Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
Doherty, Private Cornelius, 12258
Cornelius Doherty, 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Carmoren, County Donegal, enlisted at Bridgeton, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and died at Gallipoli on August 15, 1915.
He was the son of Mr George Doherty, 72, Rossville Street, Derry; the husband of Catherine Doherty, 37, Wesleyan Street, Glasgow, Scotland; and the brother of George Doherty, who was serving in France at the time of his brother’s death. Private Cornelius Doherty’s name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Sir Frank Fox in his book The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the World War describes the actions of the 5th Inniskillings on the day of Private Cornelius Doherty’s death: ‘On Aug. 15 an attack on Kiretch Tepe Sirt was ordered, and the 5th Inniskillings, whose task was to take Kidney Hill (with the 6th Inniskillings in reserve), had their first bitter taste of war, and proved that they had the true spirit of resolved courage of the Regiment.
‘The plan of the attack was for the 30th Brigade on the left to attack the southern slopes of the mountain, whilst the 31st Brigade with two Battalions attacked across an open plain the spur known as Kidney Ridge.
The slopes of the hill were almost precipitous and covered with thick scrub. There could be no help on this section of the attack from the guns of the Navy and our land artillery was very weak.
‘The 5th Inniskillings shortly after noon advanced to the attack and made some progress until the plain at the foot of the hill was reached. Then the advance stopped. The enemy artillery and machine guns had perfect observation of the ground and there was no shelter. The O.C., Lt.-Col. Vanrenen, was killed (three days after a party under Cpl. Pritchard recovered and buried his body) and the Adjutant, Major Best, wounded. The second-in-command, Major Owen, took over but was almost at once wounded. Many gallant attempts were made to cross that stretch of 500 yards of naked plain. But all were in vain. Nothing could live in that field of fire. At 8 p.m. orders came from the Brigade Commander to withdraw and return to the position held at noon. At this time the Brigade had dug in on the line they had gained on the edge of the open plain. Capt. Adams, who was in command, sent back word that he would collect our wounded before falling back. To have left them would have been to doom them to almost certain death.
‘It was a decision of high courage for this new Battalion, after such stern losses, to hold on for the sake of the wounded. By midnight over 100 men had been rescued, the soldiers carrying them in on ground sheets. But stretcher-bearers could not come up to our line and, led by Capt. Adams and Lt. Lindsay, the men brought their fallen comrades back a distance of 600 yards, where they would be safe from the enemy’s fire. It was nearly four in the morning before the task was completed.
Then the survivors of the Battalion fell back to the trench from which they had moved to the attack. In all, 6 officers had been killed and 14 wounded, 28 O.R.s killed, 230 wounded and 78 missing – more than half the total strength on landing at Suvla Bay.’
McNulty, Private James, 12640
James McNulty, 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Gallipoli on August 15, 1915.
Aged 26, he was the son of Robert McNulty, 20, Stanley’s Walk, Londonderry, and husband of Sarah Jane McNulty, 6, Charlotte Street, Londonderry. His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
James McNulty had two brothers who served with the colours. One was in the Royal Naval Reserve, and the other, Robert, who was in the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action in France on May 16, 1915.
Smyth, Lance Sergeant Samuel James, 16019
Samuel James Smyth, 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Clooney, County Londonderry, enlisted at Londonderry, and died at Gallipoli on August 15, 1915.
He was a member of Waterside Presbyterian Church, and the brother of Ernest Smyth, 86, Glendermott Road, Londonderry. He was also possibly a brother of David Smyth, who died on March 16, 1919, and was interred in Glendermott New Burying Ground.
Lance Sergeant Smyth’s name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
He was a member of the 1st Battalion Derry Regiment of the Ulster Volunteer Force. At the time of his death he had two brothers and thirteen cousins serving with the colours. One of the brothers was in the R.M.L.I. and the other in the 12th Inniskillings.
Todd, Lance Corporal James, 12338
James Todd, 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at Londonderry, enlisted at Belfast, and died at Gallipoli on August 15, 1915.
His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
McNally, Private Joseph, 4104
Joseph McNally, 2nd Battalion Prince of Wales’ Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians), and formerly, 5004, Royal Army Service Corps, was born at Dublin, enlisted there, and died at Flanders on August 15, 1915.
Aged 39, he was the son of Patrick McNally, Chapel Street, Dublin, and brother of Lizzie McNally, 4, Margaret Street, Waterside, Derry. His remains are interred in Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Belgium.
Kelly, Austin, 13826
Austin Kelly, ‘C’ Company, 7th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was born at Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, enlisted at Dublin, and died at Gallipoli on August 16, 1915.
Aged 18, he was the son of John and Annie Kelly, Clonmellon, County Westmeath, and the brother of Ben Kelly, 3, Rock Villas, Londonderry. His name is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Henry Hanna’s book The Pals at Suvla Bay: being the record of ‘D’ Company of the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, from letters and personal memories of those that were there, gives a description of the action of the battalion on the day Austin Kelly lost his life:
Monday 16 August 1915
From an unknown 7th Dublins Pal at Suvla Bay - 10th (Irish) Division, IX Corps:
‘With the exception of 11th Manchester’s advance during the 6/7th August, Kiretch Tepe (also known as Kizlar Dagh) was paid little attention by either side.
‘But with failure and stalemate on the plains below, attention was soon turned to this ridge.
‘The attack by the Irish on 15th August brought limited success on the northern slopes and, along the crestline, the Turkish defensive work known as The Pimple had been captured.
‘During the night of 15/16th August the Turks began a series of ferocious bomb and bayonet attacks. The Irish and English troops resisted gallantly and, with grim determination, held back the Turkish onslaught. But soon their meagre supply of jam tin bombs, that the Irish had been using, ran out. This critical point in the defence witnessed men bravely trying to catch and throw back the Turkish bombs, and in frustration sometimes even rocks. It was soon realised that the Irish position was one of hopelessness; blood and brawn would not be enough.’
From an unknown 7th Dublins Pal at Suvla Bay:
“The platoon was rushed into that deadly corner on the ridge overlooking the Gulf of Saros about an hour before daylight.
‘The place was already a shambles and we could almost shake hands with the Turks, who were behind the low stone earthwork armed with bombs.
‘I remember how sore my shoulder had become with firing, when three bombs, one after the other, fell four feet away among the stones on the steep slope of the ridge.
‘After scrambling to reach the third as it rolled, I received a blow in the chest from the explosion which made me helpless for about eight hours. ‘I remember the 7th Dublin’s being relieved, but could not follow, and saw dead and wounded in the grass and scrub fire that took place subsequently.
‘Failing to get more than a few yards towards safety, I decided to lie in the scrub all night and at dawn make good my escape. I had no water, as my water-bottle had been smashed by a bomb.
‘Next morning, after much trouble and excitement avoiding hidden snipers, whose bullets often whizzed unpleasantly close, I found water, and safety, by getting down the cliff to the beach - travelling along the latter waist-deep in water sometimes, and then swimming round the headland, where the Navy were very busy pumping fresh water ashore.”
McDiarmid, Corporal John, 13917
John McDiarmid, 5th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, was born at Derry, and died at the Dardanelles on August 16, 1915.
His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Robert Thompson’s book Coleraine Heroes 1914-1918 provides us with the following information on Corporal John McDiarmid: ‘John McDiarmid was born in Londonderry and came to live in Coleraine as a young man. He married a Coleraine girl but enlisted in Glasgow.
‘Work at the time was scarce in Coleraine and John took his family to Glasgow where he found work in the shipyards. By this time there were four young children in the family and they lived at 1204, Dumbarton Road, Whiteinch, Glasgow.
‘He had to go for training very soon after he enlisted. The 5th Royal Irish Fusiliers were sent to Gallipoli as part of the 29th Division after a very hasty training period.
‘Conditions here were strange to the troops. During the day the heat was almost unbearable and fresh water was a constant problem. Rough rocky terrain meant that trenches could not be dug to any sufficient depth and almost everywhere was in sight of the enemy.
‘On the morning of the 16th of August the 5th Battalion were ordered to move to the left of the line to relieve the 6th Battalion who had had a very rough time in these shallow trenches. They moved along the Kiretch Tepe Sirt and past Jephsons Post towards the Pimple.
‘By 9.30am they were in position but constant heavy fire from the enemy kept them from attempting an attack. Casualties were very heavy all day and stretcher bearers had great difficulty saving the wounded and in fact it was one of these same stretcher bearers who eventually wrote home to John’s wife to tell her that John had been killed.
‘He had obviously recognised who was on the stretcher. And quite obviously there is no point in carrying a dead man back for treatment so John would have been simply exchanged for someone else. It would help to explain why there is now no known grave.
‘The Battalion lost 37 men on this day, many of them to snipers, but also to the incessant heavy firing of the morning. John was killed at the Pimple on this day and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial on Gallipoli.
‘After the news of John’s death reached her, his wife brought the family home to Coleraine to be with her own people.
‘She was a daughter of Mr Andrew King of Kyle’s Brae. It was a distressing time for Mrs McDiarmid but being near to people she had been brought up with was a big help and she was able to carry on.
‘The family headstone in Coleraine Cemetery tells us that John’s son, Jack, died at twelve years of age on 3rd November 1926 and that his wife, Annie, died on 3rd February 1952 at the age of 74. There is also mention of Nan McDiarmid, whom I take to be John’s daughter, being killed in the Coleraine explosion of 12th June 1973. As to the circumstances of Jack’s early death, it appears that Jack had an accident at school when the school gates closed on his fingers, damaging his hand very badly.
‘Afterwards he became ill, probably through some infection, and Rheumatic fever set in. Tragically and according to the family he died of Rheumatic Fever a few days later.’