Lest we forget – one hundred years ago today, a bloody battle was waging in France – World War 1.
People of many nations literally sacrificed themselves, there is no other word for it. Whole battalions were massacred in different battles.
The Royal Irish Rifles were involved in one of those many battles – the 3rd battle of Ypres which lasted many months. In that regiment was my father’s first cousin. He enlisted on his 18th birthday in June 1915, he was not conscripted. There was no conscription in Ireland, so all those young men in the Irish Regiments were volunteers. He survived at the front until 16th August 1917, when he died at Langemarck. He would have marked his 20th birthday a few weeks before. He won no medals, he had no awards, he was one of the many foot soldiers who lived in squalor in the trenches for years on end, and who clambered up facing their death, many times in that period. We can have no concept how awful it was for them.
He has no grave. His name is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial, panel 138 to 140 and 162 to 162A and 163A. There were so many who died in this area that the original memorial at Menin Gate became full, so all who died on or after 16th August 1917 are recorded at Tyne Cot.
His older brother Willie, served in the Royal Navy throughout the War and survived.
My father was born in March 1918, and was named for both these boys and their father Charles who died in 1916.
Willie later married but never had children, so the line died out.
Hence there is no-one to remember this young man’s bravery, so I am doing it today, one hundred years on.
This is the only photograph I am aware of, taken before he went to France.
Like so many hundreds of thousand others, what a way to enter into adulthood, to know no life except the muddy trenches in France and Belgium.
His name is recorded in the Portrush War Memorial. I am ashamed to admit that I only looked for his name a few years ago. I always knew my Father had a cousin who died at Ypres. I even took part in Remembrance Day services as a child, but I never connected my Father’s cousin with a name on the memorial. Even worse, I grew up in the same house as this young man did. The building itself vanished in 1976, in the IRA bombing on 3rd August, erasing any other memories.
Out of a tiny population of 3,000, Portrush and district contributed 300, of which 75 failed to return. Now I know in the context of English villages with conscription, this number is low, but all of these lads were volunteers. So 10% of the overall population, but allowing for 20% too old, and 20% too young, and of those who were left, half were female, that meant that at least 1 in 3 of those eligible volunteered, and 1 in 4 of those who went, didn’t make it home again. Most families must have been affected. I know certainly that this young man’s mother never recovered from his loss.
For those of you who are looking for relatives, a full list of the names on the War Memorial is here.
Update – Since I posted this, I have also found a site that gives the stories of all those named on the war memorial here
To the many soldiers serving throughout the world today, Thank You.
To the many people who have died in battles and wars, and continue to do so. We Remember You
May one day, World Peace, really exist for all.