Here are some of the stories reported in the News Letter 100 years ago:
Another Good Day
The despatch from General Sir Douglas Haig continues to tell stories of British successes in the Somme battle. Our troops have pierced the German third lines, and up to the present have taken, since the offensive began, over 10,000 prisoners, including the commander of a Bavarian regiment with his whole staff.
Discipline and Great Courage
A sergeant in the County Armagh Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, in the course of a letter to his parents in Portadown, gives an interesting account of the attack made by the troops of the Ulster Division on the German trenches on the 1st inst. He says: “We were addressed this morning (6th inst.) by the Divisional General, who said that nothing in the history of the war surpassed the attack of the Ulster Division, and that it was discipline and great courage which enabled the men to advance so steadily under such a fire as was brought to bear upon them.
“The boys were in great form, and, in the words of the General, ‘all that was possible for human nature to do was accomplished’.
“I am very sorry to say that some of our finest officers and men, including a few of my best pals, have been killed, but they all died fighting like men. It is hard, but it is war, and therefore it is all in the game. As regards the wounded, it is encouraging to be able to say that many of them will soon be with us again.”
A Credit To The Army
Sergeant Alfred White, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, writing to a friend in Londonderry, says: “We have a lot of casualties but the Inniskillings have been praised by everybody in authority.
“This morning Lieutenant-General Sir A Hunter-Weston inspected us, and said that the Inniskillings were a credit to the army, and for us to write home and say so.
“He said: ‘I rejoice to have the privilege of commanding such a band of heroes as the Inniskillings and may God bless you all.
“We had the most difficult part of the line to attack. The Germans had fortified it with skill and immense labour for many months. They had kept their best troops there and had assembled North-East and South-East of it a formidable collection of artillery and many machine guns.
“We have got to stick it out and go on hammering. Next time we attack, please God, we may pull off a big thing with such troops as you. We are determined to stick it out, and do our duty. We are certain of winning through to a glorious victory.”
The Glorious First of July
High praise was bestowed on the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles by Major-General Havelock Hudson, the divisional commander, in a speech which he addressed to them a few days ago.
Major-General Hudson said: “On the morning of the attack, when ordered to advance against one of the strongest of the enemy’s positions, you did so in an extremely gallant manner, and although coming under the enemy’s barrage, continued to go forward in spite of extremely heavy losses, and worthily upheld the fighting traditions of your country and your regiment.
“I am sure the glorious 1st of July will be looked back upon with the greatest pride by the regiment and by anyone who has had the honour of being connected with it.
“I am sorry you lost so many of your gallant comrades, but they did their duty, as you did yours. I hope you will all endeavour to inculcate into the new drafts the same high spirit that has been so marked in the battalion since its arrival in France in November 1914, in the many hard fights you have had, and also in the cheerful way you have performed monotonous trench duties during many weary months.”
‘Fritz Dreads The Machine-Gun’
Letters which are now being received from the front bear testimony to the gallant manner in which the officers and men of the Ulster Division acquitted themselves in the sanguinary fighting that took place in the 1st inst., the day on which the great offensive movement was launched by the Allied armies.
An artillery officer, writing to his relatives in Armagh, says: “All well, and don’t worry.
“It is not easy to to write much at present and nothing to talk of but the battle, and, as you know, one can say nothing about it.
“However, there is but one thing I can say, and that is the Ulster Division put up one of the finest fights in the war, and reached their objective by sheer gallantry and determination. It was not their fault that they had to fall back again, and they fought like tigers every inch of the way back.
“The 1st of July will in future be an even bigger day for Ulster than the Twelfth.”
In the course of a letter received by his parents yesterday, a well-known member of the East Belfast Volunteers, writing of his experiences in the great offensive, says: “During the charge I got my gun well to the front, and I can assure you Fritz knew it was there. My chance came when the Germans counter-attacked. They came over in open order, but I was able to get them, and I was not in the mood to be lenient.
“After this, I was told to keep the left flank, along with the bombers. Twice did the enemy creep up close and try to bomb us back, but our fellows stood fast, and fairly rained bombs on them.
“I heard a bombing officer say that the Lewis gun did a good deal to scare them off. This put fresh heart into me. Fritz dreads the machine-gun almost, if not quite, as much as the cold steel.
“The Germans we had to deal with seemed as if they had been forced to fight. As soon as we approached them they went on hands and knees, and shouted for ‘Mercy, Kermerade,’ offering souvenirs at the same time.”
Roger Casement’s Appeal Is Dismissed
The Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday upheld the conviction of Roger David Casement for high treason, and he was conveyed back to prison during the afternoon still under sentence of death.
He will, however, it is understood, make a last effort to get his conviction quashed by appealing to the House of Lords, but this depends upon circumstances.
It was half-past ten when the five judges, headed by Mr Justice Darling, took their seats on the bench, and Casement was brought into the dock by warders. This time he was looking very weary from the long strain, but throughout the day he smiled to a lady who sat near him and who evidently did all she could by responsive smiles to cheer him.
The day was again one of legal arguments, but these were full of interest to all who cared to follow them.
Sergeant Sullivan fought with wonderful spirit for his client. He did not fear to attack the great lawyers of the past, whose tomes were piled before the Judges for reference and guidance.
His arguments riveted the attention of their Lordships, and although he did not succeed in winning his case, the Judges paid him a high compliment for the way in which he had sustained the greatest traditions of the King’s Courts.
The court was crowded. Their Lordships, when they returned after a brief retirement, told Sir Frederick Smith, the Attorney-General, that they need not trouble him to reply on behalf of the Crown, and after Mr Justice Darling had delivered judgment dismissing the appeal, Casement was taken back to prison. He smiled at friends in the court and waved them a goodbye.
Belfast Widow’s Bereavement
Another lengthy list of casualties in the Ulster Division is published this morning.
Mrs Hamill, a widow, residing at 3 Finlay Street, Ligoniel, Belfast, has sustained a very heavy bereavement by the loss of two of her sons, one of whom was killed in action, whilst the other died from wounds. A third son is lying in hospital wounded.
Mr H A Newel, of 119 Royal Avenue, who had to mourn the loss in battle of two of his sons earlier in the war, has now been notified that another son, Private Thomas E Newel, Royal Fusiliers (Public Schools Battalion), has been wounded within the past few days.