Like many, Salvator Gavillet enlisted for the Great War in the belief that he was boosting the case for Irish independence and Home Rule.
However, when he came home, the atmosphere had changed and a much more separatist movement led by Irish Republicans was dominant. He felt neglected and his efforts forgotten in the emerging new Irish State.
By contrast, the British exchequer provided Gavillet with a pension and a house in Killester, the north Dublin suburb specifically created for veterans of World War One. His grand daughter Maria Smith (pictured below, with her daughter, Ann) also lived there.
Gavillet, who had a Swiss father, originally lived in Glasnevin, off Washerwoman’s Hill and right next to the old Ballymun Church of Ireland graveyard, in which coincidentally, there are a number of WW1 graves.
Gavillet fought at the Somme where he got shot and injured while carrying a wounded comrade. He also lost the sight of an eye, and many of his friends went missing in that long and traumatic Somme engagement. Gavillet lived until 1956.
Your own name : Maria Smith
Your relative : Grandfather, Salvator Gavillet
Period of activity: World War One
Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Areas served in : Western Front, the Somme (pictured below)
Did you have much contact with your grandfather ?
Yes, we saw a good deal of him when we were kids.
What are the most striking memories of him?
My grandad rarely spoke about the war. And he felt disappointed about how it was barely acknowledged by official Ireland and the new Irish State, given the sacrifices made by so many men and their families. .
It was particularly disappointing given that he had enlisted seeking to boost the case of Irish self-rule, and at the urging of the Home Rule leader John Redmond. My grandfather was mindful of Ireland’s parallels with other small countries like Belguim, and Switzerland, where his father came from
Where is he buried?
In Grangegorman military cemetery in north Dublin. Picture of grave below.
Gavillet was born in 1888 to a very large family- there were 14 children in all. His brother Gilbert was also a soldier. His father Charles Francis Gavillet was originally from Dardagny near Geneva in Switzerland and married Susan Doherty in Dublin.
Efforts are currently underway meanwhile to have a memorial garden erected in Killester, in north Dublin. This is in memory of the WW1 veterans, like Gavillet, who lived there with their families.
The memorial garden will honour families such as this one, pictured below, at The Demesne in Killester in 1958.
Below is a map for the Killester Garden suburb, as planned by the Soldiers and Sailors Trust. The emphasis was on the ‘healing powers’ of horticulture, gardens and fresh air, after the ordeal of the wartime trenches.
Pictured above : Mary Morgan wearing the World War One medals of her son, Thomas.
Elsewhere in this section, Breda Gaynor describes tracking down the grave of her relative, Thomas Masterson, an Irish born US soldier buried in Belgium.
Such is the close connection of north Dublin and the Great War, that Breda also had a neighbour with an uncle directly involved. His name was Thomas Morgan and he was the uncle of Breda’s next door neighbour, Doreen Morgan, who died some years ago.
Thomas Morgan served with the Horse Unit, of the Army Services Corps (ASC) and survived the war. He landed in France on 22nd August 1914, with the 4th Division – at the very start of the war.
Morgan’s war medals have been passed down through his brother’s family, suggesting Thomas didn’t marry or have children of his own. Before enlisting, he lived with his family in Grenville Street, Dublin, near Mountjoy Square and worked as a Messenger.
The 1911 Census describes his father, Tommy, as an engine driver and his sister as a sales woman in the boot department of a large store. They sound like the metropolitan, commercially-active characters of James Joyce’s Ulysses, set in 1904.
Interestingly, there was another Thomas Morgan, from nearby Gloucester Street and listed as having died in the war, according to the A Street Near You website.
Gloucester Street, and the so called ‘Gloucester Diamond’ , was at the heart of Dublin’s inner city and was the source of many soldiers, including Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Thomas Morgan would have been in good company, with a great many soldiers also coming from Mountjoy Square and its surrounding streets.
Below is a picture of John Wilson of 40 Mountjoy Square. He was a driver, with the Royal Field Artillery, which worked in tandem with the ASC. Wilson died on 20 September 1918 and is buried in Brie British cemetery in France.
The Army Services Corps (ASC), in which Thomas Morgan served, were the backbone of the whole war effort and, in many respects, they were the unsung heroes of the conflict.
Quite simply, without them there would have been no campaign. Soldiers cannot fight without food, equipment and ammunition, and cannot move without horses or vehicles. And it was the ASC’s job to provide all of this.
In supplying horses and motor vehicles, railways and waterways, the ASC performed ambitious feats of logistics and was a crucial factor in how the war was won.
Given the scale of the Great War, it was a colossal endeavour and the ASC would eventually number an extraordinary 10,547 officers and 315,334 men.
The largest element of the ASC was the Horse Transport section. The Mechanical Transport section, in which Morgan served, was also considerable.
In 1914, the British Army was already the most mechanised in the world and it retained this strength. By 1918, such strategic importance allowed it to maintain supplies as soldiers advanced over hard fought ground.
The ASC managed these so called Lines of Communication (logistics) and supplied heavy artillery through the Ammunition Columns, as well as managing Omnibus Companies, Motor Ambulance Convoys, and Bridging and Pontoon units.
The ASC Remounts Service was responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules. Ireland supplied many horses. There is even a Remount farm, in north Dublin, near Lusk, which trained a raised horses for the front. After Independence, however, it was burnt down leaving the locals without a major source of employment and equine industry.
The ASC also had Labour Companies. In France and Flanders it was realised in 1914 that the local authorities couldn’t supply civilian men for labouring duties, like unloading stores and equipment from ships. It was arranged to send 300 labourers, and soon specific Labour Companies were formed. Almost 21,000 skilled labourers and dock workers had joined by the end of 1915.
Picture above : Getting priorities right! The French army assembles wine barrels at the Allies camp in Mudros, Greece. Mudros was a base for operations in Gallipoli and held many Irish soldiers.
Base Depots like these were established for distribution and administration, and were used as the main supply stores for soldiers in the war zone.
The ASC also produced bread and meat for the troops, and its Supply Section ran Field Bakeries and Butcheries. Meanwhile, specialised Railway Labour Companies were quickly formed.
Basically, the ASC supervised the important military supply lines from port to front line, along with the camps, stores, dumps, workshops of the rear areas.
It is hard to comprehend just what this supply effort meant with an army that in France alone had been built up to over two million men. It was an extraordinary feat of logistics and Thomas Morgan from Mountjoy Square was a small but important part of that.
John Walker’s story is a good illustration of the struggles and opportunities of working class life in Ireland and England in the late 19th century.
From Kilkenny, John moved to Durham in England where he enlisted with the Tyneside Irish Battalion and fought in the First World War, eventually getting killed at the Somme in October 1916.
Today, John’s great grand daughter, Helen Dje, originally from Wales, lives in north Dublin with her young family.
Pictured Above: Helen Dje at the Burren, County Clare, Ireland
John was born in 1882 to John Walker of Kilkenny and Ellen Kennedy of New Ross, Co Wexford. He was the second of five children.
The Walkers were tenant farmers and with rights of inheritance, living in Castlecomer, County Kilkenny. This meant they were continually renting the land from the landlord, possibly a colonial figure.
This was the precarious situation of most of the Irish population at that time, most of whom lived off the land. The use and ownership of the land was a huge issue in Ireland for centuries and the source of much tension culminating in the Land Wars of the 1880s.
By 1900, the situation had improved, under various British government Land Acts, but the situation was still precarious for tenant farmers such as the Walkers. Added to this were the complications around rights of succession.
John Walker’s father died when he was young and later his mother remarried Mr Boyle. They had two sons, Dick and Rob Boyle. Later when his mother Ellen died, the tenancy and all property passed to her new husband, and would be inherited by John’s step brothers.
At this stage, all the Walker siblings emigrated to find work, going to either Britain, America or Australia. In 1901, John went to England and a small mining village in County Durham called Cornsay Colliery (pictured below) where there was plenty of work ‘down the mine’
This is not an exaggeration : up to 700 men and boys were employed at various activities in Cornsay. Beneath the ground where four rich seams of coal, about a metre thick and discovered in 1868, which were mined and brought to the surface and turned into industrial coke. Also underground was a rich fire clay which was fired into tiles and drainage piping, using up to 270 ovens.
In Cornsay, John lived as a boarder with Irish emigrants Francis and Kate Quinn who had previously emigrated from Ireland after the birth of their third child, daughter Sarah Ann.
John eventually married Sarah Anne Quinn from Thomastown, County Fermanagh, in the North of Ireland. They had seven children – incredibly, all of them were girls.
The First World War began and the army recruitment team came to the village to persuade young men to join up.
According to his family, the authorities ‘touted the war as one to free small nations and mentioned that if Irishmen joined up it would further the cause of Irish independence. With this in mind, John Walker joined up’.
John enlisted at Newcastle on November 9th 1914. He joined the 25th Tyneside Irish Battalion, part of the Northumberland Fusiliers, alongside other Irishmen who had ended up in Cornsay Colliery.
After initial training at home, the battalion joined the 103rd Brigade, 34th Division in June 1915 at Ripon in Yorkshire before moving to Salisbury Plain, for final training in late August. They proceeded to France in January 1916 where the 34th Division concentrated at La Crosse, near St Omer.
After a period of trench familiarisation, they moved to the Somme and saw action at the Battles of the Somme, including the capture if Scots and Sausage Redoubt, the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres Ridge and the Battle of Fleurs – Corcelette. The latter was with the Divisional Pioneers as part of the 103 rd Brigade.
The 25th Battalion did not take part in any further major battles. However, they stayed on in the Somme, engaged in day to day trench warfare.
Pictured above : the Tyneside Irish at the Somme on the fateful first day, 1st July 1916
John was a bandsman and so he did not do a great deal of figthing. He was in the Ambulance Corps and looked after the wounded and dead. According to his family, he was stretchering some wounded off the battleground at the end of fighting when he was shot in the back. He was 34 years of age.
He is buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Nord in France.
His wife Sarah Anne had seven children to bring up on her own. Two died but five survived. She received all monies due to John, and a pension for herself and her children. She later lived at Elderwood Gardens, Gateshead, County Durham.
The family assert that Sarah Anne was always bitter that her husband had thought he was fighting to free Ireland and died with this in mind. ‘When freedom came with the Republic in 1948, her part of Ireland remained under British rule’.
1948 was the year that Southern Ireland declared itself a Republic. However, the country had been independent of Britain since 1922.
This is the story of a Dublin woman in search of the grave of her granduncle who died in Belgium in 1918, and who was unaware that an author in Belgium was trying to find relatives of the same man.
The author Patrick Lernout was compiling a book about the Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem, Belgium and was seeking details on a soldier buried there called John Masterson – the granduncle of Dublin woman Breda Gaynor.
Eventually, Breda made contact with Lernout and tracked down the grave of Masterson, which had been lost to her family for almost a hundred years.
Breda was then invited to the 90th anniversary of the Flanders battle and got to visit the grave of her granduncle, which she has done many times since.
In 2016, her sister Eileen, also visited the grave on Memorial Day, along with her daughters (pictured below). The discovery of their granduncle’s grave, and visiting it, has played a major part in bringing Breda and Eileen back together. For many years, they had not been in communication.
It is a fitting tribute to the memory of John Masterson and to the pursuit of his grave that this positive side effect has happened. And it is something which often occurs for such families in pursuit of their history.
John Masterson, from Abbeylara in County Longford, was killed in action on 9 August 1918, aged 24. He had not long been in the United States, and yet found himself back in Europe within just a few years to fight in the First World War. This was a not uncommon experience for many Irish emigrants.
John Masterson lived at 123 Pierrepoint Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, with his sister Ellen Masterson, but she returned to Ireland.
John volunteered with the 14th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard, which later became the 106th Infantry Regiment.
The ’14th’ were a legendary regiment which fought in the American Civil War. The Confederate General, Stonewall Jackson, gave them the nickname the ‘red legged devils’ due to their red trousers but also their prowess and refusal to surrender ground.
For this reason, the regiment retained its ’14th’ designation despite subsequent absorption into a broader New York regiment. The 14th later fought in World War One, an involvement marked by the sculpture of a Doughboy (pictured below) outside the 14th Regiment Armoury in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
In August 1918, Masterson and three others from ‘the 14th’ were killed when a German shell hit their shelter during an intense bombardment. It was in the final months of the war. In his last letter home, John had described large numbers of Germans being taken prisoner.
Above : A Brooklyn newspaper describes how Private John Masterson died.
John was one of thirteen children raised on a small farm in Derragh, Granard, County Longford. His twin sister, Brigid, was Breda Gaynor’s grandmother.
John’s brother Bernard also served in the Great War (with the British Army), and severely injured his arm. This injury did not, however, prevent his later involvement in the Irish War of Independence and in the Irish Civil War.
Bernard’s son, also called Masterson, served for many years in the Irish Army.
Pictured below: John’s mother, Bridget.
Pictured below: a passionate letter from Bridget Masterson to the US military, hoping that John’s remains stay in Europe and wishing that she could see her son’s grave.
Pictured below: US military form for reburial of John’s remains in 1922
Pictured below: US military letter regarding a new grave for John Masterson
Pictured below: letter from the US military explaining that it cannot provide a family visit to John’s grave.
Contact was then lost with John Masterson’s grave. Over the decades his relatives passed on and the precise location of his grave became gradually unknown. The correspondence pictured above was only unearthed much later when Breda Gaynor made investigations in 2008.
As a child, Breda had often heard her father speak about how one day ‘they must track down Uncle John’s grave’. It was a constant refrain with him. By 2008, Breda’s father had passed on, but she then decided to follow up on her father’s wishes and speculation. She was fascinated by Uncle John’s story.
Breda lives in her family home on St Ignatius Avenue, in Drumcondra, one of the long, tightly terraced streets leading down to Dorset Street in Dublin’s north city. If you removed the cars, it could be a streetscape from a hundred years ago, and is not unlike similiar streets in Belfast and the north of England.
Breda grew up here and her own personal story is very interesting, as is her knowledge of the area, with many stories about local characters and events. Her father was an inspector with the Monuments section of the Office of Public Works and Breda went to university, something very unusual for the area and the time. Her husband sadly died some years ago.
In 2008, Breda began a search for the location of her Uncle’s grave. She wrote to the US military, which replied (image below) stating that it had no knowledge of John Masterson’s grave. This was mainly due to a fire in 1973,it claimed, which destroyed a large section of the military’s records.
However, as with so many searches like this, and especially for military and family records, the internet has changed everything and Breda Gaynor was able to trawl online, in a way that previous generations could not.
Eventually she found a family heritage site for people named Masterson, with a message on it from Patrick Lernout, in Belgium, stating that he was writing a book about the men buried in Flanders Field Cemetery and did anyone know about a man buried there called John Masterson. Lernout’s co-author was Christopher Sims.
The message was two years old but Breda was understandably excited and immediately wrote to Patrick. He replied and their correspondence is below:
Pictured below: letter from Patrick Lernout to Breda Gaynor in April 2008.
Breda Gaynor and Patrick were delighted to have made contact with each other and to have tracked down a family for the grave of John Masterson.
Breda was then invited to the 90th anniversary of the Flanders battle in Waregem, Belgium where she finally visited the grave of her granduncle.
Above: Breda meets the US Ambassador, Sam Fox.
Below: Breda meets Patrick Lernout and Christopher Sims in Flanders Field American Cemetery.
Pictured below : Breda receives a commemorative badge from the US Ambassador.
Below: ceremony line up by serving US soldiers.
Pictured below is the cover of the booklet compiled by Patrick Lernout and Christopher Sims about the Flanders Field American Cemetery. It was eventually published in 2017. Much research has gone into its compilation, with approximately a page per soldier, and many photos.
Patrick Lernout lived near the Cemetery and his interest in it arose when, as a schoolboy, he would pass by and wonder about the strange names on the markers.
Below : the page on John Masterson in the booklet.
Pictured below : Flanders Field American cemetery.
Apparently, a local couple, Luc and Regine De Groote-De Clercq, have adopted John Masterson’s grave and place flowers on it on his anniversary and at Christmas.
Below: line up by US military personnel.
Pictured below : wreath-laying by US Ambassador and Yves Leterme, Prime Minister of Belgium.
Below : speech by US Ambassador, Sam Fox.
Pictured below : group shot of honoured guests.
Below : Memorial Tower at Flanders Field American Cemetery. (This, and all pictures here, courtesy of Breda Gaynor.)
Below: Programme card for the Memorial Day Service.
Below : Running order for the Memorial Day Service.
Below : Back in Dublin – Breda Gaynor with Eamon Delaney.
Colin Horner was a sailor on the HMS Hardy when it was torpedoed in the Artic Ocean by a U boat during the Second World War. Blown overboard, he managed to survive in the icy waters until rescued, and went on to live a long and fruitful life. Thirty five crew members were not so lucky and lost their lives
The HMS Hardy was a V-class destroyer escorting Convoy JW 56A when it was hit by the German submarine U-278 on January 30 1944. The destroyers HMS Venus and HMS Virago rescued the survivors and sank the damaged Hardy. The HMS Virago sustained damage to her bow while in contact with the Hardy and was later repaired by Russian workers while at the convoy destination in Murmansk.
Like many such ships, the HMS Hardy (pictured below) was built by John Brown & Company at Clydebank, Scotland.
Today, his grandson Tommy Horner (pictured below) lives in north Dublin with his family. He is a fitness coach and also helps train youths with the Bohemians FC soccer academy.
Tommy is the second ‘Bohs’ coach on this site. In a separate entry, Phil Flynn, describes how his grandfather Patrick Flynn, a sapper from East Wall, tunneled under the Germans in World War One.
Your own name : Thomas Horner.
Your relative : Grandfather, Colin
Period of activity: World War Two, naval war
Specific regiment: The Royal Navy
Areas served in: The Artic Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean etc
Did you have much contact with him?
Yes, I used to regularly talk to him about his wartime experiences. In fact, I recorded much of it on an old phone but the mobile phone got lost. Hopefully, it’ll turn up!
Pictured above : a log of some of the many ships which Colin Horner served on, including the Raleigh, the Defiance and the Golden Hind.
Pictured below : scrapbook items, including a postal greeting from the British military base in Chatham, Colombo, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Also a newspaper cutting of how Horner survived the attack on the HMS Hardy.
Pictured below : Royal Marines training with 40mm Bofors field guns at Chatham base in September 1943. The HMS Hardy was also equipped with twin 40 mm Bofors cannon, as well as other guns and mortar tubes.
Pictured below : Horner ‘s Conduct sheet, from 1944-46.
Pictured below : Horner ‘s Certificate of Service
Pictured below : Pictures of Colin Horner in uniform and with his family in later life.
The case of Charles O’Donoghue is yet another story from the Great Western Square area of north Dublin, which, with its adjoining streets, has provided so many World War One stories for this site.
In this case, it is from the small adjoining cul de sac called Rosemount Road off the long North Circular Road.
Here lives Jim O’Donoghue, the son of Charles O’Donoghue who fought in the Great War and then joined the army of the new Irish State, being discharged in 1924 (papers reproduced below).
Like many veterans of the First World War, however, Charles O’Donoghue rarely spoke about the experience, nor about his subsequent time in the Irish Army, which in March 1924 was still involved in Ireland’s Civil War.
The Free State army was greatly boosted by the enlistment of former Irish members of the British Army, given their experience and skills. This added to the force’s more conservative, less Republican atmosphere.
It is understood that Charles, who had been a driver, was with the Royal Artillery Regiment and joined the British Army in about 1915, but his area of service in the European war is unknown.
Charles O’Donoghue was originally from Ennis in County Clare where his father worked in the asylum. He was an identical twin and one of ten children.
In the family picture above, he is in the back row, on the extreme left, while his twin brother is fourth from left, although it is hard to tell them apart !
Your own name : Jim O’Donoghue
Your relative : Father, Charles O’Donoghue
Period of activity : World War One
Specific regiment: Driver, Royal Artillery Regiment
Areas served in: The Western Front
Did you have much contact with him?
Yes, I grew up with him. He passed away when I was 21.
Do you have any mementos of him ?
Just the documents here. There were very few photographs. …………. Alsoon Rosemount Road – the Battle of Jutland and North Dublin
It is worth noting that the small cul de sac of Rosemount Road, has other connections to World War One, including the Battle of Jutland, one of many associations in the area to this great North Sea battle.
At No.1 Rosemount Road, just a few doors from Jim O’Donoghue, lived Daniel Jeremiah Hogan who died at Jutland, on 1 May 1916 aged 34. Hogan was a Petty Officer Telegraphist on the HMS Defence.
Telegraph operators like Hogan were important people on these ships, given a vessel’s constant need for monitoring and communications, doubly so on a military vessel. And even more so in the Battle of Jutland, which involved a lot of maneuvering and tactics.
In fact, the whole battle was a game of nautical ‘cat and mouse’ , with the numerically smaller German navy drawing the British into an open battle in the hope of inflicting sudden and preemptive damage.
This they did, and a series of devastating German direct hits sunk British ships, with the loss of over 6000 lives. There were about 2500 Germans killed.
There were 350 Irish among the dead – a large number given the size of our country and reflecting the traditional high participation of Irish people in the Royal Navy, especially from the Cork and Kerry areas.
Kerryman Tom Crean, for example (above) joined the Navy and, through it, became an artic explorer.
Daniel Jeremiah Hogan’s body was never found at Jutland and he is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. Hogan’s father was also called Daniel Jeremiah and his mother was Margaret.
Also killed at Jutland was Felix Ruddy Kelly, from nearby Cabra Park (House below). He was an Able Seaman and his parents were Francis and Elizabeth.
Ruddy Kelly was on the HMS Queen Mary. It was the Royal Navy’s most powerful ship and yet it too was sunk. In their haste to load the guns, the crew had left explosive propellant lying around the turrets.
Another casualty on the HMS Queen Mary, was Michael Doherty, who came from not far away on Upper Dominick Street, near Broadstone.
Doherty was a stoker, keeping the ship’s furnaces going. These men were particularly vulnerable in an attack, deep in the ship’s bowels, and trapped by the fire above and by flooding.
Michael Doherty was aged 23 and lived at 79 Upper Dominick Street. Both upper and lower Dominick Street provided many soldiers for World War One. As did Henrietta Street, right nearby.
At No 5 Henrietta Street, lived Gordon Stewart Davidson Veitch who also died at Jutland. He was a Cooks Mate on the HMS Defence and was the same age as Michael Doherty at 23. His parents were Eric Gordon and Lillian.
As with the land battles at the Somme and Ypres, many bodies from Jutland were never found, and the men are remembered on dedicated memorials, such as the Naval Memorial at Portsmouth, the main port for the Royal Navy.
The Battle of Jutland was effectively the only naval battle of the war but it was a crucial one, despite occuring for just half a day. In fact, it was the biggest sea battle in history until that time and remains one of the biggest, involving 250 vessels.
However, it was also the last naval battle fought primarly by battleships, which showed how warfare was changing. In the Second World War and since, such naval encounters are accompanied by war planes and intense aerial battles.
After Jutland, the Germans concentrated on lone attacks on British boats and on commercial shipping, mostly using their famous U boat submarines. This was similiar to World War Two, when the Germans even attacked Irish shipping, even though Ireland was neutral.
Such attacks were effective for the Germans but they antagonised other countries, and brought the United States into World War One.
In 1915, the Luisitania was sunk by the Germans off Cobh, then called Queenstown, while in 1918, of course, the RMS Leinster was sunk off Dun Laoghaire, then called Kingstown, causing many casualties.
Above : A young William Brazil in his Royal Artillery uniform
Name of soldier : Willie Brazil
Name of descendent : Enda Carr
Teacher Enda Carr lives on Monck Place, Phibsborough, north Dublin. This is just beside Great Western Square where his grand uncle William Brazil, a veteran of the Somme, lived until well into his 90s.
Enda’s story adds to the many associations between this small area and the First World War, with a number of stories already posted here from people living on the Square or on Monck Place.
As it happens, Great Western Square was originally built for railway workers. But it also housed military veterans and, after 1914, there was an overlap, with many rail workers enlisting. Those who returned from war often resumed their rail jobs and were given houses on the square or on the adjoining Great Western Villas.
The old railway terminus at nearby Broadstone has a plaque listing the fallen workers – and soldiers.
There were also fatalities who lived on the Square itself such as Private John Brennan who lived at No 43. Aged just 19, he was with the Machine Gun Corps, Infantry division and died in France on 9 April 1917. He is remembered on the Arras Memorial.
Around the corner, at No 20 Phibsborough Road, lived Thomas Harding, who died at the Somme, with the Munster Fusiliers. This was at the Battle of Ginchy on 9 September.
The Battle of the Somme was a massive offensive, which took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the Somme river in France.
The battle was supposed to break the stalemate on the Western Front and hasten a victory for the Allies.
However, the operation was delayed by some months as the French dealt with the German assault on Verdun. Within this time, the Germans got dug in at the Somme and were well prepared for the Allied offensive, despite its considerable preparation.
On the first day alone, the 1st July, there were 57,470 casualties in the Somme offensive, including 19,240 killed. Included among them, were Broadstone natives John Geraghty of Prebend Street, (Royal Dublin Fusiliers) and James Joseph Gannon, of Royal Canal Bank (Royal Irish Regiment).
The Somme offensive would continue for another four months. In all, more than three million men fought in the battle and one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the deadliest battles in human history.
William Brazil was lucky enough to survive it. However, his brother in law Thomas Connors, from Gorey, did not and in a poignant encounter, the paths of the two men crossed in the war zone. While Willie Brazil was on his way back from the front line, Thomas was on his way towards it.
‘Take these’, said his brother in law and he offered Willie his personal posessions, ‘I dont think I’m going to survive this.’
Such premonitions were common among soldiers at the front line, where death was common and relentless, and especially so at the Somme. Thomas Connors did not survive. Nor did Thomas’s brother Michael, who died later in the war at Gallipoli.
Your own name: Enda Carr
Your relative: Granduncle Willie Brazil
Period of activity: 1914-1920 including World War One
Specific regiment: Royal Artillery
Areas served in: The Western Front, The Somme
Did your family have much contact with Willie?
Yes, we visited him sometimes in Great Western Square and would meet him out walking in Phibsboro. He was a fit man and lived into his nineties. He was from Phibsborough Road originally.
Where is he buried? Glasnevin Cemetery
Do you have any mementos of him?
No, just the photograph shown here. Nor do we have personal possessions of his brother-in-law Thomas Connors.
The fighting at the Somme was so intense and in such terrible conditions that the bodies of many of those killed were never recovered.
They are remembered today on the Thiepval memorial, erected nearby. This is a huge memorial, composed of 16 redbrick arches and faced with Portland stone. The names of the missing are inscribed upon it.
The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the same architect who designed the Memorial Park at Islandbridge, Dublin. (And the Barings Castle house on Lambay Island).
A staggering 72,000 soldiers went missing in the Somme area, from 1915 to 1918. Even today, human remains are still being found.
Once a body is discovered and identified, a burial is arranged and the name on the Thiepval Memorial is filled in with the cement.
Pictured above : Royal Engineers, posing for a photograph, 1915.
Name of soldier : Patrick Flynn
Name of descendent : Philip Flynn
Philip Flynn lives in Cabra and runs a barbers at Hart’s Corner in Glasnevin, with his father. Hart’s Corner is at the end of the Finglas Road, just before Glasnevin cemetery.
Philip is also a youth coach with local soccer club, Bohemians FC. (Hence, the tracksuit in his photo below)
Adjoining Hart’s Corner is Bengal Terrace, named for the Indian area. India was once the jewel of the British Empire, with many British and Irish soldiers stationed there.
Vigalent readers of James Joyce’s novel ‘Ulysses’ will know Bengal Terrace as the site of the real-life Childs murder, which was constantly speculated about in the book. The case involved the alleged killing of Thomas Childs by his brother Samuel in 1899.
Above : Hart’s barber at Harts Corner, Glasnevin
Philip’s grandfather Patrick was a sapper with the Royal Engineers and was involved in the building of trenches and tunnels on the Western Front. The Royal Engineers do the crucial technical and heavy work for the rest of the army, creating the facilties through which all the soldiers fight.
A Sapper gets his name from the French word ‘sappe’ for trench. It dates from 17th century warfare when tunnels were dug under the walls of besieged forts to weaken them.
The First World War saw a major transformation of the Royal Engineers as new technologies came into warfare and engineers suddenly had to undertake a whole new range of roles.
In the front line, they designed and built fortifications, operated gas equipment, repaired guns and heavy equipment, and conducted underground warfare beneath enemy trenches.
Their support roles included the construction and operation of railways, bridges, water supply and inland waterways, as well as telephone and other communications. As demands increased, the Corps was expanded from a total of approximately 25,000 men in August 1914, to a whopping 315,000 by 1918.
Truly, the First World War was a war of construction – and destruction : an industrial-level conflict never before seen.
In 1915, in response to German mining of British trenches under the static siege conditions of the war, the corps formed its own tunnelling companies. Patrick Flynn was active in these.
Often manned by experienced coal miners from the north of England and Wales, the tunnelling teams operated with considerable success, building dugouts to protect troops from heavy shelling, as well as tunnelling under the enemy so that mines and explosives could be laid.
Your own name : Philip Flynn
Your relative : Grandfather Patrick Flynn
Period of activity: World War One
Specific regiment: Royal Engineers
Areas served in: The Western Front, Flanders
Did your family have much contact with him?
Yes, they visited him a lot in East Wall, which is where many ex soldiers lived. Many of these had been dockers.
What were his most striking memories ?
He often joked about the tunnelling, and putting bombs underground, and threatened that he’d do the same with a tunnel under the River Liffey!
Above : Hart’s well known haircutters in Glasnevin
Where is your grandfather buried?
Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Blackhorse Avenue.
Do you have any mementos of him?
Nothing that I’m aware of. He died a long time ago, in 1978.
Above : A trio of Royal Engineers, pictured with their pet dog.
The Tunnellers from North Dublin
Since the original post above, we’ve received more information on the life and activities of Patrick Flynn.
This is thanks to military historians Johnny Doyle and Simon Jones, who has a special focus on the Royal Engineers and WW1 tunnellers. Their twitter handles are @johnnyD8796812 and @simonjhistorian and are always interesting.
According to his Pension Card (pictured below) Patrick Flynn lived at one stage on 19 Upper Rutland Street, Dublin 1 and enlisted in March 1915. He suffered an accident to his right leg during service and received a grant in 1922 to set up as a tailor.
It also appears that Patrick Flynn came from very near where his fellow tunneller Joe Niland came from at 23 Summerhill, in inner city Dublin.
Niland was with the Royal Engineers 179th Tunnelling Company, responsible for the Lochnagar Tunnel built for the Battle of the Somme. He was killed a year later with his comrades in a German shell attack in March 1917. Below is a picture of Patrick and his wife Jane.
Below : the wider family and children of Joe Niland.
Simon Jones has written a fascinating book on the wartime tunnellers, entitled Underground Warfare 1914 – 1918, published by Pen and, Sword Military Publishers. Image below.
Above : Vincent Casey with Eamon Delaney, holding the medals of Private John Hussey.
Name of soldier : John Hussey
Name of descendent : Vincent Casey
Vincent Casey lives in a beautiful and dramatic landscape : near Sneem on the scenic Ring of Kerry. On one side, are the green mountains and, on the other, Kenmare Bay stretching across to the Beara Peninsula of West Cork.
The land is remote and unspoilt and looks much as it did when Vincent’s granduncle John Hussey lived here, before he set out for World War One and for the equally dramatic landscape of the Somme – although dramatic for different reasons.
John Hussey came from Bohocogram, near Sneem, as does Vincent Casey, who practises today as a local painter and decorator. John Hussey, was with the 8th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and died at the Battle of Guillemont on 3 September 1916.
Above : Irish soldiers taking in German prisoners at Guillemont, September 1916.
The Battle of Guillemont, from 3 to 6 September, was in the second month of the Somme. Like the similiar Battle of Ginchy a week later (9 September), it was an important advance in which the 16th Irish Division drove back the Germans and captured key villages.
Many soldiers were killed. On the day Hussey fell, eight other Munster Fusiliers were killed. The fighting at the Somme was also so intense and in such terrible conditions that the bodies of the killed were often never recovered and declared missing.
Instead, like John Hussey, they are remembered on the Thiepval memorial (above) erected near the scene of the fighting. It is a huge memorial, composed of 16 redbrick arches and faced with Portland stone.
The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the same architect who designed the Memorial Park at Islandbridge. (And the Barings house on Lambay Island, off the coast of Dublin).
A staggering 72,000 soldiers went missing in the Somme area, from 1915 to 1918.
Even today, human remains are still being found, and when a body has been identified, the relevant name is removed from the Thiepval Memorial and a burial is arranged.
Perhaps one day even John Hussey’s remains will be found.
Above: Vincent Casey with his sons, Michael and Padraig.
Your name : Vincent Casey
Your relative : Grand Uncle John Hussey
Period of activity : World War One
Specific regiment: Royal Munster Fusiliers, 8th Battalion
Areas served in: France, the Somme.
Do you have any mementos of him?
Yes, we have his medal (above), without the ribbons and looking a bit tarnished.
We also have the metal memorial plate (below) given to families of the fallen, with his name on it, as well as a scroll of honour.
There is also a memorial poster (pictured at bottom), listing the significant World War One battles, although sadly this is damaged and torn. These items are all precious to us.
There is no photo of John Hussey. He was aged 25 when he died and the son of Julie and Patrick. His father Patrick died on 1 December 1922 and his mother Julia was in receipt of her son’s pension.
Above : The beautiful landscape near Sneem, where John Hussey grew up.
And, below, the scorched landscape near Guillemont where he ended up. Note the Shamrocks painted on the Irish Division field ambulances.
A list below of the many Royal Munster Fusiliers who died on 3rd September 1916.
Below: Today in Sneem, and in Waterville, a sign in the main street lists the many local men from the area who died in World War One , including John Hussey.
Among the names is Private Patrick Burns, from a well known local family. His house is pictured below, situated between Burns famous butchers and the family ‘s bicycle shop.
Patrick Burns served with the South Wales Borderers, and died on 10 November 1917, aged 27. His body was not found and he is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. His parents were Bridget and John.
Below is a close up of John Hussey’s memorial plate, colloquially as ‘The Dead Man’s Penny’.
Commemorative poster (below) listing the major battles of the Great War. It has been handed down in John Hussey’s family, along with his medals and memorabilia.
Redmond Morris is an acclaimed and successful Irish film maker with a long career of producing well known titles. These include The Wind that Shook the Barley, The Reader and most recently The Dig.
Redmond also comes from a distinquished aristocratic family in the West of Ireland and holds the title Lord Killanin. The family is one of the Fourteen Tribes of Galway. His father, Michael Morris, the third Lord Killanin, was a film producer, and worked with John Ford, as well as being President of the International Olympic Committee.
Michael Morris (above) also served in World War Two, and worked on the military preparation for the D Day landing of 1944. His own father – and Redmond’s grandfather – George Henry Morris, died in World War One, while commanding his troops during the Retreat from Mons in 1914.
This was early in the war when the British Expeditionary Force, under pressure from the Germans, managed a withdrawal, and realised that the challenges facing the Allies were much greater than expected.
Following the retreat from Mons, to the River Marne, both sides tried to outflank each other in the so-called ‘race to the sea’. The result was a long front line of meandering and stubborn trenches.
Morris had already been an accomplished and fearless military officer who had served in India and in the Boer War and had lectured at staff gatherings on strategy and tactics.
In 2014, Redmond Morris and his own son, George, visited Vadencourt in France and the battlefield site of his grandfather’s grave.
Redmond’s moving account of the visit is reproduced below, courtesy of the Galway County Museum, for whom it comprised part of the museum’s excellent Galway Stories from the Great War series.
Your own name: Redmond Morris, Lord Killanin
Your relative: Grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel George Morris
Period of activity: World War One, Killed 1st September 1914
Specific regiment: In Command of the Irish Guards
Areas served in: Belgium and France. Retreat from Mons, 1914.
Did you have much contact with him?
None. Nor did my father, who literally was born at the end of July 1914 so George saw him once, we think, before he left for France.
Where is he buried?
Villers Cotteret in an Irish Guards Graveyard in the Forest in which he had been killed
Do you have any mementos of him?
Yes, we have many. Some of which became part of the World War One exhibition at the Galway Museum in 2014.
A Century Later
An Account by Redmond Morris of his visit to Vadencourt in 2014, with his son George, and his brother Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, the famous horse trainer.
On 1st September 1914, my grandfather, George Henry Morris from Spiddal, Co. Galway, was killed in France, within two weeks of his arrival as part of the British Expeditionary Force following the declaration of War. He was in command of the Irish Guards during the Retreat from Mons.
One hundred years later, to the day, a family group, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren, travelled to France to mark the occasion.
The first stop on our journey was the town of Vadencourt. The only photograph existing of George in France was with other officers on a street corner in that town. We found that nothing much had changed – it became our first photo opportunity!
The next morning we went to The Guards Grave in the Forest of Retz, near Villers-Cotterêts. It was here that he was killed. As we walked to the grave we passed a coach load of similar visitors being briefed by their guide. We overheard him say “and they were commanded by Colonel Morris”.
The guide spoke then about George’s bravery and told the story of George saying to his men ‘Don’t worry, the Germans are only shooting to frighten you’ to which came the reply from a guardsman, ‘ Well they can stop now, they succeeded with me a long time ago’.
The guide’s comic timing left a bit to be desired, but it filled us with pride.
Cameras clicked. Many photographs were taken. The visit needed to be recorded. This will never happen again. We laid a wreath and some photographs and my brother Michael cheekily placed a packet of Major cigarettes on the grave!
The irony was not lost on us. George had been an inveterate smoker, almost never without a cigarette between his lips.
The day came to an end. We wandered through the forest each with our own thoughts. Something we had planned a year ago had come to fruition. It had been an emotional and uplifting moment to be, 100 years to the day, where George had been killed and to stand by his grave.