James enlisted with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles at Dundalk in late 1914. Landing in France on the 21st of April 1915 as part of 25th Brigade in the 8th Division.
May 1915 saw James with his battalion preparing for the Battle of Aubers Ridge.
May 9th, 1915, the taking of Aubers Ridge marked a major loss of life for the Royal Irish Rifles in the war, wiping out almost 80 per cent of the battalion, with over 100 men dead. James Neville being one of these. He died 18 days after landing in France.
James’ body was never found. He is remembered with honour on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the missing.
Thomas Clinton Walsh was born in Dundalk around March 1896 to Michael and Mary Walsh, the youngest of six children. Living at 26 Church Street Dundalk (still standing today), his parents were described as merchants in the 1911 census. It seems the family enjoyed a decent standard of living.
Thomas enlisted with the 8th (Service ) Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers in March 1915 aged 19, most probably in Dundalk. The 8th Battalion were generally noted to be men who came from lower middle class backgrounds, clearly evident with Thomas.
With the 8th Battalion, training commenced in Buttevant Co. Cork before moving to Aldershot in Hampshire. After thirteen weeks the unit was deployed to Etaples in France, which they left on December 18th for the front and the Loos Salient. At Loos they got their introduction to trench warfare in January & February of 1916.
The 8th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was attached to the 48th Brigade of the 16th (Irish Division).
This period in the trenches was an eventful one for the Battalion. In the period till the end of April,when the Germans attacked using gas, the 48th Brigade as a whole suffered heavily. The 8th RDF lost 172 men and one officer KIA during this time, with many more to die from gas and their wounds subsequently.
The Battalion were then on to the Somme sector a few months later, arriving at Sandpit Camp in late August. Early September found the Battalion on the front lines south of Guinchy. The Dubliners were ready for action and in the trenches by the 5th.
The advance east of Guillemont continued over the next three days. By the end of the 6th September, the British had reached their target line, around Leuze Wood, and were ready to turn north to deal with Guinchy.
Between the 6th & 9th September and the eventual capture of Guinchy, the men as a whole lay in open trenches under continuous shellfire. It was on the 7th of September whilst in these trenches that Thomas was wounded. The extent of his wounds we may never know, however although wounded, ten men of the 8th Battalion were killed on this day.
Guinchy was in fact taken the following Sunday to Guillemont, on the 9th September. With seven Irish Battalions involved, the attack was highly successful with the village being taken on the first attempt. It was a costly affair with half the attacking force of the 48th Brigade becoming casualties during the action.
A succinct contemporary line sums up the tenacity of the Irish Brigades. “On a Sunday they carried Guillemont with a rush; on the following Saturday they literally pounced upon Guinchy and in between they lay in open trenches under continuous shellfire”
Thomas was not there to see this successful climax due to his wounding.
Little more is known of his subsequent involvement in the War. What we do know that after recovering from his wounds at Guinchy, Thomas transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, with whom he saw out the rest of the war, being eventually discharged to Class Z Army Reserve.
Thomas returned to Dundalk where he became a motor car proprietor.
Thomas Clinton Walsh died aged 28 on July 22nd 1924, at his mothers residence, now in Dunany, Seatown Place in Dundalk. From his death notice it states he died from pneumonia, following illness contracted in the War! Seems he may well have been gassed at one point and paid the price a few years later. Another for whom the suffering of War did not end in 1918.
Thomas lies in St Patricks (New) Cemetery, Dundalk, Co. Louth