The Somme – 1st July 1916
Many of you will know of Michael Lee, a parishioner of St Philip and St James’ Church, who has done a phenomenal amount of research into the forty-one men and one woman from our parishes who died as a result of World War 1. All the biographies that we have had about them, in our service sheets on the Sunday nearest the 100th anniversary of their deaths, have been researched and supplied by Michael. Today, Michael is in France, at the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing and he is laying a wreath on behalf of our parishes in memory of our parishioners who died.
On Sunday, at our services, we will be remembering
Lieutenant William Magee Crozier
Private Thomas McCormick
Lieutenant John Frederick Healy
Below is a piece written by Michael before he left for Thiepval.
The Somme 1st July 1916
Next Friday [Friday 1st July 2016] will be the one hundredth anniversary of the first day of Battle of the Somme. Even today a century later the word “Somme” evokes graphic images of carnage and suffering on an unprecedented scale. Almost no parish or community anywhere in Ireland and Britain was left untouched, with at least 20,000 dead from 60,000 casualties on the first day alone. It was the worst single day in the history of the British Army. Our own three parish churches, St Philip and St James’, St Thomas’ and Christ Church were certainly not exempt from the tragedy that was being played out on the chalky fields of Picardy in France.
Lieutenant William Magee Crozier (St Thomas) and Private Thomas McCormick (Christ Church) would both die close to each other on that first terrifying day. In the early morning of the third day Lieutenant John Frederick Healy (St Philip and St James) was shot dead. They all perished on the doomed assault on the heavily defended Schwaben redoubt at Thiepval. All three men were Southern Irish Protestants in Northern Irish Regiments that were part of the 36th (Ulster) Division.
The tragedy of the Somme in this country is usually portrayed as almost exclusively Northern Ireland’s. Much emphasis has been made of the suffering and sacrifice of the Ulstermen and while this is undoubtedly true, it is correct to say as well that there were many Southern Protestants and Catholics and other faiths and none, who also suffered and died in the battle. Of course the battle of the Somme was not fought over a period of just one, apocalyptic day. It would rage on until the middle of November and involve Irishmen of all hues, not just in the 36th (Ulster) Division, but also in the 16th (Irish) Division notably at Guillemont and Ginchy. Our parishes would lose yet more young men here, Captain Guy Wellesley Eaton (St Philip and St James) who would win the MC, Private Charles M. Linton (Christ Church) and Lieutenant Louis Godfrey Doran (St Philip and St James). At the end of the six month battle virtually no ground had been gained, the only winner was death and much grief to families. The final toll of Irish deaths in this one battle alone is estimated to be more than 7,000. To give you some idea of the ferocity of the Battle of the Somme here is a stark and brutal fact: of the six men from our parishes who died at the Somme, only one, John Frederick Healy, has a marked grave in Mill Road Cemetary at Thiepval and even so, he is only believed to be buried there. The rest have no known graves and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
On Friday July 1st 2016, I will be at the 100th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in France. I will lay a wreath on behalf of our two parishes in memory of the brave Irishmen from the three original parishes who will be “Not Forgotten” at next Sunday’s services [Sunday 3rd July 2016].
Michael Lee: 2016