The first of July marks the one hundredth anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Research undertaken by Chorleywood U3A for a forthcoming book on the casualties who have Chorleywood connections has discovered that two local men were fatally wounded on that day and that several others were killed as the battle raged from 1 July 1916 to 1 November 1918.
The Somme Offensive was one of the largest battles of the First World War. The first day resulted in 57,470 British casualties, greater than the total combined British casualties in the Crimean, Boer, and Korean wars and by the time the offensive ended in November, the British had suffered around 420,000 casualties.
Lieut. Col Alfred Fitzgerald was wounded near the village of Fricourt. He was repatriated to the Military Hospital at 17 Park Lane, London where he died from his wounds on 13 July.
His Brigadier wrote: ‘There is no harm in telling you now that his name went in for immediate reward of a D.S.O, and I have no doubt he would have got it had he lived, as I had especially ‘starred ‘his name’. A brother-officer wrote: ‘There was not an Officer or a man in the regiment that would not have followed him anywhere, and,what is more, they did so, when they were asked to the other day’. One of his men wrote: ‘We had a trying time of it, the Colonel worked wonderfully, and the men loved him for the way that he did it, They will never forget how brave he was, and how he encouraged them and led them to victory that day’.
Lieut. Col. Charles Macnamara was evacuated to No 24 General Hospital, Etaples, severely wounded with left eye, left arm and ankle injuries. He was transferred to the Fishmonger’s Hall Hospital in London but died there on 15 July 1916.
A brother Officer wrote wrote:
“Nobody seems to know where he was hit at first, but he fell down and would not allow anyone to dress his wounds. His whole thought was to “go on, go on”. He must have been hit once if not more, either lying on the ground or getting back to the trench, which he did shortly afterwards. The Medical Officer, as soon as he heard that the Commanding Officer was hit, came up and managed to get him down to the dressing station. The Colonel’s whole anxiety, when he had sufficiently recovered to talk, was how the battalion had got on. Doctors talked of his extraordinary courage. He never said a word about being in pain, but was full of enquiries for everyone.”
Two very brave men indeed.
Chorleywood U3A will be publishing a book in November containing biographies of the 50 men on the Memorial in the Memorial Hall , a further 28 who are not recorded and the casualties commemorated at St John’s, Heronsgate