known in journalistic circles, commencing his career in the staff of the Mid Ulster Mail.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 20thMay 1916

Local Soldiers (furlough)

During the last ten days, quite a number of soldiers have been home on furlough. Mr T J Kennedy (son of Mr Samuel Kennedy), formerly of the Mid Ulster Mail staff, who is a lieutenant of the Inniskillings and did valuable work in quelling the Sinn Fein rebellion.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 12thAugust 1916

Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, has received a telegram from the War Office that his son, Lieutenant T J Kennedy, has been wounded. Lieutenant Kennedy was a well-known journalist. He served his apprenticeship with the Mid Ulster Mail and prior to receiving his commission about eighteen months ago he was editor of the Northern Standard, Monaghan. Prior to going to France, he was on duty in Dublin during the Rebellion. He has written since that his wound was on his hand and that he hopes to be on duty again soon.

Lieutenant Kennedy was attached to the 8th Inniskillings at the Somme where he was killed in action on 9th September 1916.



Side section of Thiepval Memorial

Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 16thSeptember 1916

LATE NEWS Lt TJ Kennedy Killed

A telegram from the War Office was received on Friday afternoon informing Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, that his eldest son, Lieutenant Kennedy, of the Inniskillings, was killed in action in France on 9th September. He served his apprenticeship in the Mid Ulster Mail, and was well known in journalistic circles in Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk and Monaghan, and was the editor of the Northern Standard in the latter town when war was declared. He had been on the South Irish Horse, and volunteered for service, and was given a commission in the Ulster Division, being later transferred to the 16th Division. He was engaged during the Sinn Fein Rebellion with his battalion in Dublin, and his efforts were warmly commended by the administrator of the Pro-Cathedral, where he was stationed during most of Easter Week, and it was understood he was recommended for promotion.


Tyrone Courier 21stSeptember 1916

Intimation has been received by Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, that his son, Lieutenant Thomas J Kennedy, Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on 9th September. Lieutenant Kennedy was a well known Ulster journalist, and for a time acted as a reporter for the Tyrone Courier, and proper to receiving his commission was editor of the Northern Standard, Monaghan. Before going to the front, he took part in the quelling of disturbances in Dublin. He was wounded on the 4th August last, but the injury, which was to the hand, was of a slight nature, and he was able to resume his duties in a short time.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

(Death Notice)

KENNEDY – Killed in action on 9th September 1916. Lieutenant T J Kennedy, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Ulster Division (attached to the Irish Brigade), eldest son of Samuel and Mary Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown. Deeply regretted by father, mother sisters and brothers.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Lt TJ Kennedy

A telegram from the War Office was received on Friday afternoon informing Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, that his eldest son, Lieutenant Kennedy, of the Inniskillings, was killed in action in France on 9th September. He served his apprenticeship in the Mid Ulster Mail, and was well known in journalistic circles in Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk and Monaghan, and was the editor of the Northern Standard in the latter town when war was declared. He had been on the South Irish Horse, and volunteered for service, and was given a commission in the Ulster Division, being later transferred to the 16th Division. He was engaged during the Sinn Fein Rebellion with his battalion in Dublin, and his efforts were warmly commended by the administrator of the Pro-Cathedral, where he was stationed during most of Easter Week, and it was understood he was recommended for promotion. The following letter was received from the Rev. Richard Bowden, B.A., Administrator of the Pro-Cathedral, dated 14th May 1916, and addressed to Sir John Maxwell K.C.B. (a copy of which is treasured by Lieutenant Kennedy’s parents), testified to the way he performed his duties. It runs:-

‘Sir. After the telephone message to the military to occupy the Pro-Cathedral, I deem it my duty to state to you my great appreciation of the efficiency and courtesy with which the occupation was carried out by the 12th Inniskillings. I wish to mention specially Mr Kennedy (Lieut), who signalled to have the iron gates and doors opened, and arranged for his men to cross under fire without loss, and through whose courtesy afterwards, arrangements were made to cease fire for fifteen minutes so as to enable me to procure provisions for the large number of refugees who were compelled by the fire to take refuge with us. Richard Bowden, Administrator, Pro Cathedral, (Dublin).’

The following information is from the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin website:- Dublin Diocesan Archivist Noelle Dowling and Darren Maher have studied the accounts of those priests who ministered on the streets of the burning city in Easter 1916. Twenty priests, including a curate who would go on to become Archbishop of Dublin, were involved in ministering to those caught up in the events on both sides of the divide one hundred years ago.

Among the historic 1916 documents in the Diocesan Archives is an account of how over forty people sought refuge in the Pro-Cathedral when fighting broke out in the city centre. All around the Cathedral buildings were ablaze – the group were forced to stay inside the “Pro” for three days. Meanwhile, the priests of the Cathedral continued to come and go from the building to be with the wounded and dying. One Cathedral curate ran from the Pro to Wynne’s Hotel through streets raked with gunfire from all sides to attend to a wounded man who was badly injured.

Jervis Street Hospital quickly filled with the wounded and it was the busiest hospital in the city centre during the week of the Rising. A priest was in attendance at all times to cater for the many religious needs of the wounded and dying. The Very Rev. Fr. Richard Bowden, Administrator of the Pro Cathedral, ensured that clergy were always available. He stayed there constantly through Monday, Tuesday and left on Wednesday morning when curates, Fr. Edward Byrne (who would later become Archbishop of Dublin) and Fr. Joseph Mc Ardle took over.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Major A J Walkey, of the 8th Inniskillings wrote:-

‘I regret having to inform you that your son was killed while leading his men during an attack on the 9th September. I have gathered that he was going down a trench with his bombers, when they met a party of Germans, who put up a fight, one of them throwing a bomb which killed your son. I am glad to say that afterwards some of his men got him away and buried him in decency. Please accept my sincerest sympathies in your bereavement.’


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Colonel Sir John Leslie Bart, of Glasslough, County Monaghan, commanding the 12th (R.) B., R. I. Fusiliers, (whose son Captain Norman Leslie was killed in France in 1914) writes to Mr Samuel Kennedy as follows:- ‘I cannot say how much I feel for you and your family in the loss you have sustained in the death of your gallant son. In this battalion, he was beloved by both officers and men, and none of us are more grieved by his loss than I am myself. I had always a very strong liking for him ever since the evening he offered me his services at Monaghan, where his talents as a journalist were fully recognised. No one helped me more than he did in forming the Battalion, where he was so quick to learn and impart the knowledge he had acquired. He accompanied me often on the recruiting platform, and none could speak better.’


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Lieutenant Colonel J C Ker Fox, second in command of the 12th Inniskillings, writes from Finner Camp:- ‘I believer Sir John Leslie is writing to you on behalf of the battalion and himself to sympathise with you in your great loss. I myself have been away on duty for the last five days, and only returned on Saturday night, hoping that the news might not be correct, and was sorry to have it confirmed yesterday. I wish to tell you how much I personally regret the death of your gallant son. Although I am considerably more than twice his age, I had taken a great liking to him, and had seen a great deal of him, on and off duty. He was a brilliant young officer and if he had lived would, I am sure, have distinguished himself. He was very popular with all his brother officers, and deservedly so, for he was a kind hearted, good natured and cheery young fellow, whom we could ill spare. I wish I had words at my command to express my feelings better, but I bitterly regret his death, and feel most deeply and sincerely for his family and for you’.


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Rev P.D. McCaul of St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, writes as follows to Mr S Kennedy:-You have my deepest sympathy in your great sorrow caused by the death of your son. During the week of the Rebellion I met him a good deal, and I must say that Lieutenant Kennedy was a general favourite with all the people staying in the Hamman Hotel. He was more than kind to myself, personally. He was affable, gentlemanly, fearless, and good humoured. I am deeply touched by his death. The loss of such a noble son is a crushing blow. His parents and other members of the family have my deepest sympathy. May God comfort you in your sorrow is the earnest prayer of one who greatly admired your darling son.”


Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

The following telegram has been received by Mr Kennedy:- ‘The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army have sustained by the death of your son in the service of his country. Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow. Keeper of the Privy Purse’.


Tyrone Courier 1stFebruary 1917

The late Lieutenant T J Kennedy, a native of Cookstown, and formerly a member of Cookstown, and formerly a member of the Tyrone Courier reporting staff, and Lieut W E Wylie, the well known K.C. and member of the North West Circuit, are among those ‘mentioned’ for their services in Dublin during the rebellion.

In a letter to his father Major A.J. Walkey of the 8th Inniskillings wrote:

“I regret to inform you that your son was killed while leading his men during an attack on the 9th September. I have gathered that he was going down a trench with his bombers, when they met a party of Germans, who put up a fight, one of them throwing a bomb which killed your son. I am glad to say that afterwards some of his men got him away and buried him in decency.”

NORTHERN STANDARD Saturday 16thSeptember 1916


With extreme regret we announce the death in action of Lieutenant Thomas J. Kennedy, of the 8thBattalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The sad news was conveyed to this office late this afternoon in a telegram from the deceased officer’s bereaved father, who resides at Cookstown, his gallant son having fallen on the 8thinst.

Lieutenant Kennedy was for nearly five years managing editor of the “Northern Standard”. In March 1915 he gave up his position to join the Cadet Corps of the 16thBattalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers), shortly afterwards gaining a Commission. He was posted to the 12thInniskillings, and after a period of training with his battalion was sent to France a few months ago, since when he was transferred to the 8thInniskillings. He was slightly wounded on August 4th, but was able to take up duty again after a short period.

During his lengthened stay in Monaghan the late Lieut. Kennedy made hosts of friends by reason of his genial , friendly disposition, and his popularity with the public was enhanced by the patriotic response which he gave to the call of Duty. He took an active part in connection with the Monaghan Battalion of the U.V.F. prior to the war, his valuable services to the cause of Unionism both in this and other directions being highly appreciated. In athletic circles in Monaghan and elsewhere he was a prime favourite, and amongst all classes the greatest sympathy will be felt with the bereaved relatives in the loss they have sustained. He has made the supreme sacrifice in defence of the Empire, and we deeply deplore his death.

NORTHERN STANDARD Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916



Sympathetic reference was made at Monaghan Board of Guardians on Monday to the death in action of Lieut. T.J. Kennedy. Mr. Jas. Loughead said it was with feelings of deepest regret he proposed a resolution of sympathy with the relatives of the late Lieut. T.J. Kennedy, “Northern Standard”. He was a gentleman who from time to time came amongst them as a member of the Press, one for whom every one of them had a warm corner in their hearts. He was one of nature’s gentlemen, who never drew a dividing line between members of that board, but was at all times considerate and courteous to all. He fought nobly for his country and fell like a hero on the plains of France. He proposed the adoption of the following resolution:-

“That we, the members of Monaghan Board of Guardians, have heard with deep regret of the death in action in France of Lieut. T.J. Kennedy, late managing editor of the ‘Northern Standard’. For many years he attended the meetings of this Board in his journalistic capacity, and at all times the members found him most courteous in his endeavor to further the interests of the Board of Guardians and of the ratepayers they represented. We desire to express our sincere sympathy on his death”.

Mr. Hugh O’Brien seconded. The late Lieut. Kennedy, he said, was a gentleman he knew personally for many years. He could not add anything to what Mr. Loughead had said regarding the deceased gentleman.

Mr. Jas. M’Quaid, J.P. — I desire to be associated with the feeling expression contained in the resolution. I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Kennedy for many years. I bear out what was said about him as to his courtesy and efficiency as a journalist.

Mr. T.W. Hanna, J.P. — It is unnecessary for me to say anything. I wish to be associated with the resolution.

Several other members desired to be associated with the resolution.

The Chairman in putting the resolution to the meeting said he was sure they all symapthised with Lieut. Kennedy’s relatives on his sad death. As Mr. Loughead embodied in his resolution, he fell like a man fighting for his country. They all knew Lieut. Kennedy. He was a fine journalist and all regretted to learn of his death in a foreign country. He was sure his relatives had the sympathy of all the boards he attended.

The resolution was passed unanimously, all the members standing, and a copy was ordered to be sent to the relatives of the deceased officer.

Commemorating the former Editor of The Northern Standard, Lt TJ Kennedy

Thomas J. Kennedy was buried at the time of his death but his grave could not be found later by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is therefore commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He is also commemorated on the Cenotaph in Cooktown and Molesworth Presbyterian Roll of Honour, Cookstown.

The reports in the Northern Standard at the time of the First World War show how the paper under the proprietorship of William Swan was a pro-unionist publication. It carried weekly reports of the war effort including details of local men who had died fighting for the British Army. The “Dublin rebellion” or Easter Rising featured only briefly in the columns of the paper in May 1916. Much of the information on Lt Kennedy has been taken from the records of as well as the files of The Northern Standard.

This article appeared in The Northern Standard on 15th September 2016 on the centenary of his death.


Private Thomas Hughes of the 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers was born in Corravoo, Castleblayney, in 1885. He was 29 when the Great War began. He was awarded the V.C. for actions at Guillemont in France during the Battle of the Somme on 3rd September 1916. Plaques at the Catholic church in Guillemont commemorate him and two other holders of the Victoria Cross. Our group visited the church on the third day of our visit to World War One sites.

The citation read: “For most conspicuous bravery and determination. He was wounded in an attack but returned at once to the firing line after having his wounds dressed. Later seeing a hostile machine gun, he dashed out in front of his company, shot the gunner and single handedly captured the gun. Though again wounded, he brought back three prisoners”.


King George V presents Pte Hughes with his VC in Hyde Park in 1917

Walking with the aid of crutches, Hughes was personally awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V at an investiture at Hyde Park in London on 2nd June 1917. He also received the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal. Hughes was later promoted to the rank of Corporal. It was his custom each year to attend the Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. When he returned to Ireland, it was a very different country to the one he had left. Soldiers who had gone to fight in the British cause were often shunned and their exploits were largely forgotten.

Thomas Hughes died on 8th January 1942, aged 56, and is buried in the cemetery at St Patrick’s Church, Broomfield. His Victoria Cross medal is held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea in London.


Grave of Pte Hughes in Broomfield, Co. Monaghan Pic. Monaghan Heritage

Speaking at the unveiling of a blue plaque memorial for Pte Hughes in Castleblayney in February 2017, Minister Heather Humphreys said she had travelled to Thiepval and Guillemont in July and September in 2016, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and to remember the many Irish men who died there from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division. In the small, beautiful church in Guillemont, a tiny village in Northern France, she saw the plaques on the wall in honour of Thomas Hughes.

Hughes is one of 27 Irish holders of the Victoria Cross for whom the British government arranged a paving stone to be placed at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, paid for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.


Stone for Pte Hughes VC unveiled at Glasnevin

Despite the romance sometimes portrayed in newspaper columns such as the Northern Standard, recruitment to the British Army remained very low for the county for the entire war. By October 1916 only 738 men from County Monaghan had answered the call to enlist, the majority being Protestants (although they represented approximately one-fifth of the population at the time). Slow recruitment was blamed several times on the prominence of agriculture in the county, with the farming classes accused of not wanting to go to war because they were prospering financially.

In total around 2,500 Monaghan men served in the Great War. There were notable contributions from some families. Seven Roberts brothers from Killybreen in Errigal Truagh all joined the British army at different stages. Seven sons of Sir Thomas Crawford of Newbliss served, and three of these were decorated for gallantry. Four Steenson brothers from Glaslough joined up and two were killed. In all, nearly 540 Monaghan men were killed in the war, about half of them Protestant and half Catholic.


Blue plaque in Castleblayney for Private Thomas Hughes VC

The unveiling of the Ulster History Circle blue plaque for Private Hughes in Castleblayney was attended by his niece Josephine (Hughes) Sharkey from Dundalk, and her daughter Siobhan. Other relatives included PJ McDonnell, (originally from Broomfield), Chair of the Monaghan Association in Dublin. His father’s mother and the mother of Thomas Hughes were sisters. Other relations came from the Donaghmoyne area, including Ann Christy, a grand niece, Brian Conway from Castleblayney, Pauline McGeough (Broomfield), Rosemary Hughes-Merry (Castleblayney), Angela McBride from Carrickmacross and a distant cousin, Frank Hughes, originally from Laragh.


Niece of Pte Hughes, Josephine Sharkey from Dundalk, with his portrait

The attendance included former members of the Irish Defence Forces from the Blayney Sluagh group, representatives of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the regimental museum in Enniskillen, members of the Lisbellaw and south Fermanagh WW1 Society (who also visited the grave of Private Hughes), and the curator of Monaghan County Museum, Liam Bradley, who had organised a number of events for the 1916 Somme centenary.

Siobhan (Hughes) Sharkey read a poem which had been specially composed for the occasion of the presentation of the Victoria Cross to Private Hughes in 1917. On his return to Castleblayney, the urban district council with Lord Francis Hope arranged an address of welcome for Hughes to celebrate his bravery on winning the “coveted trophy which is emblematical of the highest bravery on the battlefield”. Local dispensary Dr J.P. Clarke said it was with great pleasure he read in the press of the coveted decoration “being pinned to the breast of our hero.” He did not know whether it was time for poetry or not, but anyhow he could recite them a few lines he had composed for the occasion (in Castleblayney in 1917)…


Before the Kaiser’s war began with frightfulness untold,

How many a peaceful hero worked in many a peaceful fold,

How many a valiant soldier strove to keep the home fires bright,

How saddened skies weep over their graves in pity through the night.

From Suvla Bay to doomed Ostend, from Jutland to Bordeaux,

They fought and bled and died to save these countries from the foe;

In Flanders, France and Belgium, from Seine to Grecian shore,

Brave were the deeds and bright the hopes of boys we’ll see no more.

‘Mongst them times forty thousand men picked out from Ireland’s sons,

Who went to fight the Austrians, the Bulgars, Turks and Huns,

How few returned with due reward their valour to repay,

But Thomas Hughes of Corravoo, V.C., is here to-day.

A Blayney man whose noble deeds uphold our country’s pride,

Who saved his comrades, took the gun, cast thought of self aside,

And changed defeat to victory in blood-soaked trenches when,

He ranked with bravest of the brave — the Connaught Rangers men.

Tom Hughes was reared where sun at dawn makes shadows lightly fall,

Across Fincarn’s ancient hill so sacred to us all;

For there tradition tells an Irish hero proudly rests,

Strong Finn McCool, the warrior, enshrined in Irish breasts,

Near by the road in Lackafin, beside lone Corravoo,

Remains of Irish chiefs are found in cromlech plain to view,

Among these scenes his youth was passed, no recreant was he,

For when his chance to fight arrived he well won his V.C.

He faced grim death while all around like Autumn leaves men fell,

He fought good fight and gained the day despite the raging hell

Of bullets, bayonets, shrapnel, Jack Johnson’s gas set free.

Now raise three cheers, and three times three, for Thomas Hughes V.C.!”


Unveiling of plaque in Castleblayney by Minister Heather Humphreys TD (right) and relatives of Pte Hughes VC



Liverpool Pals Memorial

The Liverpool Pals were battalions of Pals who joined the British Army togerher and formed up during the First World War as part of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment. Along with the Manchester Pals, they are commemorated at a small memorial at Montauban in France. They captured the village on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Liverpool Pals Memorial

The Liverpool Pals consisted of:

    • 17th (Service) Battalion – 1st City, formed at Liverpool by Lord Derby on 29th August 1914;
    • 18th (Service) Battalion – 2nd City, formed at Liverpool, 29th August 1914 by Lord Derby;
    • 19th (Service) Battalion – 3rd City, formed at Liverpool, 29th August 1914 by Lord Derby;
    • 20th (Service) Battalion – 4th City, formed at Liverpool, 16th October 1914 by Lord Derby;
    • 21st (Reserve) Battalion – formed at Knowsley Park, August 1915 from depot companies of 17th and 18th Battalions;
    • 22nd (Reserve) Battalion – formed at Knowsley Park, August 1915 from depot companies of 19th and 20th Battalions.                        Further information on the Liverpool Pals can be found on this website:


      Jersey Pals Memorial near Guillemont

Ian Ronayne’s story of the 326 volunteers known as the Jersey Pals can be found here.

  • Countryside around Ginchy

    “The Pals battalions began in a communal spirit of patriotism and camaraderie. They left behind communities saturated with loss.” See Andrew Knighton’s article in War History Online.


    Jersey Pals Memorial near Guillemont


Looking out at Trônes Wood near Ginchy from Guillemont Road Cemetery

From Guillemont Road cemetery you can look across the fields to what was once known as Trônes Wood, outside the village of Ginchy. Although the scene today is that of a beautiful rural landscape, it would have been very different during the Somme offensive in 1916.

Ginchy is a small village

The trees in the wood would have been burned down and just scarred and scorched trunks remained.

The countryside near Ginchy

It was in this area that Lt Tom Kettle met his death. He was a temporary Captain with ‘B’ Company of the 9th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.


Tom Kettle BL c.1905

Kettle (then aged 36) was involved in an attack on German lines on 9th September 1916, near the village of Ginchy. During the advance Kettle was felled when the Dublin Fusiliers were ‘struck with a tempest of fire’. Having risen from the initial blow, he was struck again and killed outright.

The view from Guillemont Road Cemetery

His body was buried in a temporary grave by the Welsh Guards, but it could not be located when hostilities ceased. His name is etched on the huge monumental arch for the missing of the Somme at Thiepval.

Thiepval Memorial

The erection by of a commemorative bronze bust of Kettle in Dublin, commissioned from the sculptor Albert Power and finished in 1921, was beset for almost twenty years by controversy and bureaucratic obstruction owing to the antipathy of the state authorities post-Independence towards Irishmen who had fought in World War 1. It was finally raised in 1937, without an unveiling ceremony, in St Stephen’s Green.

A stone tablet commemorates him in the Island of Ireland Peace Park at Messines in Belgium.

Memorial at Irish Peace Park quoting Lt Tom Kettle, poet and soldier

He is listed on the bronze plaque in the Four Courts in Dublin which commemorates the 26 Irish barristers killed in the Great War. Kettle is also commemorated on the Parliamentary War Memorial at Westminster Hall in London, one of 22 present and former Members of Parliament that lost their lives during World War 1 to be named on that memorial.

WWI Memorial at Westminster Hall

A further act of commemoration came with the unveiling in 1932 of a manuscript-style illuminated book of remembrance for the House of Commons, which includes a short biographical account of the life and death of Kettle.