The Somme: selected stories of the Irish dead

Lists of war dead reveal almost 500 southern Irishmen died on the first day of battle. Here are some of those men’s stories

Troops of the Tyneside Irish regiment one minute after zero hour on July 1st, 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme. Photograph Art Archive/Imperial War Museum

Troops of the Tyneside Irish regiment one minute after zero hour on July 1st, 1916, the first day of the battle of the Somme. Photograph Art Archive/Imperial War Museum

 

Addison Arthur Lieutenant Colonel (49)

Originally from Dublin, Addison was one of the most senior officers to be killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was in command of the 9th York and Lancaster Regiment. Addison retired from the army in 1908 at the rank of major but reenlisted during the war. He was mentioned twice in dispatches before being killed.

Atkinson, Thomas Joyce Major (38)

Atkinson was a barrister from Ballyshannon, Co Donegal who joined the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers at the start of the first World War. Atkinson was wounded during the Gallipoli campaign. He was one of 150 men from what is now the Republic to have been killed on the first day of the Somme fighting with the 36th (Ulster Division.

Bethune, Douglas Private (20)

Bethune was one of twin brothers from Sandycove, Co Dublin who died during the first World War. Douglas Bethune was killed on July 1st, 1916 while serving with the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) unit. His brother Thomas joined the 36th (Ulster) Division but took ill before going to France and died.

Bible Geoffrey Roskell Second Lieutenant (23)

Bible was from Grosvenor Road in Rathmines and was one of the “posh pals” who signed up with D Company of the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers that fought in Gallipoli. He was attacked to the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) for the Battle of the Somme and was killed during the attack on Contalmaison. Buchanan Stewart Private (19) from Burt, Co Donegal, was with the 11th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who took some of the heaviest casualties on the first day. His brother John died serving with the Canadians.

Burke John (20) and Joseph Burke (26)

These two brothers from Newbliss, Co Monaghan were with the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers in the 36th (Ulster) Division. Both were killed on the first day.

Chambers Edward Second Lieutenant

Chambers was the son of Mr and Mrs R.E Chambers of Fosterstown County Meath. He was educated at Marlborough College, Paris and Oxford before joining the army in June 1915. Chambers was killed while serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers.

Costello, Edward William Lieutenant (19)

Costello was from a prominent banking family in Tullamore, Co Offaly. He was with the Royal Inniskilling Fusilier’s machine gun corps and was shot through the head while raiding a German trench. Requiem mass was said for him at the Church of the Assumption, Tullamore a month after the battle. A local newspaper reported: “The large congregation present at the solemn function bore eloquent testimony to the general esteem in which the deceased was held by every class in the county and to the genuine sympathy extended to Mr and Mrs Costello and family in their bereavement.”

Crozier, William Magee. (Dublin) Lieutenant (42)

Crozier was a barrister pre-war and was commissioned into the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was hit twice before he reached the German wire, but continued his advance towards the German trench. He was seen to try to take cover in a shell hole, after which no more is known of his movements. He was described in The Irish Times as a “popular member of the Irish bar”.

Dockery Thady Private (21)

Dockery, who served with the 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers, is one of three men from my hometown of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim who were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He had been a member of the GAA club in Carrick and was also a keen boxer. The newspaper described him as “highly respected and esteemed by those who knew him in his native town.”

Bernard Morahan (26)

Also killed on the first day was Morahan was with the Hampshire Regiment. The Leitrim Observer reported: “He was a popular and respected young man among all classes in his native town, and the news of his death on Sunday was received with general regret.”

Private William Rogers (Age N/A)

Rogers died during a diversionary attack while serving with the 6th Connaught Rangers. He was the second Rogers brother to die in the war. His commanding officer wrote: “Dear Mrs Rogers,-It is very painful to me to have to write to you that Private Rogers was killed in action 1st July, 1916, and was buried in Noeux-le-Mines. It will be some consolation to you to know that he died like a good brave soldiers in the front line trenches. No better or quieter soldier have I lots, and he is greatly missed by all the section.”

Dunne, Michael Sergeant (29)

Mullingar man Dunne of the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers had already served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. In June 1916 he claimed that a crucifix had saved his life when it deflected a shell fragment away from his heart. His luck ran out during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was described in the Westmeath Examiner as “extremely modest, and it was only by degrees he could be induced to say anything about himself though he spoke freely of the doings of his comrades”.

Feely, William Private (19) 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Feely from Patrick Street, Mullingar was a member of staff of the Westmeath Examiner. Though only 19, he was already a veteran of the Gallipoli campaign and was wounded in the leg there. He was described as a “young man of splendid physique and kindly disposition. He was very popular in the regiment, the 1st Battalion”.

Foley John Captain (29)

Foley was one of 28 men from what is now the Republic of Ireland to have died serving with the Tyneside Irish battalion. Originally from Charleville, Co Cork, Foley joined the colours in 1914 while living in Sunderland.

Fox Francis Parker Second Lieutenant (22)

Fox was the son of a tax inspector from Rathmines. He was on the staff of the Royal Exchange Assurance, Dublin Branch. He was refused enlistment in Dublin owing to short vision, but went to Belfast, offered his services there, and was accepted. Fox was with the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers which was part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. He had led his platoon to the German line, and was superintending the preparation of trench to resist a counter attack he was struck and killed instantly.

Goodwin, William Lieutenant (23)

An only son of the Kerry county surveyor and a native of Tralee, Goodwin served with the 11th battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment when he was killed on the first day. The Cork Examiner reported: “Deep and widespread regret and sympathy will be felt not only in Kerry but far outside its confines at the sad announcement that Lieutenant William Goodwin, only son of Mr Singleton Goodwin, County Surveyor of Kerry, and of Mrs Goodwin, Ballroe, Tralee, has been killed in action.”

Harbord George Lieutenant (20)

Another with the 1st Inniskillings who was killed on the first day, Harbord was the son of the Rev Richard Harbord from Enniskean, Co Cork.

Murray Thomas Private (Age n/a)

Murray was another of the “posh pals” who joined D Company of the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He had been wounded in Gallipoli. He was transferred to the 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was killed in action.

O’Meara Thomas Private (19)

From Grand Parade, Co Cork, Thomas O’Meara was a tailor before the war. He enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders.

Payne, William Joseph Corporal (22)

Payne volunteered for service early in the war was killed while serving with the Rifle Brigade. The Skibbereen Eagle reported that he was a “most popular young man in Bandon and much sympathy is felt with his parents in their sorrow”. His sister Susie served as a volunteer nurse in the war. Payne’s parents left the following message in The Cork Examiner: “In proud and loving memory of our darling Willie who fell on the Somme on July 1st, 1916. We thank God upon every remembrance of you.”

Rennix Robert O’Connor Private (27)

Rennix joined the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in June 1915 and went to France in October. Before enlisting he was a member of the traffic manager’s head office staff at Westland Row Station. “He was courteous and efficient, and highly esteemed by all the chief officials with whom he had to do,” the Weekly Irish Times reported. In December 1916 his mother made a public appeal for information as to the whereabouts of her son. He was reported killed in action a year after the battle.

Richardson William Turner Second Lieutenant (34)

Richardson was from Raheny, Co Dublin. Known to his friends as Billy, he was a member of the Old Wesley Rugby Football Club. He was also a keen golfer and tennis player. He was one of the first to leave his trench, but had only reached the parapet when he was shot through the head while serving with the 12th Royal Irish Rifles. He worked in the Midland Great Western Railway.

Topp, Richard William Second Lieutenant (18)

Topp was the son of a Bank of Ireland official. He attended Galway Grammer School and then the Cork Grammer School where he joined the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC). His parents spent many months looking for him after the Battle of the Somme. His body was never found and he is remembered on the Thiepval memorial to the missing.

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