History Hub Ulster is asking people living in the Kilkeel area for help to find information on First World War serviceman Christopher Fitzgibbon. It is believed Private Fitzgibbon enlisted in the Connaught Rangers in Dublin around August 1909 and died on 17 August 1914. He is buried in the Ferozepore Military Cemetery in India.
Fitzgibbon, Christopher MIC
Christopher Fitzgibbon is believed to be the first Ulster fatality in World War One serving with an Irish Army Regiment. However research has produced very little information on his life. He is noted to have been born in Kilkeel although no evidence for this has been found.
The Connaught Rangers’ War Dairy notes the following:
Ferozepore 17th August 1914.
“Battalion entrained for KARACHI. Marching out strength 14 officers 878 other ranks. Owing to intense heat 10 men had to be left at FEROZEPORE suffering from heat stroke. Of these three died. Most of the remainder subsequently rejoined. One man died from heat stroke in train.”
These four casualties were Private Jeremiah Cronin from Cork, Private Christopher Fitzgibbon from Kilkeel, Private Martin Keeley from Galway and Private Michael Lapparth from Mayo. Privates Cronin, Keeley and Lapparth are all remembered on the Kirkee War memorial while Private Fitzgibbon is remembered on the Karachi memorial. This indicates that he was most likely the soldier who died from heat stroke on the train.
While we know how Private Fitzgibbon died and where he is buried, his early life remains a mystery as his birth has not been sourced nor was he entered on either the 1901 or 1911 census in Kilkeel. Where did he grow up in Kilkeel? Who were his family? Are his family still in the area? Is he remembered on a war memorial in Kilkeel? Who took receipt of the British War Medal he was awarded?
Karen O’Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster said “While no-one will remember Christoper Fitzgibbon directly, we are asking Kilkeel residents to contact us if they are aware of any Fitzgibbon families in the area. Perhaps he enlisted under an alternative name or was not born in Kilkeel at all. Maybe you have an idea about where else we could look for information?”
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Christopher Fitzgibbon was a Private in the 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers, service number 9750. His service number suggests an enlistment date around August 1909. The 1st Battalion of the Connaught Rangers was stationed in India from March 1908. It is likely that Private Fitzgibbon joined the battalion in India between Dec 1909 and March 1910. He was awarded the British War Medal. He died from heatstroke on 17th August 1914 and is buried at FEROZEPORE Cemetary in India.