Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
October 20, 1914
Baird, Private Andrew, 3611
Twenty-four-year-old, Andrew Baird, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Templemore, County Londonderry, enlisted at Londonderry, and died in Flanders on October 20, 1914.
He was the son of William John and Mary Baird, 497, Glasgow Road, Yoker, Clydebank, Glasgow, and his name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
On October 20, 1914, the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 4th Division, arrived at Houplines (a commune in the Nord department in northern France) at 2am and billeted but were ordered to return to Le Gheer, a little village which lay just north of Frelinghien on the Lys.
At Le Gheer the Germans attacked at 7 am and continued to press home the attack until 6 pm. Advance posts were driven in but casualties were light.
Baldrick, Private James, 3761
Twenty-three-year-old James Baldrick, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Drumragh, County Tyrone, enlisted at Londonderry, and died in Flanders on October 20, 1914.
He was the son of Martha Baldrick, and sister of Bella Harragan, 2, Duddys Row, Waterside, Derry, and the nephew of Hugh and Maggie Baldrick, Bellevue Park, Waterside, Derry. His name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial, and recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
Doherty, Private Michael, 3607
Michael Doherty, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Templemore, County Londonderry, enlisted at Londonderry, and died in Flanders on October 20, 1914.
His name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
Douglas, Private George, 7723
Thirty-year-old George Douglas, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died in Flanders on October 20, 1914.
He was a member of First Derry Presbyterian Church, and the son of George and Mary Jane Douglas, and brother of Thomas Douglas, 14, Fountain Place, Londonderry.
His name was recorded on the City of Derry Presbyterian Working Men’s Institute, Diamond, Londonderry, Great War Roll of Honour, and is inscribed on the St Columb’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland) Memorial to the men connected to that cathedral who died during the 1914-18 War.
His name is also listed on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium, and on the Diamond War Memorial.
George Douglas was a member of the U.V.F. when called up as a reservist.
Quigley, Private William, 8834
William Quigley, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died in Flanders on October 20, 1914.
He was the cousin of Sarah Burns, 29, Mill Street, Waterside, Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
McAvoy, Private Peter, 6278
Peter McAvoy, 2nd Battalion Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians), was born at Londonderry, enlisted at Belfast, and died in Flanders on October 20, 1914.
His name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
The 2nd Battalion Leinsters, to which Private McAvoy belonged, was in Fermoy, County Cork, when war broke out in August 1914. It joined the 17th Brigade in 6th Division and was moved to Cambridgeshire on August 18, then on to Newmarket, Suffolk.
On September 12, the battalion landed in France at St Nazaire and marched at once to the Aisne to reinforce the hard-pressed British Expeditionary Force.
The following month, 2nd Leinsters were in the suburbs of Armentieres. They were ordered to take the village of Premesque on October 18.
By 10 a.m. they had done so, but met stiff resistance from the entrenched German positions and no further progress could be made and the soldiers dug in.
The Germans counter-attacked on October 20, the day of Private McAvoy’s death. The primitive trenches offered little protection against the heavy artillery bombardment, and by evening the Leinsters had retreated.
McManus, Private John, 9763
Thirty-one-year-old John McManus, 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, was born at Londonderry, and died in France on October 20, 1914.
He was the husband of Agnes Moorhead (formerly McManus), 29, Chilworth Street, Rusholme, Manchester, and his name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
The 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment were in the Curragh, County Kildare, when war broke out in August 1914. As part of the 14th Brigade, 5th Division, they arrived in Le Havre, France, on August 17. They went into action on August 23, forming a defensive line near Wasnes on the Mons-Conde canal at the Battle of Mons.
Following the subsequent retreat, the 2nd Manchesters were involved in the first battle of the Marne in September 1914, which was a largely French affair, the French suffering over 240,000 casualties.
The 2nd Manchesters shortly afterwards fought at the battle of the Aisne.
On October 12, 1914, the Battalion formed a line near the La Bassee canal. The following day, a general advance was ordered on Richebourg l’Avoue, the advance was slow as every yard of ground was fought for.
The village became a ruin as it was fought over for the next two days but on the sixteenth, patrols reported that the Germans had withdrawn, and the division was to advance again.
By the nineteenth the battalion was at Les Trois Mansions and was attacked in force by the Germans on the twentieth, the day of Private John McManus’s death. There was heavy fighting all day, including two gallant bayonet charges by the men of A Company. At dusk the battalion withdrew to their support trenches.
Smyth, Lieutenant John Ross
Eighteen-year-old John Ross Smyth, 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, attached 2nd Battalion, died on October 20, 1914.
He was the son of Colonel Ross Acheson Smyth and Mrs Smyth, Ardmore, Londonderry. His name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, France; commemorated on the Glendermott Parish Church World War 1 Memorial; and listed on the Diamond War Memorial.
After heavy fighting at Givenchy, on October 13, 1914, the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment helped French cavalry to capture Fromelles on October 17. On October 19, the 2nd Royal Irish distinguished themselves by taking the hamlet of Le Pilly on Aubers Ridge north of Herlies, and retained their position throughout the night. Sir John French, Commander-In-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, meanwhile realised that the peak of the British advance had been reached, and ordered a withdrawal to a stronger and more defensible position which was in course of preparation in the rear. Unfortunately, however, before the orders to retire reached the Royal Irish the Germans discovered they were isolated, and after a heavy bombardment surrounded Le Pilly. The Irish resisted with amazing heroism until forced to surrender. The total loss to the battalion in the two days’ fighting in dead and prisoners was 578, including the Commanding Officer, Major Daniell, D.S.O., who was killed. Only 30 men managed to rejoin the British lines.
In his book, ‘Death Of An Army,’ Anthony Farrar-Hockley described in dramatic detail the actions of the Royal Irish at Le Pilly: ‘...the weight of shells falling on and around Le Pilly was devastating. Roofs were blown in, walls smashed, roads blocked.
Fortunately for the defence, 2nd Royal Irish Regiment, their commanding officer, Major E.H.E. Daniell, had placed the majority along the edges of gardens and fields outside the hamlet.
When the Westphalians came at them out of the half light of the new day, an intense fire was opened from the British rifles. Soon the British artillery joined the battle, firing on the half circle of Westphalians east and south of Le Pilly attempting to gain by local rushes what they had sought by joint assault.
At mid-morning, a German company appeared from the south-west, crossing in front of the British battalion at Herlies, but it too was held off. In the early afternoon a third battalion arrived and a new assault was made.
To the relief of the Germans, the defenders’ fire slackened; their ammunition was exhausted, their numbers depleted. At 3 p.m. Major Daniell ordered the survivors to fix bayonets and the few whole men were joined by as many of the wounded as could walk and hold a weapon. In this counter-attack, Daniell was killed and his battalion destroyed...’
Towards the end of 1915, a handsome massive Latin brass tablet, in a richly moulded fumed oak frame, was erected in Glendermott Parish Church to the memory of Lieutenant John Ross Smyth, Royal Irish Regiment, only son of Lieutenant Colonel Ross Acheson Smyth, officer commanding the 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
The tablet, which was placed on the wall of the north transept, close to the family seat, bore the following inscription:
‘To the glory of God, and in loving memory of Second Lieutenant John Ross Smyth, 18th Royal Irish Regiment, who was killed in action at Le Pilly, in France, 20th October, 1914, aged eighteen years, son of Lieutenant Colonel Ross Smyth, of Ardmore.’
‘Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy Cross I cling.’
Surmounting it was the regimental crest on the left hand side, and the family crest on the right hand side, both being done in beautifully coloured wax.
The tablet was designed and executed by Messrs. V. Ward & Son, John Street, Londonderry.