36th Ulster Division Attack Somme 1st July 1916
Philip,Gibbs, the well known war correspondent, was to write that day:-
“Their attack was one of the finest displays of human courage in the world “
Captain, later Lieutenant Colonel Wilfred Spender, who observed this glorious action, also paid his tribute to the Ulster troops,
“I am not an Ulsterman, but yesterday, the 1st July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world. Then I saw them attack, beginning at a slow walk over No Man’s Land, and then suddenly let loose, as they charged over the font two lines of enemy trenches shouting “No surrender boys!”
Captain Eric Norman Franklin Bell 9th Battalion Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers:- For most conspicuous bravery, when the front line was hung up by enfilading machine gun fire, Captain Bell crept forward and shot the machine gunner. Later, on no less than three occasions, when our bombing parties, which were clearing the enemies’ trenches, were unable to advance, he wet forward alone and threw trench mortar bombs among the enemy. When he had no more bombs availible he stood on the parapet, under intense fire, and used a rifle with great coolness and effect on the enemy advancing to counter attack. Finally he was killed rallying and reorganising infantry parties which had lost their officers. All this was outside the scope of his normal duties with his battery. He gave his life in supreme devotion to duty.
Second Lieutenant James Samuel Emerson 9th Battalion Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers:- On the 6th December 1917 on the ‘Hindenberg Line’, north of La Vacquene, France, Second Lieutenant Emerson led his company in an attack and cleared 400 yards of enemy trench. Though wounded when the enemy attacked in superior numbers, he met their attack with eight men, killing many and taking six prisoners. For three hours afterwards, all other officers having become casualties, he remained with his company, refusing to go to the dressing station, and repeatedly repelling bombing attacks. Later leading his men to repel another attack, he was mortally wounded. His heroism inspired his men to hold out until reinforcements arrived.
Lance Corporal Ernest Seaman 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers:- On the 29th of August 1918 at Terhand Belgium, when the right flank of his company was held up by enemy machine guns, Lance Corporal Seaman went forward under heavy fire with his lewis gun and engaged the position single handed, capturing two machine guns and twelve prisoners, and killing one officer and two men. Later in the day he rushed another enemy machine gun post, capturing the gun under heavy fire. He was killed immediately afterwards, but due to his gallant conduct, his company was able to push forward to it’s objective.
Private Norman Harvey 1st Battalion Royal Inniskillen Fusiliers:- On the 25th of October 1918 at Ingoyghem Belgium when the battalion was held up and suffering heavy casualties from enemy machine guns, Private Harvey on his own initiative, rushed forward and engaged the enemy single handed, disposing of 20 of them and capturing the guns. Later when his company was checked by another enemy strongpoint, he again put the enemy to flight. Subsequently after dark, he voluntarily carried out a single handed and important reconnaissance and gained valuable information.
Second Lieutenant Edmund de Wind 15th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles:- For seven hours after the launch of German assaults of March 21, 1918, and despite being wounded twice, he fought on against overwhelming odds tohold his position at Groagie. On two occasions, with two NCOs only, he got out on top under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many. He continued to repel attack after attack until he was mortally wounded and collapsed. His valour, self-sacrafice, and example were of the highest order.
Private William Fredrick McFadzean 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles:- In the early hours of July 1st 1916, he was in a concentration trench in Theipval Wood preparing grenades for distribution. A box of bombs slipped into the crowded trench, with two of the safety pins falling out. Instantly realising the danger, with heroic courage threw himself on top of the bombs. The bombs exploded, blowing him to pieces, and only one other man was injured. He knew well his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moments hesitation, he gave his life for his comrades.
Rifleman Robert Quigg 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles:- On the 1st of July 1916 rifleman Quigg took part in three assaults. Early next morning, hearing a rumour that his platoon officer was lying out wounded, he went out seven times to look for him under heavy shell and machine gun fire, each time bringing back a wounded man. The last man he dragged in on a waterproof sheet from within a few yards of the enemy’s wire. He was seven hours engaged in this most gallant work, and finally was so exhausted that he had to give up.
Lieutenant Geoffrey St. George Shillington Cather 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers:- Lieutenant Cather spent over five hours on the evening of 1st July 1916, up to midnight, searching for wounded men in No-Man’s-Land north of the Ancre. During that time he rescued three men, dragging them to safety. Next morning, at 8am, he contionued his search, brought in another wounded man, and gave water to others, arranging for their rescue later. Finally at 10.30am, he took out water to another wounded man, and was proceeding further when he himself was killed. All this was carried out in full view of the enemy, and under direct machine gun fire and intermittent artillery fire. He set a splendid example of courage and self-sacrifice.
Second Lieutenant Cecil Leonard Knox Corps of Royal Engineers (‘Att’ 36th Ulster Division) :- On the 22nd of March 1918 twelve bridges at Tugny France were entrusted to this officer for demolition, and all of them were successfully destroyed. In the case of one of the steel girder bridges, the destruction of which he personally supervised, the timing fuse failed. Without hesitation Second Lieutenant Knox ran to the bridge, under heavy fire and machine gun fire, and while the enemy was still on the bridge, tore away the the fuse and lit the instantaneous fuse, to do which he had to get under the bridge. This was an act of the highest devotion to duty, entailing great risks, which as a practical civil engineer he fully realised.
Of nine Victoria Crosses awarded to British forces in that battle, four were bestowed on Ulstermen, Wilfred Spender was later to write:-
“The Ulster Division has sacrificed itself for the Empire, which has treated them none too well. The much derided Ulster Volunteer Force has a name which equals any in History. Their devotion deserves the gratitude of the British Empire, It is due to the memory of these brave heroes that their beloved Province shall be fairly treated.”
An example of that gratitude was to follow within a few years, The cemetery in which many of their Fallen were buried was named by the Army “The Connaught Cemetery.” As Martin Middlebrook writes, “One wonders why it was not named ‘The Ulster Cemetery.”
However, the sacrifice of Ulster lives was taken into account in the settlement of 1921, when much of the Province was excluded from incorporation into the Irish Free State.
Although Bonar Law’s occupation of the Premiership in the House of Commons was a short one from October, 1922 till May, 1923, yet his leadership of the Conservative Party in the years of the fierce Home Rule clash with the Liberals and the Irish Nationalists was a crucial factor in uniting opposition to that unwanted legislation.