Private Robert Morrow V.C.
The Newmills War Hero
World War One
Britain declared war on Germany on the 4th August 1914. Within two weeks the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) was in action at Mons. They were driven back by superior German forces to the banks of the rivers Marne and Aisne just fifty miles east of Paris. Although the B.E.F. had suffered heavy casualties, they prevented the Germans capturing Paris and henceforth trench warfare would become the norm as the Germans retreated 60 miles.
The Irish Nation would supply three volunteer divisions to the war effort, the 10th (Irish), 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) Divisions. Many other Irishmen were already serving in regular units of the Army, Royal Navy and the Royal Flying Corps, later to become the Royal Air Force.
Gallipoli 1915
The 10th (Irish) Division were the first to see action, at Gallipoli in August 1915. This poorly planned and ill-fated campaign would see them leave within two months and the remainder of the Allies leave the area by January 1916, having suffered horrendous casualties. Reported estimates were of 3,000 casualties within the Division, with more than 2,000 dead.
The 36th (Ulster) Division would first see action in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, which began on 1st July 1916 and lasted until 18th November 1916. The 36th (Ulster) Division suffered some 5,000 casualties with approximately 2,000 dead. The overall casualty total for the British Army on 1st July was approximately 60,000 casualties with approximately 20,000 dead. Most of the casualties occurred before lunchtime.
The 16th (Irish) Division were involved in the Battle of Hulluch near Loos in April 1916, the week after the Easter Rebellion. Moving on to the Somme, they succeeded in capturing the villages of Ginchy and Guillemont on the Somme in early September with around 4,000 casualties and 1,200 dead.
The 10th Division were now serving in the Balkans and would remain there until 1917, before transferring to Egypt and finishing the war in the Holy Land.
The losses suffered by the 36th (Ulster) Division and 16th (Irish) Division could not be sustained by Irish volunteers. Both divisions for the remainder of the war would contain many conscripts from the British mainland.
The 16th and 36th Divisions would fight alongside each other at the Battle of Messines in early June 1917, as the Allies tried to enlarge the area known as the Ypres Salient. Early success was tempered by the 3rd Battle of Ypres, better known as the Battle of Passchendaele, in July and August. Both divisions suffered heavily in the quagmire of mud and water.
Once again the two divisions moved to Cambrai in France and both divisions took part in the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917. Initial successes, following the first large scale use of tanks, were once again nullified by lack of support.
The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Irish regiments contained men who had initially been serving along with reservists at the outbreak of the war, and known as the regular battalions. They had served in various divisions, but February 1918 saw them move to the 16th and 36th Division. Each Division would now contain only four battalions formed in September 1914, the remainder would be disbanded and confined to history. The addition of the regular battalions ensured the two divisions retained their Irish character.
The USA had declared war on Germany in April 1917 but only began to send men in large numbers in the spring of 1918.
The Germans launched a massive attack in late March 1918 to try and win the war before the USA troops arrived. The Spring Offensive drove the Allies back approximately sixty miles and the Germans were only were stopped because they became over-stretched. Both the 16th and 36th Divisions were in line at St Quentin when the attack began. Both divisions again sustained heavy losses to the extent that the 16th Division remained in name only and the 36th Division would see the war end with greatly reduced numbers.
The Germans were halted by the end of April 1918. With the Allies becoming more tactical aware, they began to push the Germans back. From early June the Germans were in retreat, and 100 days later on 11th November, the Armistice was signed.
The British and Empire Forces had lost around one million men, and now, one hundred years later, those losses still haunt many families of those who were bereaved. Many men who survived would also have to endure poor health, and live with the nightmares of what they had seen.
628 Victoria Crosses where awarded during World War 1.
Private Robert Morrow won his Victoria Cross on 12th April 1915 just South of Messines in Belgium. Sadly he was killed on 26th April 1915. His Commanding Officer stated "he was a man devoid of fear". His actions, like all winners of this highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, were undertaken without thinking of himself or the consequences.
Robert Morrow V.C. © 2015-21
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