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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Private Martin Byrne

7th Battalion Leinster Regiment,

Killed in Action, 31st August 1916,

From Monasterevan, Co Kildare,

Aged 19

Byrne M

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

THIEPVAL MEMORIAL Courtesy of www.visit-somme.com
THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Courtesy of http://www.visit-somme.com

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.”

 

 

Sergeant Andrew Parsons

2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment,

Died of Wounds, 28th June 1916,

From Cashel, Co. Tipperary,

Aged 21

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Andrew was born in May 1895 in St. Mary’s, near the Rock of Cashel, to John and Bridget Parsons. The 1901 Census gives us a more fuller picture of the family. Living in the townland of Loughnafina, Cashel, we have John (40) a general servant, Bridget (36) also a general servant, Edward (20) a general labourer, then Willie (11), Andrew (6) and Bridget (4), complete the family. This was house number four of six in the townland. Very basic country dwelling, something like a lodge or outhouse leased to him by his neighbour and landlord, who being more well-to-do and prosperous has come to some sort of arrangement in using the two men of the family for work in and about his property.

Andrew enlisted into the 2nd battalion the Leinster Regiment at Clonmel around August/September 1914, right at the very start of the First World War.This was in no doubt hastened,by the fact that his elder brother Willie, a Royal Munster Fusilier since 1909 and an original member of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), was killed during the famous rearguard action at Etreux on 27th August 1914.

Following his period of training firstly at Fermoy and then at Cambridge in the UK, the battalion arrived in France on 10th September. Andrew was not part of this initial deployment. He arrived over a month later on the 25th of October after the battalion had suffered terrible casualties at Premesque ( 434, of which 155 were killed).

He was now part of the 73rd Brigade in the 24th Division. We pick Andrew up in June 1916. Barely twenty years of age he was now a Sergeant and his rapid promotion augured well. He has seen action at Hooge during the summer of 1915 and in front of Messines in April 1916. The battalion was still in Belgium now, as all others gathered up for the push on the Somme. Andrew went on leave for a few days in June before returning to the front line at the end of the month.

Men of the 2nd Battalion The Leinster Regiment Photo from www.oldsite.leinster-regiment-association.org.uk
Men of the 2nd Battalion The Leinster Regiment
Photo from http://www.oldsite.leinster-regiment-association.org.uk

The end of June found the battalion occupying trenches along the Kemmel to Wyschaete road. A quiet sector considering what was to go on elsewhere on the Somme a few days later. The war diary reveals little information regarding the 27th/28th June. From what I can make out is that battalion were about to be relieved on 28th by the 7th Northants. The war diary for the 28th mentions that the last few days in the trenches there was shelling from whizzbangs, trench mortars bombs and rifle grenades, frequently. It seems fair to assume that sometime during the early morning of the 28th, one of these shells/bombs has exploded near Andrew, fatally wounding him. He lived for a few more, hours dying at 12.30 in the casualty clearing station.

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Andrew is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.

“HE SAW BEYOND THE FILTH
OF BATTLE, AND THOUGHT DEATH
A FAIR PRICE TO PAY
TO BELONG TO THE COMPANY
OF THESE FELLOWS”

Captain Frank Winterbourn

The London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers)
2nd Battalion.

Drowned at Sea

10th October 1918

Aged 28

Winterbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although not Irish, Frank died in one of the worst maritime tragedies of the Great War, when the RMS Leinster on which Frank was a military passenger was sunk by torpedoes in the Irish Sea, 16 miles east of Dublin. It was shortly before 10am on the morning of 10th October 1918, on its outbound journey of 100km [68 miles] from Kingstown [now Dun Laoghaire], Dublin, to Holyhead, Anglesey, North Wales.

The RMS Leister Departs Kingstown on its fateful voyage Photo from www.rmsleinster.com
The RMS Leinster Departs Kingstown on its fateful voyage
Photo from http://www.rmsleinster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frank was born in Dulwich London on October 1890. He landed in France with the Royal Fusiliers on 4th November 1914.

Frank was plagued with ill health during his time overseas and by June 1916 he was passed fit for clerical duties and was posted to the East London Recruiting Area.

In October 1918 Captain Winterbourn was aboard the RMS Leinster (City of Dublin Steam Packet Company), probably returning from recruiting duties. On the morning of the 10th October 1918, she left Kingstown, headed for Holyhead with 680 passengers and crew.

A contemporary drawing of the Leinster sinking. Photo from opwdublincommemorative.ie
A contemporary drawing of the Leinster sinking.
Photo from opwdublincommemorative.ie

 

 

Only a few hours out she was torpedoed by a German Submarine and sank with the loss of 480 lives. Two torpedoes struck the ship,the first exploding near the bow, the second penetrated her engine room. The weather was bad with a very heavy sea, nevertheless an attempt was made to take the ship in tow but she foundered.

Officially 501 people died in the sinking, making it both the greatest ever loss of life in the Irish and the highest ever casualty rate on an Irish owned ship. Research to date has revealed the names of 529 casualties.

In the days that followed bodies were recovered from the sea. Funerals took place in many parts of Ireland. Some bodies were brought to Britain, Canada and the United States for burial. One hundred and forty four military casualties were buried in Grangegorman

Captain Frank Winterbourn Courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com
Captain Frank Winterbourn
Courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com

Captain Winterbourn’s body was either recovered or washed ashore, as he is buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery

Please see below a short film from RTE’s ‘Out of the Blue’ series 1998 regarding the sinking of the RMS Leinster

 

Private Thomas O’Rourke

2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment,

Killed in Action, 12th April 1917,

From Longford, aged 24

O'Rourke

Thomas was born in Mostrim Co. Longford in May 1893. His father a serving soldier, was killed in action in Oct 1899 during the Boer war, whilst serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, at Talana.

Thomas O’Rourke enlisted for the Leinster Regiment, in October 1914.Thomas joined the 6th (Service) Battalion Leinster Regiment on enlistment and began basic training at the regimental depot, Crinkill Barracks near Birr Co. Offaly. Not too far from home in Longford. February, March and April of 1915 were spent at the Curragh. On the 4th May the battalion moved to Basingstoke to complete their training.

Leinster Regiment soldiers prepare to set off for WWI Archive Courtesy of https://fisherbelfast.wordpress.com
Leinster Regiment soldiers prepare to set off for WWI
Courtesy of https://fisherbelfast.wordpress.com

He departed for the Dardanelles on the 9th July 1915, as part of the 29th Brigade in the10th (Irish) Division, embarking at Liverpool, and sailed to Gallipoli via Mudros. Landing at Anzac Cove 5 August 1915. Straight into trench life for Thomas as the battalion moved into reserve dug outs near Shrapnell Gully.

These new landings made on 5/6 August were part of a plan which called for a co-ordinated surprise landing at Sulva and attack on Sari Bair (Anzac Cove). The 6th Leinsters were detailed for the attack on Sari Bair. They were in reserve as stated until the 9th August, when they moved forward to relieve the New Zealanders on Rhododendron Spur. They came under heavy fire by mid afternoon and dug in at the foot of the ridge for the remainder of the night.

The Turks attacked on 10 August at daybreak and before too long two English battalions were destroyed (Wiltshires and Loyal North Lancs). On the right the Leinsters held firm, hand to hand fighting ensued. The Turks then pressed on over Rhododendron Spur and as they came over the ridge they were annihilated by naval, artillery and machine gun fire. Both sides paid a terrible price.

The Battalion dug in once again on the 10 August. More fighting occurred, the Turks continued to edge forward and made their final attack at dawn. The Leinsters standing alone, met the enemy with a bayonet charge until eventually the Turks retreated. The men had been in action for over 36 hours.

4 Officers and 44 men lay dead with scores wounded. Thomas O’Rourke being among the wounded. Out of the 1,100 men from the Leinsters who landed to give battle, only 100 were fit to walk when they pulled out.

Troops landing at Suvla Bay,Gallipolli, August 1915 Courtesy of www.irishtimes.com
Troops landing at Suvla Bay,Gallipolli, August 1915
Courtesy of http://www.irishtimes.com

 

Nothing more is known about Thomas after this action. We pick him up again on 11th April 1917 as part of ‘C coy’ 2nd battalion, part of 73rd Brigade 24th Division.

The 24th Division was now holding the front immediately north of Vimy Ridge by the Souchez river with the 4th Canadian Division to its right. The 2nd Leinsters and the 9th Royal Sussex both of the 73rd Brigade were to make a assault, their objective was the Bois – en – Hache to the north east of the Souchez and the strongpoint known as the Pimple.

Zero hour was 5.00am the next morning the 12th. The Leinsters were to carry the southern and central sections of the wood. ‘C coy’ was to capture an allotted sector of the enemy’s front line, with ‘A’ & ‘B’ in support, ‘D’ in reserve.

At 5.00 a.m. the attack began and three companies moved off in two waves accompanied by a British barrage. Weather conditions were poor, with a blinding snowstorm now blowing. Landmarks were quickly concealed by the snow and the ground, comprising mainly of shell holes and craters, quickly became slushy.

At ten minutes past five, the British barrage lifted and the men closed with the enemy in the German first line. Instantly a hand to hand fight, the Lewis gunners, used their guns as monstrous clubs, doing great execution.

After beating the Germans back from their first line, the leading men moved downhill towards the wooded slope and the German second line. Meanwhile, hostile enfilade fire from across the Souchez Valley continued and took its toll. By half past seven the position was that the Battalion was holding what had been the German front line in touch with the 9th Royal Sussex on the left and reaching on to the right where the Battalion’s old trenches had been. Every effort was being made to reorganize, and to consolidate the line.

Men of the 2nd. Batt., The Leinster Regiment enjoy a snack in France, 1917 Courtesy IWM
Men of the 2nd. Batt., The Leinster Regiment enjoy a snack in France, 1917
Courtesy IWM

 

Fair progress continued to be made and by 11.30, enemy rifle and machine gun fire had practically ceased. Stretcher parties were ordered out and they searched No Mans Land for the wounded. no opposition being shown by the enemy.

With all objectives being achieved the work of the Battalion was done, being relieved at dawn on the 14th.

Success had however, been purchased at a heavy price, and the 2nd Leinster regiment, although taking part in what was technically an operation merely co-ordinated with the regular assault upon the ridge, had paid its share.

Casualties were reported as;

KILLED 4 Officers 48 Other Ranks

WOUNDED 4 Officers 155 Other Ranks

MISSING 3 Other Ranks
Thomas O’Rourke was one of those killed during this gallant action on the 12th April. His body was never found.

He is remembered with honour on the Arras Memorial

The Arras Memorial Courtesy of arras-france.com
The Arras Memorial                                           
Courtesy of arras-france.com

“Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.”

Siegfried Sassoon (1886 – 1967)

 

 

Private Thomas McEvoy

1st Battalion Leinster Regiment,

Killed in Action 12th May 1915,

From Dublin

Scan_20140513 (2)

 

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Thomas enlisted at Mosney Camp near Drogheda, Co. Louth, September/October 1914. Following his period of training, Thomas was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Leinsters, departing for France in March 1915, as part of the 82nd brigade 27th Division. Early April found the battalion near Ypres, carrying out tours of trenches south-east of Hooge. By the end of the month the battalion were consolidating Hill 60, which was now occupied after it had been blown up by a huge mine. Taking up further positions in Sanctuary Wood on the 6th May, the Leinsters held the line there under constant attack.

May 8th saw the beginning of the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge. On the 10th the whole battalion stood to and went to the close support of the 81st Brigade for the whole of the afternoon and evening.

The Leisters at Frezenberg Ridge May 1915 Photo from http://www.birthofaregiment.com/
The 1st Leinsters at Frezenberg Ridge May 1915
Photo from http://www.birthofaregiment.com/

About 9am on the 11th a heavy bombardment was opened by the Germans and an attack was launched by them against Hill 55 north east of Sanctuary wood. Here a Highland battalion was driven back and “B” Company was sent up in support driving the enemy back. The Germans, however did not cease from their efforts and another trench fell into their hands.
The 1st Leinster Regiment was ordered to counter attack and “A” and “C” companies started a 11pm. Owing to the wooded nature of the terrain and that artillery ammunition was not sufficient for a preliminary bombardment, it was decided to recapture the trenches by surprise and at the point of the bayonet. This effort was completely successful, the Germans were completely surprised and most of the the trench was recaptured.

However with a furious enfilade fire and an accurate artillery bombardment, the position couldn’t be held and by daylight the Leinsters were forced to retire.

This action of the early morning of Wednesday 12th May was a costly episode for the 1st battalion. With 2 Officers killed and 4 wounded, 56 OR killed and up to a 100 wounded. Many of those men killed were never found, among them being Thomas McEvoy. Of the missing the battalion history states that ‘these were undoubtedly lying dead on the ground which had been so strenuously contested’.

Thomas is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial his body never being found.

Menin Gate memorial to the missing, Ypres Photo from www.spiritofremembrance.com
Menin Gate memorial to the missing, Ypres
Photo from http://www.spiritofremembrance.com
Poppies falling from the top of the Menin Gate in Ypres. Photo from https://upload.wikimedia.org
Poppies falling from the top of the Menin Gate in Ypres.
Photo from https://upload.wikimedia.org
“He volunteered, he thought it was his duty, he died that we might live”