East Belfast memorial stone planned for Ulster WWI VC hero

William McFadzean was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously
William McFadzean was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously

Belfast City Council is inviting people to give their views on a lasting memorial to one of the city’s most renowned war heroes.

Plans have been drawn up for the placing of a commemorative stone in memory of William McFadzean VC close to his home on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast.

McFadzean – who was born in Lurgan but lived in Cregagh – was posthumously awarded the country’s highest honour for gallantry, after he sacrificed himself to save his comrades.

It happened on the morning of July 1 1916, as the men of the 14th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles prepared for the first assault of the Battle of the Somme.

“He had been assigned to bomb distribution,” said David Brown, a Somme history researcher.

“His job was to distribute bombs to other men in the trenches who were going to use them in attacking the enemy.

“He lifted a box, which was secured by ropes, and one of the ropes broke off.

“Two of the bombs fell out of the box, the pins came off the bombs and dropped to the floor.

“There was over 600 men in the trench.

“He hadn’t time to think about it. He had about four seconds of his life left and all that he could do was to throw himself on top of them and he was blown to smithereens.”

Now, the Cregagh-based McFadzean VC Memorial Committee has been given permission to place a commemorative paving stone on a piece of land adjacent to his family home.

Belfast City Council is holding three consultation events to give interested parties the opportunity to comment on the design of the stone and landscaped area; Cregagh Library on Monday (June 27) from 6pm-8pm and Tuesday (June 28) from 2pm-4pm, and one at St Finian’s Church in Cregagh Park, on Thursday (June 30), from 7pm-9pm.

Somme talk set to take place

Historian Philip Orr is to deliver a talk in Londonderry on Thursday on the role of the 36th (Ulster) Division during the infamous Battle of the Somme.

With the centenary of the start of the battle approaching on July 1, Mr Orr – author of the classic study of the Ulster Division in ‘The Road To The Somme’ – will discuss the traumatic experience.

“The 36th (Ulster) Division was made up of men from across the Province and trained at locations across the North West during the course of the First World War, including at Finner Camp in Donegal,” he said.

The free talk is at the Tower Museum at 7pm.