PTE THOMAS CARTHY

Grave of Pte Thomas Carthy

Private Thomas Carthy was from Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. He was the husband of Mary Carthy of 34 River Street. He was killed on May 24th 1915 aged 47.

CWGC details of Pte Carthy

Private Carthy served with the Second Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment. He is buried in Poelkapelle Military Cemetery near Ieper. Another Irish grave I came across there was that of 7335 Rifleman Francis Dunne of the Royal Irish Rifles. He died on 16th June 1915 aged 29. The CWGC details do not reveal where he came from.

Grave of Rifleman F. Dunne

PIPERS’ MEMORIAL

Piper’s Memorial at Longueval

A Scottish soldier playing the bagpipes is depicted as stepping forward over the parapet of a trench to pipe forward the troops for an array on German lines. The Pipers’ Memorial was unveiled in July 2002 in the centre of the village of Longueval, not far from Ginchy and Guillemont.

Pipers’ Memorial at Longueval

The statue itself by sculptor Andrew de Comyn received some criticism at the time it was unveiled because it is composed of a bright white alabaster stone about 3m in height. However when the sun is shining on it, as it was on the day of our visit when temperatures reached a record high of over 42C, this made it more spectacular. In contrast to the white figure of the soldier, the bagpipes are jet black in colour.

Inscription on Piper’s Memorial

Crests of various regiments that had pipers

The crests of various Scottish and Irish regiments that had pipers are incorporated in a wall beside the statue. They include the Irish Guards and the Royal Irish Regiment.

Crest of the Irish Guards

Crest of the Royal Irish Regiment

Longueval

Our visit to the memorial was brief and unfortunately we missed the group from Campbell College Belfast CCF Pipe Band who stopped off there just before us. Pipe Sergeant Matthew played a lament. (Reproduced by kind permission of Campbell College CCF Pipe Band).

Pipe Sergeant Matthew of Campbell College Pipe Band at Longueval

MAJOR WILLIE REDMOND

Major Willie Redmond of the Royal Irish Regiment was killed on the first day of the Battle of Messiness on 7th June 1917. He is buried at Locre (Loker) but in a separate grave alongside the British military cemetery at Locre Hospice.

The grave is marked by a stone cross, paid for by his family from Wexford. Someone has left a Wexford flag at the foot of the memorial as a reminder of the county of his birth.

Beside the grave there is a wooden structure containing a statue of Our Lady and a repository where the visitors’ book is kept.

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Locre Hospice Cemetery(CWGC) is beside the site where Major Redmond is buried

The following details about Major Redmond are taken from an article in Irish Legal News 05/04/19 by Seosamh Gráinséir:

“A famous Irish nationalist, William Hoey Kearney Redmond came from a (Catholic gentry) family of parliamentarians. His father, William Archer Redmond, was a Member of Parliament in Westminster for the Home Rule Party. His older brother, John Edward Redmond, was a Member of Parliament and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

On 24th March 1884, Willie himself was sworn in as a new MP for his father’s old constituency, Wexford Borough, at the age of twenty-two. During his thirty-three years as an MP, Willie went on to represent Fermanagh North for seven years after the Wexford Borough constituency was abolished, and then East Clare for 25 years. Willie was succeeded in that constituency by Éamon de Valera, who won the by-election triggered by Willie’s death.

Like his father and brother, Willie was a passionate supporter of Home Rule, which he said was necessary because the Union “has depopulated our country, has fostered sectarian strife, has destroyed our industries and ruined our liberties”. An ardent opponent to landlords, Willie had been imprisoned a number of times for his work with the Land League agitation (Denman 1995).

Having served with the Royal Irish Regiment for a couple of years after finishing school, Willie was described as having always been a “soldier at heart”, the “spirit of comradeship and discipline” having appealed to him. When the Great War broke out in August 1914, he had already been involved with the Irish Volunteers. But he believed that if Germany won the war, Ireland was endangered too. Intent on joining the Royal Irish Regiment again and troubled by the idea of recruiting for the war effort without joining the fight himself, he wrote: “I can’t stand asking fellows to go and not offer myself”.

In this vein, Willie told the Irish Volunteers assembled outside the Imperial Hotel in Cork in November 1914: ‘I speak as a man who bears the name of a relation who was hanged in Wexford in ‘98 – William Kearney. I speak as a man with all the poor ability at his command has fought the battle for self-government for Ireland. Since the time – now thirty-two years ago – when I lay in Kilmainham Prison with Parnell. No man who is honest can doubt the single-minded desire of myself and men like me to do what is right for Ireland. And when it comes to the question – as it may come – of asking young Irishmen to go abroad and fight this battle, when I am personally convinced that the battle of Ireland is to be fought where many Irishmen now are – in Flanders and France – old as I am, and grey as are my hairs, I will say: ‘Don’t go, but come with me!’”

(Terence Denman, A Lonely Grave: The Life and Death of William Redmond, Irish Academic Press 1995).

House of Commons WWI Memorial with name of Major W. Redmond MP

Redmond is commemorated on Panel 8 of the Parliamentary War Memorial in Westminster Hall, one of 22 MPs who died during World War I to be named there. He is one of 19 MPs who fell in the war who are commemorated by heraldic shields in the Commons Chamber. 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 Redmond.

The people of Loker continue to attend to his symbolic grave with great respect, organising Commemorations, the last in 1967 (organised by a Catholic priest Father Debevere) and in 1997 (organised by Erwin Ureel), refusing to allow the grave to be moved. Redmond’s Bar, an Irish pub in nearby Loker, is named after him. I enjoyed a nice bottle of local Belgian beer (Hommelbier from Poperinge) that went down well with a mackerel salad and chips.

In Wexford town there is a bust of him by Oliver Sheppard in Redmond Park which was formally opened as a memorial to him in 1931 in the presence of a large crowd including many of his old friends and comrades and political representatives from all parts of Ireland. It was re-launched by the Wexford Borough Council in 2002.

An official wreath laying ceremony took place at Redmond’s grave on 19th December 2013, when the Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and British Prime Minister David Cameron MP paid tribute to him. Enda Kenny reflected: “The thought crossed my mind standing at the grave of Willie Redmond, that was why we have a European Union and why I’m attending a European Council” (Lise Hand, The Irish Independent 19/12/2013).

FLANDERS DAY ONE

Visit to WWI graves in Flanders. First and last shots of the Great War. Our group of six left Brussels Airport and headed for Mons. At this spot at Casteau, the British Expeditionary Force engaged with the Germans, firing the first shots on 22nd August 1914.

The memorial near Mons where the first shots were fired in August 1914

Major Tom Bridges, commander of C Squadron, 4th Battalion of the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards was on reconnaissance near Mons when he saw a German advance mounted guard and gave chase with his horsemen. During the pursuit Corporal Thomas became the first British soldier to fire a shot in anger in continental Europe since the battle of Waterloo (near Brussels) 100 years earlier.

This stone monument was unveiled on 20th August 1939 at the spot where Thomas had set off to chase four German cavalrymen. Thomas was a career soldier who had enlisted at the age of 14. He survived the war and was awarded the Military Medal.

Opposite this memorial is a bronze plaque marking the spot where troops of the 116th Canadian Infantry Battalion stopped on Armistice Day, 11th November 1918, during the liberation of Mons. The plaque was unveiled on 7th July 1956. For the British Empire, the War had ended at the precise spot where it had started four years earlier.

At a crossroads at La Bascule outside Mons there is a Celtic cross. The limestone monument, five metres high, is dedicated to the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, which recruited in the south-east counties of Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny.

The inscription at the base reads: “To the glory of God and to the memory of the men and officers of the Royal Irish Regiment (18th Foot) who fell during the Great War 1914-1918. Near this spot the 2nd Battalion commenced operations on 23rd August 1914 and finished on 11th November 1918 after being decimated on four occasions.”

The cross is located at exactly the point where a motley outfit of cooks, store men, drivers and dispatch riders, about 50 in all, from the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment, held up the German advance for several hours. Machen had read newspaper reports of the battle and set his story in the Mons salient where the battalion made its gallant stand.

The soldier who inspired the story of the angels of Mons was Quartermaster Sergeant Thomas William Fitzpatrick from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Sensing the danger, it was he who gathered together the little band of Irish brothers to man a trench were the cross now stands. From there, they held up the German advance for hours.

He wrote his own gripping account of events that day more than 40 years later. “I saw no Mons angels,” he wrote in The Old Contemptible journal in 1955. “I honestly think that not one of my men had the faintest idea what they were fighting for. In fact, I was not sure myself – which illustrates the unconquerable spirit of the British soldier of that day – the Irish soldier in our case.” (Ronan McGreevy, The Irish Times, August 2016).

Celtic Cross at La Bascule near Mons

ROCK OF CASHEL

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary is one of the finest historical sites in Ireland. It was once the seat of the Kings of Munster. The medieval buildings include a 12thCcentury round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. The monument is in the care of the Office of Public Works.

Cormac's Chapel

Cormac’s Chapel

One of the most interesting parts of the site is Cormac’s chapel, (the chapel of King Cormac Mac Carthaigh), which was begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134. It is undergoing major restoration work as the scaffolding in the picture shows and contains one of the only examples of frescoes in Ireland from this period.

It was one of the sites seen by Queen Elizabeth II during her first state visit to Ireland in May 2011. The visitor book she signed along with Prince Philip is on display, along with the pen she used. It was interesting to note that in the small cemetery beside the ruins of the Cathedral, there are at least four graves of local men who served in the British Army during the First World War, with gravestones provided by the Commonwealth Graves Commission. I have some photographs of them here and at some stage might do some more research into the stories of these soldiers. One was a veteran of the Second World War, it seems, Sergeant Martin O’Brien MM, who served in the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment and died in 1965, aged 84.

Driver W.Ryan RFA

Driver W.Ryan RFA

Grave of Sgt Martin O'Brien MM

Grave of Sgt Martin O’Brien MM

Pte J O'Donohue Leinster Regiment

Pte J. O’Donohue Leinster Regiment