The Somme: 1st July 1916: Ulstermen and the Ulster Division

An analysis of the official fatality records to determine the number of Ulstermen and men from the Ulster Division who died during the Battle of Albert, which lasted from 1st July to 13th July 1916, by History Hub Ulster researcher Nigel Henderson. Summary statistics:
  • Over the period of the Battle of Albert, 2129 men who were born or lived in Ulster died.
  • Over the period of the Battle of Albert the Ulster Division lost 2051 men.
The following are some summary statistics drawn from the dataset for the first day of the 1916 Battles of the Somme:
  • 1721 men who were born in Ulster died on 1st July 1916.
  • 1517 of these men were from the Ulster Division and the remainder were from 14 other British Divisions.
  • On 1st July 1916, 1778 men died whilst serving with the Ulster Division.
  • The Ulster Division lost 1935 men during the two days that it was in the frontline.
Things To Note:
  • Anyone born in the nine counties of Ulster has been defined as being an Ulsterman and has been classified by County of Birth (with Belfast being treated as a County).
  • Anyone born outside Ulster but had a residential association with Ulster, has been classified as “Ulster – Residence”.
  • In determining the analysis, it was borne in mind that Ulstermen served with units attached to British Divisions other than the Ulster Division and that not all men who served in the Ulster Division were Ulstermen by birth or residence.
  • Although the dataset is based on the CWGC fatalities, the inclusion of additional information from other primary sources enhances this record of fatalities and facilitates the analysis of the data by a range of different criteria. For example, the records of Ulstermen fatalities can be broken down into regiments or divisions as well as by county and, for Ulster Division fatalities, the non-Ulstermen can be easily identified.
  • Whilst it cannot be claimed that this fatality list is 100% accurate or complete, it does represent a verifiable list of the men that died in that battle and is more accurate than many of the figures that have appeared in newspapers in recent months.
In More Detail: Over the period of the Battle of Albert, 2129 men who were born or lived in Ulster died and the Ulster Division lost 2051 men.  1721 men who were born in Ulster died on 1st July 1916: • 375 from Belfast • 320 from County Down • 312 from County Antrim • 192 from County Armagh • 182 from County Londonderry • 144 from County Tyrone • 77 from County Donegal • 69 from County Fermanagh • 31 from County Monaghan • 19 from County Cavan 1517 of these men were from the Ulster Division and the remainder were from 20 other British Divisions. On 1st July 1916, 1778 men died whilst serving with the Ulster Division: • 314 from Belfast • 292 from County Down • 298 from County Antrim • 183 from County Armagh • 154 from County Londonderry • 116 from County Tyrone • 61 from County Donegal • 54 from County Fermanagh • 29 from County Monaghan • 16 from County Cavan • 261 men were born outside Ulster The Ulster Division lost 1935 men during the two days that it was in the frontline: • 438 with the 107th Infantry Brigade • 767 with the 108th Infantry Brigade • 706 with the 109th Infantry Brigade • 24 with Divisional Support Units

The full spreadsheet is available here: http://historyhubulster.co.uk/ulster-albert

Methodology:
  1. A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database was executed using the following criteria: Ulster DivisionThe records returned were downloaded and imported to Excel and columns were added to facilitate the recording of additional information, such as Division, Type of Death, Place of Birth and associated County/Country.
  2.  The spreadsheet was filtered by Regiment and Units to identify and mark those fatalities associated with units belonging to the 36th (Ulster) Division. If there was no unit reference on the CWGC database records, the unit reference was identified from other primary sources (for example, Soldier Died in the Great War, medal rolls).
  3. The “additional information” section in the CWGC data was analysed to identify counties, towns, etc. within Ulster and the relevant records were marked to indicate Ulster connection.
  4. For men identified in Step 3 as having an Ulster connection, the regiments/units were examined to identify whether they had played a role in the Battle of Albert and, where appropriate, the Division number was recorded. Note: the Long Long Trail website was used to determine the Division associated with a Regiment/Unit and whether that Division participated in the Battle of Albert.
  5. The Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW) online database was interrogated to identify fatalities in July 1916 in France where the birth location held on SDGW satisfied a number of Ulster-based criteria: Birth Location set to “Northern Ireland”, “Ulster”, specific cities (i.e. Belfast, Londonderry, Armagh) and each of the nine counties in turn. The results were used to update the master spreadsheet with Birth Location, County/Country of Origin, Type of Death and additional information (e.g. former regiment details, mainly for Machine Gun Corps fatalities). Where there was a Death Date discrepancy between SDGW and CWGC, other sources were checked to determine the most commonly held date – the details/sources of discrepancies were noted. Variations on Surname/Forename spellings and Regimental Numbers were also noted.
  6. For fatalities where no next-of-kin information was held on CWGC, the National Archives of Ireland Soldiers’ Wills (SW) online database was searched to identify, where a will is present, the next-of-kin name, relationship and address. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects (RSE) and Ireland Census returns were also searched to identify the name(s) and relationship(s) of the beneficiaries and the addresses of widows/parents. In checking the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, priority was given to cases where there was no Birth Location recorded on the SDGW database – there are over 950 fatality records where a next-of-kin has not yet been identified.
  7. The In Memoriam notices placed in the Belfast Evening Telegraph in late June and early July 1917 were trawled to identify next of kin details.
  8. The family memorials in the War Graves Ulster archive that specified deaths during the period of the Battle of Albert were examined to identify next of kin details.
Whilst it cannot be claimed that this fatality list is 100% accurate or complete, it does represent a verifiable list of the men that died in that battle and is more accurate than many of the figures that have appeared in newspapers in recent months.  We would welcome suggestions of names that are not present in the attached spreadsheet. Click here to email. Nigel Henderson - History Hub Ulster

WW1 Centenary: The Catholic Young Citizens: Roman Catholic Ulstermen in the 36th (Ulster) Division

Rifleman James Dooley

Rifleman James Dooley

The enlistment registers of the 14th (Young Citizen Volunteer) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, shows that despite the loyalist narrative that has sprung up around the 36th Ulster Division, there were a number of men who described themselves as Roman Catholic enlisting in the battalion. There were at least 88 Roman Catholics with addresses all over Ireland who enlisted in the Young Citizen Volunteer Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, of which 42 were from Ulster. These men included:
  • Foundry worker William Kerr from Whiterock who was killed in action aged 22, Alfred Wynne who died aged only 18 from the New Lodge and Robert Dennison of Lisburn who died just 4 weeks before the end of the war.
  • Two Roman Catholic RIC Sergeants lost their sons in the war, Crumlin Road Gaelic speaker Charles Blake died aged 24, while East Belfast’s Martin William Jennings died aged 21.
  • Roman Catholic brothers who served include the Rooney brothers. Kilkeel born and Short Strand reared, only one would return home; Peter Rooney was killed on the first day of the Somme aged only 20.  Widowed mother, Ernestine of Bangor was lucky to have both of her boys Raymond and Ernest Warnock home safe after the war despite one son being wounded.
  • James Davey Maxwell’s father was a Scots Presbyterian from Glasgow and his mother an English Catholic from Liverpool. Their Catholic son James was killed in action at The Battle of Langemarck, aged only 20.
  • Newly married Gaelic speaker, 18 year old John McKee from Armagh was killed in action in April 1918, his wife Cecelia placing on his gravestone ‘On His Soul Sweet Jesus Have Mercy’.
  • Marksman William McGarrell of Dromore died of his wounds aged 21 in the Dressing Station, his body buried in Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery.
  • Ormeau lad James Magee served till the end of the war, being promoted to Lance Corporal. He was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal, both of which were marked as returned.
  • Another Ormeau boy to survive the war was 2nd Lieutenant James Redmond from Kimberly Street who served with both the YCV and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Rifleman Jack Flynn

Rifleman Jack Flynn

The 36th Ulster Division was made up of 107th, 108th, 109th Brigades, Divisional troops, mounted troops and artillery as well as Royal Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps and other divisional troops.  These Brigades included Royal Irish Rifles, Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The 14th (YCV) Royal Irish Rifles was formed in Belfast in September 1914 from the Belfast Volunteers and came under orders of 109th Brigade in 36th (Ulster) Division. The battalion moved to Bundoran in December 1914 moving on to Randalstown in January 1915.  In July 1915 they were moved to Seaford and in October 1915 they landed at Boulogne. On 18 February 1918 the battalion was disbanded in France and personnel re-allocated to other battalions of Royal Irish Rifles. The review of the 36th Ulster Division before they embarked for France occurred in May 1915. The Belfast Newsletter of 6th May noted under the headline Young Citizens Arrive in Belfast:
Rifleman W Kerr

Rifleman William Kerr

“The 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizen Volunteers) left camp Randalstown yesterday morning, and marched via Crumlin to Belfast for the purpose of taking part in the review of the Ulster Division on Saturday. The men carried their rifles, packs, and entrenching tools, and notwithstanding the long distance they had covered - 22 miles - they appeared to be in excellent condition as they passed through the centre of the city at six o'clock in the evening on their way to the yard of Messrs. Davidson & Co. Ltd., Mountpottinger Road, where they piled arms and were dismissed. Lieutenant-Colonel R. P. D. Spencer Chichester, the commanding officer, rode at the head of his men, and the battalion band played appropriate airs. A large number of spectators witnessed the progress of the men through the city. The battalion was accompanied by its cyclist, signalling, and ambulance detachments, as well as by its transport. This evening the rank and file will be the guests of the officers at the Royal Hippodrome, and at six o'clock tomorrow evening they will attend a meeting in the Ulster Hall. On Sunday they will attend a Divine service in the Ulster Hall at 2:30 p.m., and at noon on Monday they will leave the city on the return march to Randalstown.” As the Unionist Centenary Committee marks the centenary of the Review of the 36th Ulster Division with a Parade past the City Hall on Saturday 9th May, it must be remembered that the 36th Ulster Division was not only made up of Protestants. People across Ireland enlisted in the war effort for various reasons, and there were at least 88 Roman Catholics with addresses all over Ireland who enlisted in the Young Citizen Volunteers, of which 42 were from Ulster. At least 8 Roman Catholic Ulstermen in the YCV gave their lives with the Ulster Division. Karen O'Rawe from History Hub Ulster said: "It is important that our commemorative activities acknowledge the true history of the men who served in the 36th (Ulster) Division.  The divergence between the real history of the 36th and the single minded commemoration which exists in our communities today needs to be recognised. A wholly unionist Protestant Division marching off to war is an imagined past and History Hub Ulster would like to use the opportunity of the Centenary to extend an invitation for others to tell their stories whether Catholic, Jewish or Quaker, or indeed those from other regions of Ireland and the UK who were drafted into the Ulster Division."
Upon reading the research by History Hub Ulster, Jeffrey Donaldson, Chairman of the NI WW1 Centenary Committee commented: "The fact that a number of recruits to the YCV Battalion were Roman Catholic, albeit a small proportion, nevertheless challenges the perception of some unionists that this unit was exclusively Protestant and the perception of some nationalists that no Catholics would associate with the organisation."
The 42 men are listed below: Rifleman William Kerr of Forth River Gardens, Springfield Road, Belfast KIA Rifleman James Dooley of Church View, Holywood KIA Rifleman Charles J Blake of Crumlin Road, Belfast KIA Corporal James Davy Maxwell of 136 Dunluce Avenue, Lisburn Road, Belfast KIA Rifleman Robert Dennison of 71 Bridge Street, Lisburn KIA Rifleman Patrick Hughes of Altcar Street, Belfast KIA Lance Corporal William McGarrell of Lurgan Bane, Dromore KIA Rifleman Martin William Jennings of 33 London Street, Belfast KIA Rifleman John Campbell of Knockbarragh, Rostrevor Rifleman James Magee of 45 Spruce Street, Belfast Rifleman Alfred Wynne of 84 Lepper Street, Belfast Rifleman John Flynn of 143 Dunluce Avenue, Belfast Lance Corporal John McKee of Annacramp, Armagh Rifleman Francis McNally of 20 Havana Street, Belfast Lance Corporal John O’Brien of Bailieborough, Cavan 2nd Lieutenant James Redmond of 80 Kimberly Street, Belfast Rifleman Peter Rooney of 43 Kilmood Street, Belfast Rifleman Thomas Rooney of 43 Kilmood Street, Belfast Rifleman Raymond D Warnock of 54 Ballyholme Road, Bangor Corporal Ernest J Warnock of 54 Ballyholme Road, Bangor Rifleman H Bryan of 24 Kingston Street, Belfast Rifleman P Brownlee of 25 Belgrave Street, Belfast Rifleman F Girvan of 3 Mary Place, Whitehouse, Belfast Rifleman Thomas Hall of Ballylueas, Downpatrick Rifleman E Russell of Tullymore, Newcastle Rifleman W. J. Smith of 105 Albert Street, Belfast Rifleman T Tumelty of 13 Sheriff Street, Belfast Rifleman P Vallelly of Stanhope Street, Belfast Rifleman F Kunan of 148 Ravenhill Road, Belfast Rifleman William Loughran of 16 Marys Street, Belfast Rifleman E Robinson of Magheralin, Lurgan Rifleman P Rodgers of 5 Sunwick Street, Belfast Rifleman Hugh Magee of Carrycowan, Martinstown Rifleman J Macklin of 22 Valentine Street, Belfast Rifleman T Murphy of 17 Parkview Street, Belfast Rifleman A McVeigh of 28 Croft Road, Carnlough Rifleman H McNamara of Ballynahinch Street, Hillsborough Rifleman J McMullen of 23 Sherwood Street, Belfast Rifleman J McLaughlin of 71 Derwent Street, Belfast Rifleman E McGreevy of Ballyalton, Downpatrick Rifleman M Quinn of Levanmore, Newry Lance Corporal T Dogherty of Sappagh Muff, Donegal   Research: Karen O'Rawe, Chair, History Hub Ulster Pictures: Nigel Henderson, Member, History Hub Ulster With thanks to John McCormick History Hub Ulster is a research group based in Belfast, but working on projects across Ulster