Lieutenant Noel F.V. Hamilton

7th Battalion Leinster Regiment,

Wounded in Action, 11th June 1917,

From Omagh, Co Tyrone,

Aged 19

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Noel Fenwick Vicars Hamilton ‘Nick’, was born in Aughnacloy near Omagh Co. Tyrone on the 19th December 1897. Little is known about his early life, however we find him in the 1911 census of England as a boarder at Rossall Prep school in Lancashire aged 13.

He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion ,the Leinster Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant on the 7th April 1916 and departed for France 0n the 20th July, by now a full Lieutenant.

Noel’s baptism of fire came during September 1916, where he was involved in the fighting for Guillemont and Ginchy. Somehow he managed to come through unscathed. However he was not so fortunate when we again pick him in June 1917 where he fighting with the 7th Battalion at Messines.

By April 1917, the British were in control of the high ground in the Somme area, the Vimy Ridge operation had secured the high ground from Arras to Lens. The goal was to take Messines Ridge: no breakout form Ypres could occur unless the ridge was captured. Mining operations had been ongoing for nearly 18 months, the Germans being well aware of how important the heights were, as from the ridge they could over look the British positions,

On 7 June, at 3.10 a.m., nineteen mines, with 500 tons of explosives
detonated under the German positions at Messines Ridge.
‘The noise was not great, but the earth trembled, swayed and shook
in a violent manner even for miles behind the line. One could see
trees, mud earth and all manner of articles going sky-high’ Major
Jourdain, 6th Connaught Rangers…

 

The Battle of Messines (7–14 June 1917) Photo: https://www.fotolibra.com
The Battle of Messines (7–14 June 1917)
Photo: https://www.fotolibra.com

The German defences were shattered. Willie Redmond, brother of the nationalist leader, John Redmond,was killed in the fighting.

At 3.10 a.m. the mines detonated. Soon after battalion headquarters was hit: the commanding officer Lt-Col.Stannus was killed. The troops pressed forward. The fumes from the huge explosion made many men sick. After some hand-to-hand fighting they achieved their objective at Wytschaete village. The battalion took 60 prisoners and killed 80-100 Germans for the loss of 8 officers wounded (Noel Hamilton, being one), 15 other ranks killed and 92 wounded.

Looking on the entire front as a whole. The attack was a complete success. All objectives had been taken and were being consolidated. It is estimated by some, that over 5000 German soldiers were killed by the mines and subsequent battle, with up t0 7000 taken prisoner. (See Below)
Photo courtesy of; http://www.anzacs.net/Messines.htm
Photo courtesy of; http://www.anzacs.net/Messines.htm

Noel was subsequently wounded again in the last few months of the war, of this though we have no detail.

Noel married Veronica Roberts in September 1921 in the Isle of Wight.

At the end of the war, rather than be discharged, Noel decided to make a career in the army. He became a captain in October 1927, serving now with the Wiltshire regiment and a Major by August 1938, whilst an Adjutant with the Auxiliary Force in India.

Returning to Britain in late 1940, Noel was made Commanding Officer, 56th (London Divisional) Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps. The Reconnaissance Corps was charged with gathering vital tactical information in battle for infantry divisions, probing ahead and screening the flanks of main advances.

Following his service throughout another world war, Noel retired with the rank of Honorary Colonel after 31 years in uniform. He died in June 1972 aged 74 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, where he had settled some fifty years previously.

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