Remembering those who died on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme – 1 July 1916

Private John Finnigan, Private John Finnegan buried 10 July 1916 in Elswick Cemetery Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Private John Finnigan [Finnegan] of the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers wounded 1 July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.
100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Today I want to remember two of my great-uncles Corporal Robert Finnegan and Private John Finnegan. Robert Finnegan died 100 years ago today on 1 July 1916, during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, the largest of such memorials on the Western Front, with over 72,000 names. His brother John Finnegan was wounded on 1 July 1916 and died on the hospital ship returning to England and was buried on 10 July 1916 in Elswick Cemetery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

For readers who know little about the first day of the Battle of the Somme, it is regarded as the worst day in British military history.  At the end of one day the British Army suffered nearly 57,000 casualties, with nearly 20,000 killed, the rest were wounded or captured.

The British were attacking along an eighteen mile front stretching south from Gommecourt, where sections of the Third Army were to make a diversionary attack, south to Maricourt where the British joined the French army. The main effort was made by the Fourth Army under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. At 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 100,000 soldiers went over the top to be followed shortly afterwards by a second wave of men.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing built by Edwin Lutyens.
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the largest of such memorials with over 72,000 names of British soldiers dead and missing

Both Finnegan brothers were in the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. They were part of the second wave, coming out of the trenches following the 9th and 10th Battalion’s Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. By then the Germans knew the attack was underway and the machine guns were working hard. The result was very high casualty rates which included the Finnegan brothers.

The image with this blog is a newspaper photograph of John Finnegan from the Illustrated Chronicle, a newspaper from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  I am still searching for a photograph of Robert Finnegan.

There is a lot of material online, in print and in film about the Battle of the Somme. If you would like information about some good documentary films and original footage from the Battle have a look at Genealogy a la carte for June 29, 2016 for an excellent blog posting by Gail Dever, a Montreal based researcher.

Remembrance Sunday – Soldiers Who Died in World War One

John Finnigan (Finnegan) C Company 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Wounded 1 July 1916 near Thiepval. DIed 10 July 1916 on Hospital ship returning to ENgland. Buried in Elswick Cemetery Newcastle upon Tyne Northumberland.
Private John Finnigan, C Company of the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, wounded on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, died 10 July 1916 on the hospital ship returning to England

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November each year. It is the day originally to remember all those who died in World War One.

Following is a list of my own relatives on my family tree who I know to have been killed during World War One. I would like to remember these brave soldiers. I have many others who served during the war but who survived.

Finnegan, Robert – Corporal in 11th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Died 1 Jul 1916 – First day of the Battle of the Somme. Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial (Memorial to the Missing on the Somme)
Finnigan, John – Private “C” Copy, 11th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Wounded 1 Jul 1916 – First day of the Battle of the Somme, died 10 Jul 1916 on hospital ship returning to England. Buried Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (St. John’s Westgate and Elswick) Cemetery, Northumberland.
Finnigan, William – Lance Corporal in 8th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own). Died 26 Jul 1918 and Buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen
Croudace, John – Private in 12th/13th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers. Died 21 Mar 1918. Commemorated on Pozieres Memorial (Somme Battlefield, 6 km. north of Albert)
Crowhurst, Bertie Walter – Private in 2nd Bn. Dorsetshire Regiment. Died 18 Mar. 1916. Buried in Kut War Cemetery (modern day Iraq)
Hayes, Herbert – Sergeant in 178th Siege Bty. Royal Garrison Artillery. Died 7 Jul. 1917. Buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium – 2nd largest Commonwealth Cemetery in Belgium)
Doran, William Henry – Private in 1st Bn. Border Regiment. Died 5 Jul. 1915. Buried in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery (near village of Krithia, Turkey – Gallipoli battlefield)
Doran, Bernard – Private in 5th Bn. Border Regiment. Died 4th Feb. 1916. Buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium – 2nd largest Commonwealth Cemetery in Belgium)

Yes, if you have a connection to any of these soldiers I would like to hear from you.

Index to my Military Blog Posts

Captain Gavin Alexander Elmslie Argo of the Royal Army Medical Corp - 21st Field Ambulance
Captain Gavin Alexander Elmslie Argo of the Royal Army Medical Corp – 21st Field Ambulance – Image from Imperial War Museum Flickr account common license.

Index to my Military related Blog Posts – On Friday of this week I am doing a three-hour workshop on tracing your British Army ancestors at the British Isles Family History Society of Great Ottawa conference in Ottawa, Canada. In preparation for that I wanted to pull together an index for the blog postings I have had on the site so far dealing with British military resources and news. Most of the postings have focused this year on World War I, but there are additional items of military interest. Some of the posts explain in detail how to use  or interpret the results found in a military resource, some deal with a search process that by choice has a military example. The list is an index for blog postings so far.

1892 Attestation Form for William Henry Milner into Royal Artillery
1892 Attestation Form for William Henry Milner into Royal Artillery

World War One Soldier’s Documents

WWI Soldiers – Online Records – pt1 Introduction
WWI Soldiers – Online Records – pt 2 case study Albert William Alfred Milner
WWI Soldiers – Online records – pt3 case study William Henry Milner

Tracing Your Dead World War One Ancestors
Highlights how to trace your ancestors who did not survive the war, looking in detail at the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site, published lists in “Soldiers Died in the War”, and what the soldiers left behind (Scottish wills)
WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 1 – case study John Croudace
WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Graves Commission part 2 – case study John and Robert Finnigan
WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission part 3 – advanced search fields
Searching “Soldiers Died in the Great War”
Scottish Military Wills – Tips for Searching, Using the Results and Workarounds
News Release: Historical Wills of Scottish Soldiers Go Online

World War One Related News Stories and calls for assistance
WWI: Operation War Diary – Your Help Wanted
WWI Centenary Preparations by Commonwealth War Grave Commission
News Release: Historical Wills of Scottish Soldiers Go Online
Guardian Newspaper publishes collection of Untold Stories of World War One
WWI Centenary: The Path that led from the Playing Fields to Flanders Fields
World War I Publications on Sale

Tracing Army Officers – Accessing the Army Lists, example is for pre-WWI
Digital Microfilm at TNA – changes coming – Army Lists as example

Boer War – large but incomplete index and how to understand what is in a dataset.
FindMyPast website: Search Techniques Pt. 3 – Search By Record Set

Tracing Your Army Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians, Second Edition by Simon Fowler
Tracing Your Army Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians, Second Edition by Simon Fowler

Military Book Reviews
Book Review: Tracing your Army Ancestors. Second Edition. By Simon Fowler

Searching “Soldiers Died in the Great War”

Search results from FindMyPast for John Crondace, who is really John Croudace private in Northumberland Fusiliers
Search results from FindMyPast for John Crondace, who is really John Croudace

Soldiers Died in the Great War and Officers Died in the Great War are two sources to use for those who died during the war, after one has done a search of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission site, explained in three earlier posts (part one for John Croudace – this same soldier, part two and part three).

Soldiers Died in the Great War consists of 80 parts, published in October 1921 by the War Office and printed by His Majesty’s Stationary Office. They have been reprinted by J.B. Hayward. They have been transcribed and issued on CD-Rom and are also available online, and I will return to this later. The original 80 parts cover all British Regiments, Artillery, Engineers, Machine Gun Corps, Service Corps, Labour Corps and miscellaneous units. The people not included in these volumes are the sea soldiers (Royal Marines, Royal Marine Light Infantry or the Royal Naval Division) or the airmen other than the officers of the Royal Flying Corp and those attached to the Royal Air Force.

Search results from Ancestry for John Crondace, actually John Croudace of the Northumberland Fusiliers
Search results from Ancestry for John Crondace, actually John Croudace

The part for each regiment is divided up into battalions with the casualties listed alphabetically by battalion, with the exception of the Worcester Regiment which arranges its section with all the A’s by battalion, followed by all the B’s by battalion.

The information listed includes: surname; first name(s); place of birth; place of enlistment; place of residence (in brackets); regimental number; rank; how died (d.=died; d. of w.=died of wounds; killed= accidentally killed; k. in a.=killed in action; d. at sea=died at sea).

Officers Killed in the Great War is the companion volume to Soldiers Died in the Great War and may give more details on how they died (e.g. as prisoner in German hands, killed by his bearer, murdered by tribesman, etc).

How to get results for John Croudace when there is a typo resulting in John Crondace
Search Screen on FindMyPast for John Crondace / Croudace using * to replace letters in search

Searching Online – can be carried out on both FindMyPast and Ancestry. The database on both sites is the Soldiers Died in the Great War, but it actually includes Officer Killed in the Great War. Both online indexes use the same dataset provided by Naval & Military Press Ltd, thus you are not likely to get any difference in results when searching on one site verses another.

Research Points
– Spelling errors – any printing errors in the original publications, such as in the example Crondace instead of Croudace, will be picked up in the online indexes.
– Casualties in Italy may be labelled as Italy or more likely to be labelled F&F (France & Flanders) so compare with burial site on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website.
– The lists commonly show France & Flanders but you need to check the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website to see if the soldier died in France or Flanders (Belgium).
– Most regiments only record death up to Armistice Day (11 November 1918) thus do not pick up soldiers who were dying of wounds received or who were still fighting in the later campaigns.
– Usually for soldiers only one regiment is identified and this is most likely the one in which he enlisted – which may be different from the one he was attached to when he died. With officers multiple regiments may be identified.
– The rank identified is the highest achieved overseas while on active service and may be a temporary rank.

Guardian Newspaper publishes collection of Untold Stories of World War One

The Guardian Newspaper has just published online a collection of “Untold Stories of the War” referring to World War One.

These short stories are told by twelve familiar British authors: Jeremy Paxman – HMS Audacious sunk on 27 October 1914 yet spent the whole war on the official complement of the Royal Navy throughout the war; Michael Morpurgo – who after talking with two old veterans decided to write about the war from the perspective of a horse, creating the book War Horse, later turned into a popular movie; Sebastian Faulks – the horrors seen by the soldiers; Margaret MacMillan – Britain declaring war in the “proper manner” , Richard Curtis – discusses the comedy in the War leading to the writing of the sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth and the power of the final minutes of the sitcom; Terry Pratchett – How the soldiers became known as “Tommies”; Pat Barker – the humanizing of the wounded soldiers in the pastels of Henry Tonks a surgeon and illustrator; Richard J. Evans – the surrender of German officer in New Guinea after the end of the war; Max Hastings – the bloodiest day of the war – 22 August 1914 when the French lost 27,000, the bloodiest day for the British was the 1 July 1916 with 20,000 fatalities; Antony Beevor – tells of the divided views of how historian’s view the war, but ends with the personal diary entry of his grandfather-in-law winning the DSO; Douglas Newton – discusses the behind the scenes maneuvering by British politicians that led to its commitment to war; and Helen Dunmore – explains a game of Bomb Ball to be found in an official pamphlet on games, which is in reality an understanding of the rules for handling grenades.

This is a long piece by newspaper standards but worth reading for the fascinating vignettes told about the war.

I want to thank John Reid who brought this to my attention in his blog – Anglo-Celtic Connections.

World War I Publications on Sale

Naval and Military Press Special Great War Catalogue cover
Naval and Military Press Special Great War Catalogue cover

Naval and Military Press has just released a Special Great War Catalog with over 400 titles in this one publication. It provides a full range of Divisional Histories all at 50% off. There are numerous Regimental and Official Histories, contemporary memoirs and more.

Some of the databases sold can be found online at some of the commercial websites so be careful. But this is a goldmine for readers wanting to know that a particular book even exists, or for those wanting to fill in the gaps in their personal library, or wanting to know more about the regiment or division in which their ancestor served, or learn specifics about the battles in which they served or died.

If you have an interest in World War One do download a pdf of the catalog, linked here. One of the benefits of downloading the pdf, or opposed to getting the newsprint version of the catalog which I was also sent, is that you can search it for any regiment, division, battle or word which is very handy in this packed catalog.

WWI Centenary: The Path that led from the Playing Fields to Flanders Fields

Here is a good newspaper article in today’s Online Telegraph by Jeremy Paxman looking at “The Path that led from the Playing Fields to Flanders Fields”. It especially examines the role of the public schools in England the role they had in providing officers for the military, and the effect on the schools and their staff – think lots of women coming into teaching for the first time.