One of the first to die at Passchendaele

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ledwidge2Among the first to die at Passchendaele, a hundred years ago today, was the Irish poet, Francis LEDWIDGE, born in Slane, County Meath, on 19 August 1887.   He was educated at Slane Board School, and was befriended by Lord Dunsany, who introduced him to other Irish literati. Ledwidge was a laborer, working on roads and in a copper mine.  He was, accordingly, a unionist, and one of the founding members of the Slane branch of the Meath Labour Union.

During the war, Ledwidge served with 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the Dardanelles in August 1915, during which time his battalion lost half its men in nine days fighting.  He served in Salonika in late 1915.

In December of that year, while in a six-day forced retreat under severe attacks from the Bulgarians, Ledwidge lost all his manuscripts save a few rain-soaked remnants.  If that were not enough, he suffered a severe inflamation in his back which caused his collapse and four months hospitalization in Cairo.  He was then sent to hospital in Manchester in April 1916, where news of the Easter Rising, and the death of his friend and fellow poet Thomas MacDonagh reached him, and upset him deeply.

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Ledgwidge was court-martialled and stripped of his rank in May for overstaying his leave and insubordination.  He spent next seven months in Ebrington Barracks, Derry.

In December 1916, he rejoined his Battalion in the village of Picquigny, north of Amiens. In early 1917, Ledwidge was drafted to “B” Company, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 29th Division, and sent first to Carnoy, then to a camp in Le Neuville, near Corbie. While there he began a correspondence with the Irish poetess, Katherine Tynan. The Battalion was in billets at Le Neuville in early March, 1917. In early April the 1st Battalion arrived in Arras; it moved to Proven in the Ypres area on 27 June, and served intermittantly in trenches for the next seven months. Ledwidge was killed on 31 July on the opening day of the third Battle of Ypres by an exploding shell.

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A keen-edged sword, a soldier’s heart
Is greater than a poet’s art.
And greater than a poet’s fame
A little grave that has no name.

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~~~ THE COMPLETE POEMS OF FRANCIS LEDWIDGE. With Introductions by Lord Dunsany.  (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1919) .  (First American Edition by Brentano’s of NY, 1919). 
~~~ Alice Curtayne, FRANCIS LEDWIDGE: A LIFE OF THE POET (1887-1917).  (London: Martin Brian & O’Keeffe, 1972).

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Published in: on July 31, 2017 at 10:43 am  Comments (1)  

One hundred years ago, April 25, 1915: the Gallipoli landings

gallipoliassaultOn this date, one hundred years ago— April 25, 1915— the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign opened (after a failed British and French naval assault) with a badly botched Allied landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Dardanelles strait, the objective of which was the capture of Constantinople.  Against all odds, as they were exposed to expert Turkish artillery and machine gun fire, and were never adequately supplied, the tenacious British, Australian and New Zealand troops managed to hold on to their tiny beachhead for over eight months, before they were finally evacuated.  In all that time, they were never able to make any significant advance against the Turkish defenders, though each side inflicted approximately a quarter-million casualties on the other.

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LINKS:

The Gallipoli Campaign. Wikipedia.

Battle of Gallipoli: animated battle map.

Gallipoli Centenary Research Project: Researching Gallipoli in the Turkish Military Archives. Macquarie University.

“Never-before-seen photographs show horror of doomed Gallipoli landings through the eyes of the soldiers who fought there.” Daily Mail UK.

Published in: on April 25, 2015 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment