In Remembrance

Cookstown District Council, in conjunction with the Friends of the Somme Mid Ulster Branch, have published a “District Book of Honour” of those killed during World Wars I and II – Cookstown’s War Dead. And I’d just like to note the publication by posting the short entry on my maternal grandfather’s brother – Private Charles O’Neill. Killed in Action: 21st March 1918. Age: 26.

20325 – Private Charles O’Neill

7/8th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Killed in Action: 21st March 1918
Age: 26
Pozieres Memorial, France. Panel: 38-40

Charles O’Neill was a son of Mary O’Neill of Ballyrogully, Loup, Moneymore. He enlisted with Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Magherafelt.

Charles O’Neill was killed in action on 21st March 1918, during Operation Michael, the first day of the German Spring Offensive, also known as the Ludendorf Offensive. He has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 38-40 on Pozieres Memorial, France.

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  • belfastpaul

    If there is any point in the past that unites people on this island it is the memory of loss related to WWI.

    It is a powerful medium through which reconcilliation can be achieved i.e Maskey laying the wreath.

    Dulce et Decorum est….

  • belfastpaul on Nov 14, 2007 @ 08:16 AM:

    The parallels between the sentiments above, and the thread opened by Mick about Spain (http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/spain-finally-confronting-its-own-demons/ ) are painful and poignant.

    If only we had a society (and we may be getting there), North and South, capable of recognising all the sacrifices, we would be healthier for it.

    I attended the Remembrance Day services in Dublin back in the late 1950s/ early 1960s and recall how hole-in-the-corner they were. There was a peculiarly belly-clenching high-embarrassment moment at the end, after the clergy had processed off-stage, when the organist pointedly held silence, and a quavering elderly chorus of the [British] National Anthem was sung.

    Yes, it was pathetic and open to all kinds of criticism and misinterpretation. It was also full of pathos, and a necessary moment of catharsis for a generation who were already irrelevant and passé, and (in too many senses) lost.

    However, I suggest belfastpaul re-reads his Wilfred Owen before he quotes Horace’s phrase. Owen was being passionately bitter about those who tell “To children ardent for some desperate glory,/ The old Lie.”

  • [i]If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.[/i]

    There is no glory in war for a soldier only a premature & painfull death, the glory will be won by War Pigs thousands of miles away from the frontlines.

  • susan

    My own children have one great granduncle who perished at the Somme, another — the first man’s brother — sentenced to death at Mountjoy for refusing to recognise the Free State.

    I’m sure there are many posters who would say that one brother, but not the other, was a hero, or a martyr; that one brother, but not the other, was a traitor, a serf, a fool, or scum.

    My own feelings are simpler. An entire industry of books, websites, associations etc. sets itself to the important business of sorting out the differences between the Irish, but to me the greater unspoken human tragedy remains how much was and is shared in common.

    I suppose I could cobble together an intellectual argument about the brothers, how the right of a small nation, or small nations, to be free meant different things to different generations, or different members of a generation, or to the same individual at different points in our history.

    But remembering the rural isolation of the farmhouse where the brothers were reared — both the “farm” and the “house” being more a construct than a reality — straining to imagine their early lives alone together in a home where English was rarely heard and even more rarely spoken — I am not sure how to apply socioeconomic or geopolitical forces to choices they made, the choices never available to them to make.

    What was handed on to me, what I strive to explain to my own children, is that In their own way, in their own times, to the best of their own understandings, the brothers fought and went to their deaths for each other.

    And so a song for them, and for young Charlie O’Neill, lost and gone before his time like so many thousands before and since:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=18vw5vbz_Gs

  • darth rumsfeld

    am I the only one who thinks Ian McCrea looks scarily like 80s popstar Buster Bloodvessel in the photos on the website?

  • Rapunsel

    Susan

    I really liked your post there.

    I think i’ll try and get this book. My grandfather from Cookstown was in the British Army just after the first world war I believe and I’d like to see if anyone was killed from my family in either war .

  • susan

    Thank you, Rapunsel, it is very kind of you to say so. I’ve often found myself nodding in agreement with your posts. I wish you well in tracking down your family’s history. I was an extremely shy child and the first grandchild of all four of my grandparents, with the result that I know far more of my family’s history than any of my cousins, or even any of my parents’ generation.

    Stories I assumed were embroidered, exaggerated or made up out of whole cloth I later discovered were absolutely true, and I’m glad I was paying attention. The changes that generation saw and were part of are beyond my powers of imagination.

  • paul

    I used Dulce etc in the sense of war’s futility which in itself a unifying experience.

  • susan

    I never doubted you, Paul. Seriously.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    paul: “I used Dulce etc in the sense of war’s futility which in itself a unifying experience. ”

    Yeah, I’m sure that a few more negoiations like Munich and the whole of WWII could have been avoided…

  • susan

    Munich was ’38. The Second World War is never going to be a unifying point, any more than 1916, or 1922, or 1998. Paul’s point was “If there is any point in the past that unites people on this island it is the memory of loss related to WWI.” I thought it was a point worth making, although it is still a large “if,” if only because so much time has gone by. Not only is the generation that saw through the war gone, my great-grandparents generation, the generation with living memories of them, my grandparents’ generation, is all but gone now as well.

    Still, their voices carry. From servicemen’s letters preserved at the Island of Ireland Peace memorial in Messines:

    Spent all night trying to console, aid and remove the wounded. It was ghastly to see them lying there in the cold, cheerless outhouses, on bare stretchers with no blankets to cover their freezing limbs.
    Chaplain Francis Gleeson, Royal Munster Fusiliers

    As it was, the Ypres battleground just represented one gigantic slough of despond into which floundered battalions, brigades and divisions of infantry without end to be shot to pieces or drowned, until at last and with immeasurable slaughter we had gained a few miles of liquid mud.
    Charles Miller, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusilier

    So the curtain fell, over that tortured country of unmarked graves and unburied fragments of men: Murder and massacre: The innocent slaughtered for the guilty: The poor man for the sake of the rich: The man of no authority made the victim of the man who had gathered importance and wished to keep it.
    David Starret, 9th Royal Irish Rifles

    So here, while the mad guns curse overhead, and tired men sigh, with mud for couch and floor, know that we fools, now with the foolish dead, died not for Flag, nor King, nor Emperor, but for a dream born in a herdsman’s shed, and for the sacred scripture of the poor.
    Tom Kettle, 9th. Royal Dublin Fusiliers

    In a matter of seconds, a hissing and shrieking pandemonium broke loose. The sky was splashed with light. Rockets, green, yellow and red, darted in all directions; and simultaneously, a cyclone of bursting shells enveloped us.
    J.F.B. O’Sullivan, 6th. Connaught Rangers

    I wish the sea were not so wide that parts me from my love, I wish that things men do below were known to God above. I wish that I were back again in the Glens of Donegal; they’ll call me coward if I return, but a hero if I fall.
    Patrick MacGill, London Irish Rifles

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_Ireland_Peace_Park

  • Dread Cthulhu

    susan: “Munich was ‘38. The Second World War is never going to be a unifying point, any more than 1916, or 1922, or 1998. ”

    Paul’s self-espoused point was that war is futile. Obviously, given we’re not havng this conversation in German, monitored by SD personnel, World War II was not futile. War is war — just another extension of politics.

    You can have peace. You can have freedom. I wouldn’t count on having them both at the same time.

    World War I was simply a grand mal example of the inability of the military minds of the time to have learned the lessons of the American Civil War — just how many “human wave” assaults against entrenched positions are necessary before the realization that the cost-benefit of said assaults is too high? — and the result of von Moltke the Lesser’s tinkering with the Schliffen plan, essentially dismantling the hard roundhouse right, including the evacuation of four divisions to the Eastern front for a battle they would miss by weeks.

    World War I was also the collapse of the web of *political* agreements meant to prevent war, susan. The whole house of cards fell in because of a few Bosnian radicals and the fact that a collection of inbreds spanning Europe and Asia thought the war would be short and victorious and so directed their underlings to commit their armies and rattle their sabres. Likewise, the post-war negotiations guaranteed another European war.

    Now we have the EU, with nominally 2 million men under arms, but barely capably of projecting 5% of that number without assistance, preferring soft power — appeasement repackage — which brings us back to Munich.

    Talk about deja vu all over again…