2nd Battalion Irish Guards,
From Drogheda, Co. Meath,
Slightly Wounded in France, 1st April 1916,
Matthew Gibney was born to Michael & Jane Gibney of Nunswalk in Drogheda on the 7th May 1896. A coachman by trade he enlisted into the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards, in Drogheda, on the 9th January 1915. Following a period of training he landed with his battalion at Le Havre and came under orders of 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division.
In September that year, the battalion, as well as the 1st Irish Guards, took part in the Battle of Loos, which lasted from 25 September until early October.
On September 25th, 1915, some 75,000 British soldiers rose from their trenches under the cover of a gas cloud the British swore they would never use.
They attacked the German lines centred on Loos-en-Gohelle, an unremarkable place, framed, then as now, by two huge slag heaps which dominate the flat terrain for miles around.
The third day involved the Guards Division. The 1st and 2nd battalions of the Irish Guards suffered grievous losses. The battle continued for another fruitless three weeks, but was effectively over after three days.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) lists some 10,240 British deaths from September 25th, 1915, including 8,500 who fell on the battlefield of Loos. The six British divisions in action that day suffered more casualties per unit than during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards spent much of the remainder of 1915 in the trenches. Matthew suffered his only injury of the war, when slightly wounded in the right hand & right leg whilst in trenches near Ypres, on the 31st March 1916. “The last day of March brought them for one breathless half-hour the heaviest shelling they had yet undergone; but it ended, as so many such outbursts did, in nothing but a few slight wounds”.
The 1st Battalion, Irish Guards spent much of the remainder of 1915 in the trenches, but, on 1st July 1916. the Battle of the Somme began, it was, and still is, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. The 1st Irish Guards took part in an action at Flers-Courcelette, where they suffered severe casualties in the attack in the face of withering fire from the German machine-guns. The battalion also took part in the action at Morval They were involved in the capture of the northern part of a village, during the action and were relieved the following day by the 2nd Irish Guards.
In 1917 the Irish Guards took part in the Battle of Pilckem which began on the 31 July during the Third Battle of Ypres. The Irish Guards also took part in the Battle of Cambrai in that year, the first large use of the tank in battle took place during the engagement. In 1918 the regiment fought in a number of engagements during the Second Battle of the Somme, including at Arras and Albert. The regiment then went on to take part in a number of battles during the British offensives against the Hindenburg Line. On 11 November 1918 the Armistice was signed.
The sacrifice by the Irish Guards during the First World War, however, was immense. Over 2,300 officers and men had been killed and well over 5,000 wounded. The regiment was awarded 406 medals, including four VCs, during the Great War.
After three and a half years service on the Western Front, Matthew had survived and come through virtually unscathed. Before he was demobbed in March 1919, Matthew was the servant/batman to Major Terence Edmund Gascoigne Nugent MC , Irish Guards.
On his return from the war Matthew found time to marry Mary Josephine Bartley on the 25th June 1919. He was 23, and lived in Drogheda for the rest of his life.