Irish divisions at the Somme: The National Archives

A new 12-panel display at The National Archives tells the story of the contribution made by Irish soldiers, in particular that of the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th Irish Division, to the early part of the Somme offensive. It explores the participation and commemoration of the two divisions and their crucial part in the conflict 100 years ago this July.

The display draws together a range of sources from The National Archives, the Public Records Office Northern Ireland the Ulster Museum, as well as the National Library of Ireland, to provide a narrative of the events from the first day of the battle. It also considers how the commemoration of the war became problematic in Ireland as a consequence of the revolutionary movement in the years that followed.

Among the individuals featured are Lieutenant John Holland of the 7th Leinsters, awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry at the battle of Guillemont, and Lieutenant Emmett Dalton of the 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, awarded the Military Cross at Ginchy, both in September 1916, their Gazette citations below:

Lieutenant John Holland VC

'Lieutenant John Vincent Holland, Leinster Regiment. For most conspicuous bravery during a heavy engagement, when, not content with bombing hostile dug-outs within the objective, he fearlessly led his bombers through our own artillery barrage and cleared a great part of the village in front. He started out with 26 bombers and finished up with only five after capturing, some fifty prisoners. By this very gallant action he undoubtedly broke the spirit of, the enemy, and thus saved us many casualties when the battalion made a further advance. He was far from well at the time, and later had to go to hospital.’ (Gazette supplement 29802)

Lieutenant James Emmet Dalton MC

'Temp. 2nd Lt. James Emmet Dalton, R. Dub. Fus. For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led forward to their final objective companies which had lost their officers. Later, while consolidating his position, he found himself, with one serjeant, confronted by 21 of the enemy, including an officer, who surrendered when he attacked them.' (Gazette supplement 29793)

It’s a Long Way From Tipperary: The Irish on the Somme will be on display in the first floor reading rooms, The National Archives, 1 July to 17 September.

See also: The National Archives’ symposium Ireland and 1916: Isle of Saints and Soldiers?, Saturday 18 June.