Cavan Hero of the Great War, Sergeant David Carson Jones DCM

Cavan Hero of the Great War, Sergeant David Carson Jones DCM, remembered on the Centenary of his award and subsequent death

Sgt Jones Photo 001Local Cavan man David Carson Jones was born in 1887 at Cloverhill, County Cavan. He enlisted in the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in April 1907, being promoted Lance Corporal the same year. He was promoted Corporal in 1909 and Sergeant in 1913. In addition he had attained the 1st Class Education Certificate, which marked him as a soldier with a promising future. On 17th October 1914, Sergeant Jones would perform an act of bravery that would see him awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for gallantry in the field in the face of the enemy. Like many other regular Irish Regiments, the Royal Irish Fusiliers were first into the fray at the beginning of the First World War. As part of 10 Brigade of the 4th Division of the British Expeditionary Force, (BEF), the Faugh-a-Ballaghs went from peacetime duties to the front line in around two weeks. Arriving in Boulogne on 22 August aboard the SS Lake Michigan, a Canadian Pacific Steamship Company passenger and cargo steamer, the Fusiliers had little time to rest before engaging the Germans at the battle of Le Cateau, France on 26 August.  In what was a fairly confused engagement owing to difficulties with communications, the Fusiliers suffered 24 fatalities including two Cavan men. They were 21-year-old Joseph Sullivan, son of Michael and Bridget Sullivan of 6 Breffni Terrace, Cavan and 24-year-old Private Peter McNally, son of Francis and Kate McNally of Cootehill. The Faughs then joined the strategic withdrawal of the BEF which saw the battalion engaged in fighting a rear-guard action which lasted until 6 September 1914. Involvement in both the battles of the Marne and the Aisne followed, and by mid-October the battalion, although battle hardened had sustained 43 fatalities, and many more wounded. On 17 October the Royal Irish Fusiliers found themselves on the outskirts of the town in northern France popularised by the risqué soldier’s song of the time – ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’. On the morning of 17 October, the battalion crossed the River Lys and advanced into the town, being met by ecstatic civilians who pressed bread, fruit, flowers and chocolate on the men.  However, the Germans in the town commenced firing as they were forced to withdraw, and street to street fighting took place until around noon, when the bulk of the Germans had been forced out. On the battalion’s approach to the town was a farm occupied by the Germans. Named the Ferme Phillipeaux, an initial attack by the Faugh’s C Company was repulsed, resulting in the death of a popular officer – Captain Miles Carberry, a veteran of the South African War, and leaving several men wounded around the farm buildings. The farm was surrounded and picketed as the attack on the town took priority. Repeated attempts to encourage the Germans in the farm to surrender fell on deaf ears, and they continued to open fire on anyone who approached, killing two Fusiliers who were attempting to rescue the wounded. Orders were given to blow up the farm, and it was set on fire, but this endangered the wounded Fusiliers who were in mortal danger from falling debris. Sergeant David Carson Jones volunteered to rescue the wounded and advanced with members of his platoon under heavy fire from the defenders, to the door of the farm.  They were able to rescue one wounded man and conveyed him to safety, although Sergeant Jones was severely wounded in the process. For this action Sergeant Jones and three of his men were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The award of the medal to Sergeant Jones was published in the London Gazette of 10 November 1914 stating: ‘For conspicuous gallantry on 17th October near Houplines, in volunteering to rescue wounded men lying close to the door of a burning house held by the enemy under heavy fire. He was successful in rescuing one wounded man.’ Unfortunately Jones did not live to receive his medal.  He succumbed to his wounds on 20 October 1914 and is buried in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres. Another Cavan soldier from Sergeant Jones’ C Company died the same day from wounds in all probability received in the same action. Private John Sullivan, 21 years old, was from Creighan Terrace in Cavan town. The third son of John and Lizzie Sullivan, he died on an ambulance train which was removing him to a Base Hospital away from the front line. He is buried at Hazebrouck Military Cemetery, with his parents adding the inscription, ‘Son of John Sullivan of Cavan – May he Rest in Peace’ to his headstone. Research by History Hub Ulster Associate Member Michael Nugent. Thanks to Jonathan Maguire, Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum, Armagh, for his assistance in researching this article. Michael Nugent has recently launched a new research website for families hoping to find out more about their World War One ancestors at http://ww1researchireland.com/ Picture courtesy of Nigel Henderson at http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com  

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers baptism of fire at Le Cateau

Exactly 100 years ago, the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers had a ferocious baptism of fire near the small town of Le Cateau in Northern France. Thirty six men were killed, twenty four of them from Ulster, two of them teenagers from East Belfast. 19 year olds Private John McKean Simms and Private Samuel Hoy lived only a few streets away from each other and died together in battle. Three weeks earlier, the Inniskillings had been performing guard duty at Dover Castle but now, made up to active service strength with drafts of reservists, they found themselves in the front line only two days after arriving in France.  Their position was on the very left of the British line, facing overwhelming odds from a buoyant German army.  Trenches as we think of them now did not exist then, and the soldiers had to make do with what cover existed or could be hastily created. The German Army pressed the retreating British and French armies following the battle of Mons on 23rd August.  However, General Horace Smith-Dorrien, the Corps Commander ordered his troops to stand and fight at Le Cateau, as he believed a continued retreat would have led to a rout. The attack began before dawn with a move by the German Jagers, to encircle the Inniskillings but they were driven back by accurate rifle fire. This set a pattern for the rest of the day, until an organised withdrawal was arranged. Private John McKean SimmsBy the end of the day, the Inniskillings had lost thirty-six men killed, and many more wounded. Nine of those killed were from the greater Belfast area, including two Belfast teenagers. Private John McKean Simms, 19 years old, was born in Carrickfergus. He came from a large family of ten brothers and sisters.  His father Robert was a cattle dealer and at the outbreak of war, the family was living at 58 Portallo Street, Belfast.  A message boy before enlisting, John was posted as missing after the battle, but his body was subsequently recovered and he was buried near where he fell in Esnes Communal Cemetery alongside seven of his comrades.  John is commemorated on both the Cregagh Presbyterian Church and Strand-Sydenham Presbyterian Church Roll of Honour. Two of his brothers also served in the Great War. Thomas Simms had enlisted with Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers but was discharged as being under-age. He later served with Machine Gun Corps, achieving the rank of Sergeant and being awarded the Military Medal in 1918 whilst serving with MGC as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Robert James Simms served as a Shipwright with the Royal Navy.Private Samuel Hoy A few streets away in Belfast at 82 Newcastle Street off the Newtownards Road was home to 19 year old Private Samuel Hoy. The eldest son of Samuel and Margaret Hoy, prior to the war he had followed his father’s trade as a carpenter.  Samuel’s body, like the majority of those of his comrades killed that day, was never recovered and he is commemorated on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing.  He is also commemorated on the Westbourne Presbyterian Church Roll Of Honour.  Eight years after his death in 1922, Samuel’s mother received his medals. An official communique published in the Belfast News Letter on 31 August stated:

“The battle on this day 26th August was of the most severe and desperate character. The troops offered a superb and most stubborn resistance to the tremendous odds with which they were confronted, and at length extricated themselves in good order, though with serious losses and under the heaviest artillery fire.”

A number of John and Samuel’s brothers-in-arms who died that day were not much older at only 20 and 21 years old. The 36 men killed that day were the first soldiers from the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to be killed on active service in the Great War. The 24 men from Ulster killed on 26 August were: Private William Robert Elliott, Holywood, Co. Down Private James Smyth, Louisa St, Belfast L/Corporal Robert McCorkell, Clonleigh, Co. Donegal Private Thomas Murray, Antrim Private Charles O’Donnell, Glendermott, Co. Londonderry Private John Rafferty, Butler St, Belfast Private Samuel Ritchie, Manderson St, Belfast Private William Ruddy, Ardgowan St, Belfast Private Robert Scott, Seapatrick, Co. Down Private Francis Joseph Quinn, Cappagh, Co. Tyrone Private James Templeton, Cupar St, Belfast Private William Warnock, Richmond St, Belfast Serjeant Thomas Wilkinson, Cappagh, Co. Tyrone Corporal George Ayer, Doagh, Co. Antrim Private Robert Falls, Cookstown, Co.Tyrone Private James Carr, Downpatrick, Co. Down Private James Browne, Hillview St, Belfast Private William Harvey, Convention St, Belfast Private George Henning, Bessbrook, Co. Armagh Private William Nixon, Portadown, Co. Armagh Private Thomas Donnelly, Belfast L/Corporal Joseph Willey, Christopher St, Belfast History: The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers have a long and proud history and attachment with Ireland. The origins of the Regiment can be traced back to 1688 when citizens of Enniskillen organised to defend the town against the forces of King James. They were incorporated into the British army as the 27th Regiment of foot and fought with distinction at Waterloo. In 1881, as part of Army reforms, the 27th became the 1st and 2nd Battalions Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Three further battalions, 3rd, 4th and 5th became militia or reserve battalions. Battles Fought: In addition to le Cateau, the 2nd Inniskillings fought at the battles of Marne and the Aisne in 1914, at Festubert in 1915, the Somme in 1916 and at St Quentin during the German spring offensive of 1918.  At le Cateau, the Inniskillings had a battle strength of around 1,000 officers and men. In addition to the thirty-six killed, many more were wounded and a number taken prisoner. Research completed by Michael Nugent, Associate Member of History Hub Ulster http://historyhubulster.co.uk Michael Nugent has recently launched a new research website for families hoping to find out more about their World War One ancestors at http://ww1researchireland.com Pictures courtesy of History Hub Ulster Member, Nigel Henderson at http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com