Category Archives: Guest Posts

Names Carved in Stone by Fiona Berry

It is always a great pleasure to help someone out with research and then be contacted sometime later to be told that their project has come to successful fruition. A new book—Names Carved in Stone—tells the story of 69 men from The Mall Presbyterian Church in Armagh, Northern Ireland who served during the Great War. It is an excellent, small community, commemorative work that has been produced to the very highest standards. The layout and illustrations are beautifully done by Jason McFarland at ArtworkArmy. I’m very pleased to host this piece by the author, Fiona Berry, who describes the inspiration behind the project and a little bit about the men it commemorates.

The Memorial Tablets in The Mall Presbyterian Church, Armagh

The Memorial Tablets in The Mall Presbyterian Church, Armagh

The book began with the more modest ambition of an article for the Church magazine, profiling the story of one of the soldiers named on the War Memorial. In many projects like this the inspiration often comes from a family story. I had grown up hearing of three great-great uncles who fought in the First World WarWilliam, Joseph and John Johnston of Disraeli Street, on the Crumlin Road. Joseph’s death at Gallipoli in August 1915 was a devastating loss for the family. The next generation of the family were to suffer again during the Belfast Blitz of 1941 when their house in Duncairn Gardens suffered a direct hit and was completely destroyed. Our family left Belfast for Newtownards and the connection with their Belfast community was broken. Continue reading

A Rainbow Division Lieutenant in France by John H. Taber 

Stephen Taber, a contact made through the Western Front Association – East Coast Branch in the United States, has written this latest guest post about the diary of his second cousin, who served with the United States 42nd Division—The Rainbow Division. The edited diary has just been published by McFarland.

Second Lieutenant Christopher Timothy, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 168th Infantry. He died of wounds on July 28, 1918 having been hit by machine gun fire near the River Ourcq. He is buried in Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Belleau, France.

Second Lieutenant Christopher Timothy, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 168th Infantry. He died of wounds on July 28, 1918 having been hit by machine gun fire near the River Ourcq. He is buried in Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Belleau, France.

The ‘Rainbow’ Division, the 42nd, secured its name from a comment made by its future chief of staffthen Major Douglas MacArthurthat because of its composition of elements of National Guard units from 26 states it “would stretch over the whole country like a rainbow“.

One of the Division’s junior officer was Lieutenant John Taber, my second cousin. He had published a two-volume history of his regiment, the 168th (Iowa), in 1925 but he had related only a few accounts of his personal war experience to me before he died. One was that he could still smell over three hundred dead horses. Another was nearly bumping into President Wilson in a revolving door in Paris. Continue reading

The North Irish Horse in the Great War by Phillip Tardif

A number of years ago, when I was putting together Blacker’s Boys, I began to share information with Phillip Tardif, an Australian whose grandfather, Frank McMahon, and my great-grandfather, William Neill, served together during the First World War. No-one knows more about the actions of the North Irish Horse or the men who served in its ranks and I am very pleased that Phillip has written this unique history of the Regiment. This short essay by Phillip is a super introduction to an excellent piece of work that will contribute much to the bibliography of work about Ireland in the Great War.

North Irish Horse Private, at Ballyshannon

North Irish Horse Private, at Ballyshannon

In his account of the British Army’s role in the first months of the Great War, Sir John French, its former Commander-in-Chief, praised ‘the fine work done by the Oxfordshire Hussars and the London Scottish‘ as the first non-regular army units ‘to enter the line of battle‘ in the Great War. He added, by way of a footnote: ‘The North and South Irish Horse went to France much earlier than these troops but were employed as special escort to GHQ.’ In other words, these Irish units could not claim the distinction of being the first non-regulars involved in the fighting in the First World War. That would have been news to the families of North Irish Horsemen Private William Moore of Balteagh, County Londonderry, Private Henry St George Scott of Carndonagh, County Donegal, and Lieutenant Samuel Barbour Combe of Donaghcloney, County Down, whose deaths in September and October of 1914 were so far into the ‘line of battle’ that their bodies were never recovered. Continue reading

The Loss of a Ship

On the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the First World War, it is appropriate that my first guest post is by David Gregory, the author of the maritime trilogy ‘The Lion and The Eagle’. He has written a thought-provoking and heartfelt piece about the devastation wrought by the total destruction of a capital ship. This essay gives meaning to that simple and inadequate phrase ‘lost with all hands’.

The battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary

The battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary

The bald accounts of battles cover events and statistics. Personal memoirs describe individual experiences. The death of a ship, involving, as it does, an entire community, is difficult to chronicle when there are often few, or even no, witnesses to its demise. Continue reading