The Battle of the Somme - remembering the 15 Instonians killed in action on 1 July 1916

The 1st July marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. The 36th (Ulster) Division was committed in the attack on the first day, tasked with taking a German fortification called the Schwaben Redoubt. During the Battle of the Somme the Ulster Division was the only division of X Corps to achieve its objectives on the opening day of the battle. This came at a heavy price, with the division suffering 5,500 casualties, 2069 of whom were killed, during the first two days.

War correspondent Philip Gibbs said of the Division, "Their attack was one of the finest displays of human courage in the world. Of the nine Victoria Crosses awarded on the 1st July, three went to the Ulster Division - two of them posthumously.”

On that date in 1916, the leading battalions (of the 36th Ulster Division) had been ordered out from the wood just before 7.30am and laid down near the German trenches. At zero hour the British barrage lifted. Bugles blew the "Advance". Up sprang the Ulstermen and, without forming up in the waves adopted by other divisions, they rushed the German front line. By a combination of sensible tactics and Ulster dash, the prize that eluded so many, the capture of a long section of the German front line was accomplished.

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Son of Samuel Cleland Davidson, founder and owner of the Sirocco Engineering Works in Belfast, Captain James Cleland
Davidson was 29 when he was killed.  

Second Lieutenant Ernest George Boas was the youngest Instonianto lose his life, aged 19 years.

Captain Wilfred Spender of the Ulster Division's HQ staff later reflected “I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st. July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world. My pen cannot describe adequately the hundreds of heroic acts that I witnessed. The division has won a name which equals any in history. Their devotion deserves the gratitude of the British Empire.”

15 Instonians were killed in action on the 1st July and it is appropriate that we remember their names and their sacrifice.

  1. Second Lieutenant Ernest George Boas aged 19 - 5th Royal Irish Rifles (attached 13th Battalion)
  2. Captain James Samuel Davidson – aged 39 - 13th Royal Irish Rifles attached 108th Company Machine Gun Corps.
  3. Thomas Elliott – aged 29 - 10th Royal Irish Rifles
  4. Second Lieutenant Robert Victor Hamilton – aged 24 - 9th Royal Irish Rifles
  5. Lieutenant Holt Montgomery Hewitt – aged 29 - 109th Machine Gun Corps
  6. Second Lieutenant William Arthur Hewitt –aged 23 - 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
  7. Lieutenant Arthur Carson Hollywood – aged 24 - 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. The telegram announcing his death arrived one day apart from that announcing the death of his brother.
  8. Second Lieutenant James Hollywood – aged 23 - 18th Royal Irish Rifles, attached 12th Battalion
  9. Lance Corporal William King - aged 33 - 14th Royal Irish Rifles
  10. Rifleman Joseph Craig McCullough - 9th Royal Irish Rifles
  11. Second Lieutenant Thomas George Moore – aged 24 - 17th Royal Irish Rifles attached 8th Battalion
  12. Lieutenant James Dermot Neill – aged 29 - 108th Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)
  13. Captain Douglas Hill O'Flaherty – aged 36 -15th Royal Irish Rifles
  14. Lance Corporal Paul G Pollock - 14th Royal Irish Rifles
  15. Corporal John Ramsey - 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

You can read individual stories via the ‘Inst in the Great War’ website compiled by RBAI alumnus Alan Curragh: http://www.instgreatwar.com/

Those who fought in the Great War which began 102 years ago this year, were recognised in a verse in the original school song that is not retained in today’s version

“When King and Country were calling,
thy sons were quick to obey;
where war’s red rain was falling,
foremost in battle were they;
bravest and the best
their memory endureth for aye”

For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon, (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914. Verses 3 & 4

"They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

The photograph is taken from a point close to the entrance gate of the Ulster Memorial Tower on the D73, known as Mill Road on British Army maps. The Ulster Memorial Tower is behind and to the right of the photographer. The view looks across to the north bank of the Ancre River, showing the strategically important high ground gained by the Ulstermen during 1st July, which provided an advantageous view into the German rear areas east of Beaumont-Hamel.

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Compiled by Allen McKinstry,
Vice-President Of the Belfast Old Instonians Association