Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
Black, Private Henry, 4228
Henry Black, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Gully Ravine, Dardanelles, on Monday, June 28, 1915. Aged 20, he was a member of Ebrington Presbyterian Church, and the son of Joseph Black, 12, Meehan’s Row, Dungiven Road, Waterside, Londonderry.
His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Being Unionists, Joseph and Henry Black, above address, signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant (September 1912) pledging resistance to Home Rule for Ireland.
Sir Frank Fox, in his book The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the World War, describes the actions of the 1st Inniskilings at Gully Ravine on the day Private Black lost his life: ‘On June 20 the 1st Inniskillings were relieved from the Front Line and went into Divisional Reserve at Gully Beach in preparation for a big attack on June 28 which was to have some real artillery support. At this stage a reorganisation of the British Force had been effected. The 29th Divisional Command was promoted to command the VIII the Corps, which was formed as part of this reorganisation, and was succeeded by Maj.-General Beauvoir de Lisle.
‘The Battle of Gully Ravine on June 28, 1915, was the first material success since the Day of the Landing. All the objectives of the day were carried. Our line was advanced to the edge of Krithia, and at the time it seemed that Achi Baba might have been carried if there could have been on hand a fresh 29th Division to “leap-frog” through the positions which we had gained. The infantry were aided by a certain amount of land artillery preparation from field guns and from a battery of 6-inch howitzers which had just been disembarked on the Peninsula; and the naval guns helped with a terrific bombardment of the enemy positions. The artillery preparation lasted two hours, and its good effect on the enemy, especially that of the 6-inch howitzer shells, could be observed from our trenches. At 8 a.m. the infantry charged and won five lines of trenches, with ease, it might also be said.
‘The 1st Inniskillings, moving out from Ghurka Bluff, had as their objective a series of enemy trenches almost up to the outskirts of Krithia. They met with little resistance and found in the trenches the enemy’s breakfasts – biscuits and hard-boiled eggs – prepared, and some stores of cigars and of German ammunition. A more gruesome find was of the bodies of some Royal Dublin Fusiliers killed on April 27 and still unburied.
‘That night the Inniskillings were in the support trench lines of the captured position, immediately in front of them were a working party of Royal Dublin Fusiliers putting out wire, and further in advance the front line held by that Battalion. A body of the enemy penetrated along a ravine to the rear of our front-line trench and attacked the working party, which they drove in to the support trench.
Then the enemy dug in between our front-line and support trenches, and in the morning were seen to be some 200 in strength, the men curiously variegated as regards kit and uniform, apparently led by a mullah.
At first they made signs of surrender, but when a party advanced to bring them in they opened fire. They were then attacked from both sides and soon surrendered...’
McKinley, Private Robert, 4514
Robert McKinley, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Gully Ravine, Dardanelles, on June 28, 1915.
Aged 19, he was the son of Robert and Mary, and brother of Rebecca McKinley, 12, Wapping Lane, Londonderry. Possibly a member of Clooney Hall Methodist Church, his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Accompanying the official intimation of the death of Private Robert McKinley was his Majesty’s and Lord Kitchener’s sympathy. Private McKinley was for a number of years employed in the Londonderry Shipyard, and in August 1914 joined the Inniskillings.
At the time of Robert McKinley’s death, his brother, Robinson McKinley, R.G.A., had been in Flanders for over eleven months. Robinson McKinley later died from wounds in April 1917.
Galbraith, Lance Corporal Hugh, 10341
Hugh Galbraith, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Templemore, County Londonderry, enlisted at Omagh, County Tyrone, and died at Gully Ravine, Dardanelles, on June 29, 1915.
He was the son of John Galbraith, brother of Martha Jane Galbraith – who possibly died on February 6, 1924 – and nephew of Annie Foster, 7, Stewart’s Terrace, Londonderry.
He was a member of Great James’ Street Presbyterian Church, and his remains are interred in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Turkey. His name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Hugh Galbraith’s brother, Frank Galbraith, went down in the H.M.S. Viknor, when that vessel was torpedoed in January 1915.
McCaughey, Private Thomas, 4503
Thomas McCaughey, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Gully Ravine, Dardanelles, on June 29, 1915.
A former employee at the Melville Hotel, he was the husband of Alice (later Griffiths) McCaughey, 54, Deanery Street, Derry. His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
O’Donnell, Private William, 9191
William O’Donnell, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was possibly born at Claudy, County Londonderry, enlisted at Londonderry, and died at Gully Ravine, Dardanelles, on June 29, 1915.
He was the brother of John O’Donnell, 14, Strabane Old Road, Waterside, Derry, and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. His name is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Toye, Private John Vincent, 10028
John Vincent Toye, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Templemore, County Londonderry, enlisted at Londonderry, and died at Gully Ravine, Dardanelles, on July 2, 1915.
He was the son of Sarah Toye, 2, Glasgow Street, Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. His name is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Around the time of Private Toye’s death, Captain Gerald Robert O’Sullivan and Corporal James Somers, also 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers, both won Victoria Crosses. Stephen Schnelling, in his book ‘Gallipoli - VCs of the First World War’ describes the actions of the two men. He informs us that the Battle of Gully Ravine had been fiercely raging on since June 28, with the British fighting to hold on to their gains, and the Turks fighting to regain their lost ground. Trenches had been changing hands several times in the fierce hand to hand fighting that ensued.
During the night, July 1, it had started to rain when another Turkish counter-attack was launched, which successfully forced the Gurkhas out of trench J12. O’Sullivan, with just over a company of Inniskillings and with bombing support from Corporal James Somers, restored the situation by recapturing the lost trench.
A report by Lieutenant-Colonel Buckley stated how the two men responded to the knowledge that J12 was in Turkish hands: ‘He immediately attacked, leading the storming party. Accompanied by Cpl Somers, he advanced in the open along the parapet of the trench, bombing the interior as he regained it.
‘The Turks bombed back and from where I was I could distinctly see the flashes of the Turkish bombs, generally two to Capt O’Sullivan’s one. We had only the jam-pot bomb ... while the Turks had quite a useful bomb.’
Captain Gerald Robert O’Sullivan was born on November 8, 1888 at Frankfield, Douglas, County Cork, son of Lieutenant-Colonel George Lidwell O’Sullivan and his wife Charlotte. He spent most of his boyhood in Dublin, entering Wimbledon College in 1899.
When he left Wimbledon in June 1906 he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, being commissioned on May 9, 1909, in the Inniskillings as a Second Lieutenant. He saw service in China, which included the revolution of 1911, and later in India with his battalion.
When war broke out in August 1914 the 1st Inniskillings were brought back to England to form part of 87 Brigade, 29th Division. The 29th Division sailed for Egypt in March 1915, landing in Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. O’Sullivan now commanded a company and fought many actions against the Turks in the Helles sector as the breakout from the beaches commenced. One such action was on the night of June 18, when O’Sullivan organised an immediate counter-attack that drove the Turks out of the recently occupied Turkey Trench previously held by the South Wales Borders on the Inniskilling flank. In the VC action during the night of July 1, 1915, he was wounded in the leg, and evacuated to hospital in Egypt.
His VC citation appeared in the London Gazette of September 1, 1915: ‘For most conspicuous bravery during operations south west of Krithia, on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On the night of the 1st-2nd July, 1915, when it was essential that a portion of trench which had been lost should be regained, Captain O’Sullivan, although not belonging to the troops at this point, volunteered to lead a party of bomb throwers to effect the recapture.
He advanced in the open under a very heavy fire, and in order to throw his bombs with greater effect, got up on the parapet, where he was completely exposed to the fire of the enemy occupying the trench.
He was finally wounded, but not before his inspiring example had led on his party to make further efforts, which resulted in the recapture of the trench.’
Sergeant James Somers was born at Belturbet, County Cavan, son of Robert and Charlotte Somers. He first joined the Special Reserve of the Royal Munster Fusiliers on January 14, 1913. He joined the 2nd Inniskillings in July 1914, and later served in Belgium and France when war broke out, being wounded at the Battle of Mons. After recovery from his wounds in England he was ordered to join the 1st Battalion, and sailed off to Gallipoli.
Somers wrote to his father: ‘I beat the Turks out of our trench single-handed and had four awful hours at night.
‘The Turks swarmed in from all roads, but I gave them a rough time of it, still holding the trench ... It is certain sure we are beating the Turks all right. In the trench I came out of, it was shocking to see the dead.
‘They lay, about 3,000 Turks, in front of our trench, and the smell was absolutely chronic. you know when the sun has been shining on those bodies for three or four days it makes a horrible smell; a person would not mind if it was possible to bury them.
‘But no, you dare not put your nose outside the trench, and if you did, you would be a dead man …’
His VC citation appeared in the London Gazette of September 1, 1915: ‘For most conspicuous bravery on the night of 1-2 July 1915, in the southern zone of the Gallipoli Peninsula, when, owing to hostile bombing, some of our troops had retired from a sap, Sergeant Somers remained alone on the spot until a party brought up bombs.
He then climbed over into the Turkish trench, and bombed the Turks with great effect. Later on, he advanced into the open under very heavy fire, and held back the enemy by throwing bombs into their flank until a barricade had been established. During this period he frequently ran to and from our trenches to obtain fresh supplies of bombs.
By his great gallantry and coolness Sergeant Somers was largely instrumental in effecting the recapture of a portion of our trench, which had been lost.’
Somers remained at Gallipoli until the close of the campaign, later seeing further service in France, taking part in the July 1, 1916, attack on the Somme at Beaumont Hamel. On April 1, 1917, he joined the Army Service Corps.
After being gassed quite badly, he was to die at his home in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary on May 7, 1918.
He is buried in the churchyard at Modreemy, County Tipperary.