This post is republished to include archive material and photographs that I have rediscovered, some new information and a new image that I received as a result of the original post.
Flanders Field Memorial Chapel
The visit by President Obama to Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial at Waregem in Belgium in March 2014 brought back memories of my own visit there a few years ago. The site of the cemetery is near where the US 91st Division attacked and captured the wooded area of Spitaals Bosschen. It is beautiful and it has a very different ‘feel’ to Commonwealth cemeteries. Well-spaced rows of white crosses surround the chapel, which stands in the centre of the six acre site. Inside the chapel, the altar and walls are marble and the furniture is of carved oak, stained to reflect the black altar. On either side are the Walls of the Missing, inscribed with the names of the 43 men who Continue reading
14577 Sergeant William Neill DCM
Sergeant William Neill DCM
It was the stories about my great-grandfather, William Neill, that led me to write Blacker’s Boys. I had been told that he had earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal at Ypres and I embarked on an attempt to separate family myth from fact. I have largely succeeded, with one exception—William Neill believed that he had been awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal but no record of that exists. During his post-war service with the Ulster Special Constabulary he wore a rosette on his ribbon bar, his obituary and his gravestone both state that he had a Bar, and my father’s memory of him was that his Bar was a source of great family pride. It is evident, however, that this second award was never made. Nevertheless, it must have been commonly agreed that he was entitled to it. He served in the USC alongside other former officers and soldiers of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and it is hard to believe that a man of his considerable good reputation decided to award it to himself. How he came to believe that he had been awarded that Bar is now lost to history. Continue reading
The background to this series of essays and an index may be found here. This essay provides a short history of the Regiment from 1914 to 1918 and explains why there were insufficient Irish soldiers available to replace the casualties suffered in the major actions.
The Battalions of Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers) 1914-1918
When war broke out in August 1914, the Royal Irish Fusiliers comprised two regular battalions, the 1st and 2nd, and two battalions of Special Reserve, the 3rd and 4th. By the end of 1914 the Regiment had raised five service battalions: the 5th and 6th in 31st Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division; the 7th and 8th in 49th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division and the 9th (County Armagh) in 108th Brigade, 36th (Ulster) Division. Meanwhile the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions had been mobilised and were responsible for training new men and for holding trained soldiers, including the men of the Special Reserve, until they were required as reinforcements. Continue reading