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.
Here is another from my collection of autographs to Irish born holders of the Victoria Cross (VC). This is to Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence VC of the Royal Fusiliers.
Charles was born in May 1865 at Bishopcourt, Co. Kildare the son of Captain George FitzClarence (15 April 1836 – 24 March 1894) and Maria Henrietta Scott (1841 – 27 July 1912). He had a twin brother named Edward. His paternal grandfather was George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster, whose title Charles took on his death in 1903.
This was written by Charles for receipt of a tailor made suit in the early 1900s at the Seville Fine Clothiers. London. The following is the incredible personal history of this great Irish Hero.
Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence, VC, was one of the few senior British officers to be killed in action during the First World War. The son of a naval officer, he had been educated at Eton College and Wellington College, before joining the Royal Fusiliers as a lieutenant in 1885.
During the Boer War he was besieged in Mafeking, winning the Victoria Cross for his actions during the siege, where he was badly wounded. After the war he attended the staff college at Camberley. In 1900 he joined the Irish Guards, commanding a battalion from 1909-1913 and the regiment from 1913.
At the outbreak of the First World War, FitzClarence was sent out to France to command the 1st (Guards) Brigade, replacing General Ivor Maxse, who was returning to Britain to train a division of the new army. He took command of the Brigade during the first battle of Ypres (October-November 1914).
He would play a major role in two incidents of that battle. The battle of Gheluvelt (29-31 October) saw the Germans come close to breaking the British line. FitzClarence organised and led the counter-attack that restored the line.
The final major German attack of the battle came on 11 November (battle of Nonne Boschen). By this time the 1st Brigade consisted of three battalions (one each from the Scots Guards, the Cameron’s and the Black Watch) and was down to 800 men. They were attacked by a regiment of the Prussian Guard, and forced out of their front line. FitzClarence played an important role in stopping the German advance. He was then determined to win back the front line trenches lost earlier in the day. Having lost most of his own brigade in the fighting, he returned to the rear to find new troops. He was at the head of 500 men from the 2nd battalion of the Grenadier Guards, the Irish Guards and an contingent of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, when he was shot and killed by a German rifleman. After his death the planned counterattack was abandoned.
“Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit – a magic blend of skill, faith, and valor – that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory.”