Saturday 22 September 2012

Irish Brigade Held Derry Walls

Irish Peace Tower, Messines
In Trust for Ulster Division.

Captain Stephen Gwynn, M.P., Irish Recruiting Council, in a letter to Alderman Sir Robert Anderson, Mayor of Derry, regarding recruiting in the Maiden City, says -- "where I last met Derry men in large numbers there was no thought of anything but our common credit -- that was on the ridge in front of Messines, where the 16th and 36th divisions lay side by side. Once it happened that our right flank was moved up a little, and I was the officer sent up to take over the section of the line from the Ulster troops who were holding it. They were the 10th Inniskillings, and their Commanding Officer, Colonel Macrory, showed me round the line. All the trenches had names that were familiar to me, but at last we came to a strong point about the head of a mine shaft where there was a great accumulation of sandbags. Colonel Macrory said to me rather sadly, 'We call this place Derry Walls, but I suppose that when your fellows come in here they will be changing all their names?' I said to him, 'Colonel Macrory, we wont change a name of them, and we will hold Derry Walls for you.' We did hold Derry Walls for six months, and I may say that I myself nearly got my death in it in more ways than one between shellfire and sickness. And after six months, we gave it back to the Ulstermen, and it was from there they went over on the day when the two divisions, side by side, captured Messines and Wytschaete, the day when Willie Redmond fell gloriously and was carried out dying by Ulster troops. Those are the memories on which I should like to see every man in Derry fix his mind. Any man who really cares for the record of Irish troops will not wish to see the ranks of Irish regiments filled with unwilling conscripts. The trust of their fame is too high a thing to be committed by those who freely undertake it."

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 20 September 1918.  The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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