Royal Irish Regiment, attached 5th Battalion Mounted Infantry,
Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for Gallantry at Tabaksberg, South Africa in January 1901,
From Blanchardstown, Dublin,
Edward Lovely was born in the Parish of Blanchardstown, near Dublin, in the summer of 1870. He worked as a labourer in the Ordnance Survey before enlisting into the Royal Irish Regiment at Clonmel on 24 January 1890, for a term of 12 years. He was 5ft 7, with brown eyes & brown hair. His next of kin was his brother John, who lived in Marlborough Street, Dublin.
Edward served at home until October 1890, when he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment in India. During his time in India, Edward took part in the campaigns on the Northwest Frontier, receiving the Indian General Service Medal with clasps for the Punjab Frontier 1897/98 & Samana 1897. In total Edward served almost 7 1/2 years in India returning home in January 1898, before transferring to the Army Reserve.
With the outbreak of the Boer War in South Africa, Edward rejoined the colours in May 1899, arriving with the 1st Battalion at Cape Town in January 1900. Edward then transferred to the 5th Battalion as part of the Regiment’s Mounted Infantry.
When the South African War broke out it became apparent that more mounted troops were needed to cover the great distances. The infantry regiments were asked to provide men to train as mounted infantry.
The 5th Regiment saw action at, Paardeberg, 18th-27th Feb 1900 & at Bothaville, 6th Nov 1900 before arriving at Tabaksberg late in January 1901.
‘Towards the end of January, 1901, it was discovered that De Wet was secretly concentrating his burghers for another attempt to raid into Cape Colony. Many columns, including that in which the 5th M.I. were serving, were directed against him and caught up his rear-guard at the Tabaksberg, where on the 29th of January the Boers fought a delaying action, in the course of which a handful of the Royal Irish earned praise for their dash in “rushing” a kopje, and then for holding it against very heavy odds.’
It was here that Edward was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). The Regimental history states that ‘‘An intelligent & most useful N.C.O. Showed great gallantry in rushing a Kopje at the fight at Tabaksberg in 1901.’
For the rest of the war the 5th Regiment MI were involved in escorting convoys and clearing farms. But there were also skirmishes to break the monotony. On 17th Oct 1901 a detachment of the RI company was surrounded by a large force of Boers, and after a fight in which the officer and 3 men were wounded, were compelled to surrender. This was an unfitting end to the RI’s part in the Mounted Infantry campaigning in South Africa. Those men of the 5th MI who survived to the end of the war were awarded the South Africa medal with clasps for the Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill and Wittebergen.
Edward was discharged on 5 January 1903, on termination of his limited period of engagement and received a gratuity of £20.
James Clarke a career soldier before the war, attested for the Royal Dublin Fusilers at Naas in July 1899 aged 18.
Departing for South Africa in June 1900, James spent the next two years fighting the Boer war with the Dubs’, receiving the Queens medal with clasps Orange Free State, Cape Colony & Transvaal.
James returned from South Africa in November 1902 and went on to serve for a further nine years, with the regiment, most of it abroad on garrison duty in places such as Malta, Egypt & Sudan. He completed his 12 years with the colours in July 1911 and was transferred to the army reserve.
On his service papers James’ character was described as indifferent. He appeared 13 times on the regimental conduct sheet throughout his service, mainly for drunkenness!
He returned to Dublin and lived with his mother Mary at 29 Lower Clanbrassil Street where he worked as a General Labourer, until the outbreak of the First World War, when he was called up from the reserve, being posted to the 2nd Dublin Fusiliers, as part of the 4th Infantry Division, which were brought over from England in September 1914 and placed around the town of Le Cateau. Their objective was to provide a rear guard force that would cover the retreating BEF.
On the 30th of March 1915, according to his papers, James was wounded by a Gunshot Wound to the hand..
Recuperating for 4 months James was then posted to the 1st Battalion in July 1915, going overseas again in August, this time to the Dardanelles, as part of a draft of reinforcements to a battalion that had been virtually wiped out after 4 months in Gallipoli.
The 1st Dublins and the rest of the 29th Division were moved to Suvla to reinforce the British force there. On 21 August the Dublins took part in another attempt to take Scimitar Hill and after the battle, the Suvla front-line became static, with no more major attacks being attempted. In this one day of fighting, the British suffered 5,300 casualties out of the 14,300 soldiers who participated, James managing to come through unscathed.
The Battle of Scimitar Hill was the last offensive mounted by the British at Suvla during the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. On 1 January 1916, the 1st Dublins left Gallipoli for Egypt with the rest of the 29th Division and the last remaining British troops left Gallipoli on 9 January. The ironic thing was that the evacuation of Gallipoli by the Allies was, arguably, the most successful part of the campaign. The Dublins had suffered heavily, nearly all of the just over 1000 men of the 1st Dublins who had landed at Helles in April had been killed, wounded, experienced disease or were missing, but further carnage was to await them in France.
Posted to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in August 1916 as part of the 48th Brigade, 16th Division. James was part of the attack on Guinchy on September the 9th, where he was to go over the top again.
Zero hour for the attack was set at 4.45pm on 9 September. At the last minute orders were dispatched delaying the attack for two minutes to allow for a final intense bombardment of the German lines, but only the 47th Brigade received the order in time. The 48th Brigade launched its attack on time, and was hit by German counter battery fire.
The 48th Brigade captured 200 prisoners during the advance into Ginchy, but suffered heavily casualties during the fight, amongst them two of the six battalion commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel H. P. Dalzell-Walton of 8/ Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Captain W. J. Murphy of 9/ Royal Dublin Fusiliers. A series of further battles would soon push the front line away from the village.
The battalion was in the support trench which it had dug, with orders to take the second objective and consolidate. 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 1 section Machine Gun Company. 1 section 156 Company, Royal Engineers, 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 1 section Machine Gun Company, 1 section 156 Company Royal Engineers.
At zero hour (4.45pm) the line advanced under the artillery barrage on the first objective, each battalion assaulting with 4 companies in the front line, on a frontage of one platoon, platoons at 40 yards distance.
First Phase. Right Battalion (1st R.M.F.). At the onset very heavy Officer casualties were suffered. The right company experienced considerable opposition owing to the inability of the 8th R.M.F. to advance. This company was therefore wheeled to the right and dug in. Owing to the shortage of officers the other companies lost direction and went on beyond their objective. Left Battalion (7th R.I.R.) closely followed by 7th R. Irish Fusiliers reached the first objective with slight resistance & with very few casualties.
Second Phase. Right Battalion (8th R.D.F.) advanced to the second objective at 5.25 p.m. and gained it without encountering very serious opposition. Left Battalion (9th R.D.F) advanced to the second objective at 5.25pm but suffered very heavy officer casualties in doing so. Captain W. J. MURPHY (commanding) being killed as the battalion reached GINCHY. The battalion, owing to the loss of officers, carried on beyond the second objective and had to be brought back, also owing to the fact that 55 Division had not come up. The left flank had consequently to be brought back slightly. The line gained was then consolidated.
Casualties to the 9th battalion were 209, James being wounded from a Gunshot wound to his left hand.
James seen out the rest of the war without incident, mainly serving with the 1st & 9th Battalions, before transferring just before the wars end, to the Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was finally demobbed on the 27th February 1919 and returned once again to his mother in Lower Clanbrassil Street in Dublin. Interestingly his character which was described as “indifferent” during his earlier period of service, is now mentioned as “Very Good” during the period of the First World War.
James served a total of 17 years, fighting for his king & country and responded twice to Britain’s call to arms, serving on three continents.
I am proud to be the custodian of his 1914 Star with Bar and Victory medal, which were awarded for his service in the Great War 1914 – 18.
Wounded in Action, 13th March 1915, At Neuve Chapelle
From Dublin, aged 21
Samuel Flanagan a painter from the North Gloucester Place in Dublin, enlisted for the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Rifles on the 15th January 1912 aged 18. A pre-war regular soldier, Samuel was garrisoned in Aden, with the 1st Battalion, at the out break of the Great War in August 1914. They embarked for Britain on the 27th of September 1914 and arrived at Liverpool on the 22nd of October they joined 25th Brigade, 8th Divison at Hursley Park, Winchester. They proceeded to on the 6th November 1914 landing at Le Havre a much needed reinforcement to the BEF and remained on the Western Front throughout the war.
The battalion’s first major action was the Battle of Neuve Chapelle between 10 and 13 March 1915. After an initial artillery bombardment, the battalion advanced to the previously captured German front lines and helped to secure the village of Neuve-Chapelle. It then had to weather heavy German counter-attacks which failed to dislodge the members of the battalion but caused very heavy casualties, amounting to 18 officers and 440 other ranks, including its Colonel.
In his first action Samuel was wounded. Shrapnel to his right arm put him out of the fray. He was immediately taken to the 10th General Hospital in Rouen, where he was described in his service papers as ‘Dangerously Ill’ and that his relatives were to be informed immediately.
Samuel went on to recover from his wounds, but for him the war was over. He was finally discharged on the 14th November 1915, having lost the use of his right arm.
After the war Samuel went to work for the Post Office in Pearse Street, Dublin 2. He married his wife Catherine with whom they had three children. By the 1930s the family were living in Churchtown, Dublin 12
William originally from Co.Tyrone was a carpenter, living in tenements in Digges Street, Dublin City, with his wife Ellinor and 3 children, when he enlisted with the 8th Battalion the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on the 15th of March 1915. As part of the 48th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division, they trained at Buttevant, then moved to Ballyhooley in June 1915. In September they crossed to England for final training at Blackdown.
They proceeded to France in December 1915, landing at Le Havre, the division concentrated in the Bethune area. By 1916 they were in action on the Somme near the Hulluch sector.
On the 28th July William was wounded by shellfire in trenches. In total 1 man was killed and 6 others wounded by this blast.
Little more is known of his subsequent involvement in the War. What we do know that after recovering from his wounds, William took little or no part in the rest of the war. Finally being discharged on the 5th July 1917, almost a year to the day that he was wounded in France.
We next pick up William on June 1st 1925, where a report in the Irish Times states that William and three other members of his family were knocked down by a car whilst motor cycling in the Phoenix Park. William was living at 10 Usher Street at this time.
Eleanor his wife died in May 1958, William being mentioned on her Death Cert as a carpenter.
Again we see a mention of a now 82 year old William, still living in Usher Street, attending the christening of his triplet great grandsons on the 1st of August 1967 at the Church of the Assumption, Walkinstown, as reported in the Irish Independent. Further research has revealed that one of these boys, Michael, went on to win Ireland’s welterweight gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona!
16th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (2nd Co. Down Pioneers)
Wounded in France, July 1916
From Belfast, Aged 20
Douglas from Ulsterville Avenue in Belfast, attested for the 16th Royal Irish Rifles in late 1914. They proceeded to France 0n the 13th February 1916. As part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, they were concentrated near Flesselles, north of Arras. With training and familiarisation, including periods in the trenches with 4th Division in the front line north of the River Ancre near Albert. 36th (Ulster) Division took over the front line in early Spring.
During unseasonably polar conditions,through March & April, the Pioneers were often engaged in the construction and repair of military railways, in preparation for the upcoming ‘big push’ on the Somme.
Prior to the eventual attack on the 1st July, the 16th were responsible for constructing new assembly trenches, fixing damaged wiring, deepening certain trenches and building bomb-proof dugouts along the whole front line of the 36th Ulster Division.
The Battalion was billeted in defensive positions in Aveluy Wood, which was only about 1500 yards from the front line and well within enemy artillery range. Indeed the battalion settled down for the first night on arrival, only to suffer an enemy bombardment around 0230 so slit trenches had to be dug hurriedly for their own protection.
All work was to be completed by the 19th June but the commencement of the bombardment was delayed for various reasons with the attack eventually set for the 1st July 1916 – a day to become a source of great sorrow and pride for the people of Ulster when the outcome was eventually disclosed.
The major decisions regarding the Somme offensive were made in March 1916 and all units now had new planned objectives. For the Pioneers it was a return to defensive work reinforcing existing wiring and trenches together with the construction of several lines of additional assembly trenches.
During the actual attack on the 1st July, the Battalion was in active support positions to move supplies forward, cut new connecting forward trenches to the German front line trenches and generally help the advancing troops. In some areas this was successful, but lack of committed fresh troops limited success whilst in other areas enemy troops were still in possession of targets and the men had to hold defensive positions against enemy counter attacks. The Ulster Division, having suffered about 5,500 casualties including killed and wounded, were withdrawn at 1800 that evening, but the 16th Pioneers had to work on supporting the replacement division until their eventual withdrawal on the 8th July 1916.
Prior to this month the war diaries had not reported monthly casualties but were now going to have to do so for many months to come. Casualties at the point of relief from the Somme sector were: 2 officers killed, 3 wounded and 5 broke down (later termed shell shocked). Douglas being one of these officers wounded at this time. Among the men 22 were killed and 159 wounded of which over 100 were invalided.
At the close of the first 9 months since arrival in France, the Battalion had fully earned their distinctive emblem of the crossed rifle and pick-axe.
We don’t know the extent of Douglas’s wounding. What we do know is that he recovered and went on to serve throughout the rest of the war. Finally being demobbed in April 1919.
Pictured are the British War Medal, Victory Medal and Long Service Good Conduct Medal to John Finn a Driver with the Royal Field Artillery.
The main roles & responsibilities for a Driver would be, care of the horses, the harness and the wagons, including keeping them stocked with ammunition, was pretty much a full-time job. They would also have assisted with the normal “housekeeping” tasks of the battery. In some cases they were also tasked with moving the artillery around the battlefield.
An original photograph of John & his wife Nora with their young son. It was taken in Lucknow, India in 1923. John is still serving and clearly visible is his ribbon bar featuring the above trio already displayed.
A beautiful picture for 93 years old, unfortunately a bit of an ink stain present!
Private Martin Byrne, Son of Mrs Sarah Byrne, of Drogheda Row, Monasterevan, Kildare and of the 7th Battalion Leinster Regiment, 16th Irish Division, 47th Brigade, was killed in action on the 31st August 1916 at the battle of the Somme, he was just 19 years of age.
According to the War Diary of the 7th Leinsters, on August 31st the Battalion was “marching through the eastern outskirts of Montauban, when the Hun took it into his head to start a hymn of hate in the shape of an intense bombardment of tear shell mixed with high explosive.”
Martin was one of the casualties of this two hour bombardment. His body was never found and he has no known grave and is remembered with honour at the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.
A hand written letter by Martin’s mother , accompanied this group when I acquired them. It is reproduced below;
“So Long As Love Abides They laid him where he fell in Battle, far away from me,
Where I cannot plant his grave with flowers of memory That last sweet solace is denied,an exile there he lies,
Underneath the alien stars and unfamiliar skies Yet the part of him I loved, the spirit and the mind Is clothed in immortality and cannot be confined,
To the faithful death is life and no dark gulf divides, He will dwell within my heart so as love abides.”