William Byrne – A Corkman who was gassed twice, but lived

Munster Fusiliers on the eve of World War One

Name of soldier : William Byrne

Descendent : Liam Byrne

In 2013, Phibsborough resident Liam Byrne died tragically in an accident on his beloved Inishbofin Island, off the Galway coast. The small island was, and still is, a family holiday destination and bolthole, and the original homeland of the family of his wife Carmel.

Liam is pictured above, rowing a boat, and below, with his wife Carmel, in the doorway of their Inishbofin house. Liam was a lively and curious character and is still greatly missed by his family and friends. He was involved in the truck leasing business, and had travelled the world as a truck driver, including much of the Middle East

Liam’s Uncle William, a Corkman, fought in World War One where he was gassed and wounded twice and, at one stage, left for dead on a stretcher until he showed signs of life. His brother, John – Liam’s other Uncle – was in the British Navy.

Liiam’s daughter, Sarah Anne, describes the family memories of William below. Sarah has already described the wartime experiences of her granduncles on her mother Carmel’s side in another post on the site, including the rueful warnings of her Great Aunt Sally.

Great Aunt Sally – ‘You’ll get no more sons from me’ – The Lion and the Shamrock https://thelionandtheshamrock.com/2021/03/21/sarah-byrne/

Sarah Anne Byrne

Your father’s name : Liam Byrne

Your veteran relative: Grand Uncle, William Byrne

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: The Royal Irish Munster Fusiliers

Areas served in : The Western Front.

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in his eighties sometime in the 1970s. He was born in Cork on January 08, 1894 and there were 15 years between him and my grandfather who was born in 1909.

Dad’s grandfather was William and he named his eldest son William after his father as was the custom. Also, Dad’s father was the youngest of 9 and so Willam was much older.

Above : Carmel and Liam Byrne in Inishbofin

What were your family’s most striking memories of William Byrne ?

According to Grandad, William was wounded and gassed twice. On one occasion, William was being put on a stretcher by the burial squad but he moaned or otherwise showed that he was alive and recovered.

Grandad also said that he remembered a telegram coming to his home and his father said ‘I suppose this is it’ thinking that he was being notified of his son’s death.

Where is he buried? In a cemetery in Cork.

Do you have any mementos of him?

No, just the memories. We have no photos of him.

Munster Fusiliers leave for France, 1914

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