Frank Thornely – The man in the painting

Name of soldier : Frank Thornely

Descendent : Lucinda Thornely

In a famous painting, which now hangs in City Hall in Belfast, Frank Thornely is depicted, with his arm raised, leading the charge of the 36th Ulster Division at the Somme on 1 July 1916. The image is especially iconic for Ulster Unionists.

The casualties on the day were in excess of 55,000 from an advancing force of 120,000, and the Battle of the Somme is rightly considered to be one of the major military catastrophes of all time.

Less well known, is that the officer leading the advance was not an Ulsterman, and had never been to Ireland before joining the Royal Irish Rifles in December 1914. He was Frank Thornely, an Englishman, who had volunteered to join the army directly from leaving Uppingham School in Rutland.

His granddaughter, Lucinda Thornely, now lives in the grounds of Rosnaree House in County Meath, right by the site of the Battle of the Boyne of 1690, an event even more iconic for Ulster Unionists.

The house has guest facilities, fishing expeditions and there is also catering business run by Lucinda. More at

Your own name : Lucinda Thornely

Your relative : Grandfather, Frank Thornely

Period of activity : World War One

Specific regiment : 11th (Service) BN The Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim Volunteers).

Areas served in : Belgium and France. The Battle of the Somme.

Did you have much contact with him?

Sadly I didn’t know him but, according to my own father, my grandfather was a gentle and funny man

What are your father’s most striking memories of him ?

His father took him to the battlefields in 1947 when he was 10 and he still has the vivid memories.

Where is he buried?

Charing crematorium in Kent, England

Do you have any mementos of him ?

Yes, we have many photographs and letters. Some were donated to the Somme Association at Newtonards, Belfast


Above : Frank Thornely at age 18, after receiving his commission


In 2016, some of Frank Thornely’s family visited the site of the Somme battlefield. More here :

Somme hero’s children make pilgrimage to the battlefield on centenary –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: