Remembering those who died on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme – 1 July 1916

Private John Finnigan, Private John Finnegan buried 10 July 1916 in Elswick Cemetery Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Private John Finnigan [Finnegan] of the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers wounded 1 July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.

100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

Today I want to remember two of my great-uncles Corporal Robert Finnegan and Private John Finnegan. Robert Finnegan died 100 years ago today on 1 July 1916, during the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, the largest of such memorials on the Western Front, with over 72,000 names. His brother John Finnegan was wounded on 1 July 1916 and died on the hospital ship returning to England and was buried on 10 July 1916 in Elswick Cemetery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

For readers who know little about the first day of the Battle of the Somme, it is regarded as the worst day in British military history.  At the end of one day the British Army suffered nearly 57,000 casualties, with nearly 20,000 killed, the rest were wounded or captured.

The British were attacking along an eighteen mile front stretching south from Gommecourt, where sections of the Third Army were to make a diversionary attack, south to Maricourt where the British joined the French army. The main effort was made by the Fourth Army under the command of Sir Henry Rawlinson. At 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 100,000 soldiers went over the top to be followed shortly afterwards by a second wave of men.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing built by Edwin Lutyens.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the largest of such memorials with over 72,000 names of British soldiers dead and missing

Both Finnegan brothers were in the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. They were part of the second wave, coming out of the trenches following the 9th and 10th Battalion’s Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. By then the Germans knew the attack was underway and the machine guns were working hard. The result was very high casualty rates which included the Finnegan brothers.

The image with this blog is a newspaper photograph of John Finnegan from the Illustrated Chronicle, a newspaper from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  I am still searching for a photograph of Robert Finnegan.

There is a lot of material online, in print and in film about the Battle of the Somme. If you would like information about some good documentary films and original footage from the Battle have a look at Genealogy a la carte for June 29, 2016 for an excellent blog posting by Gail Dever, a Montreal based researcher.

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