The Somme: Read how the News Letter reported on the bravery of William McFadzean and Robert Quigg

Soldiers at the Battle of the Somme
Soldiers at the Battle of the Somme

One hundred years, News Letter readers were informed of the heroics of two Ulster soldiers at the Battle of the Somme – Private William Frederick McFadzean and Private Robert Quigg. Both men would later be awarded the Victoria Cross. Here is how their sacrifice and bravery was recorded in the News Letter during this week back in 1916.

Private W McFadzean’s Great Sacrifice

[July 13]

The finest individual deed yet recorded in connection with the great offensive movement which began on the 1st July is to the credit of a gallant Belfastman, Private William Frederick McFadzean, of the Royal Irish Rifles (Young Citizen Volunteers), who sacrificed his life to save his comrades.

The circumstances under which Private McFadzean was killed are described by his company officer, Captain James McKee, in the following letter to the young hero’s father, Mr William McFadzean, Rubicon, Cregagh: “I wish you to accept my sincere sympathy in your great sorrow caused by the death of your son. You will have great satisfaction in knowing that he died a hero’s death.

“Our men were in the assembly trenches, and bombs were being distributed. Your son had a box passed to him, and in the passing some bombs dropped out. In falling, the safety pins fell out; and your son, realising the danger to his comrades, flung himself on top of the bombs. He was killed, and two others were slightly wounded. He saved the lives of a number of his comrades by his action, and we are proud of him.

“His name has been sent forward to a higher authority, with recommendation for a decoration.

“I was not in the fight on July 1 as I was then at the Army School. I am sorry I was not there, as I believe our attack was magnificent. Our boys did exceptionally well.”

Second Lieutenant James Marshall, of the Royal Irish Rifles, South Antrim Battalion, in a letter of sympathy to Mr McFadzean, mentions that his brother, Corporal Dave Marshall, of the Young Citizen Volunteers, “told me to say that Willie fell just beside him, and by his heroic self-sacrifice saved the lives of his comrades aound him, earning their admiration and gratitude which will never be forgotten by them”.

The late Private McFadzean, who was in his 21st year, was formerly an apprentice in the employment of Messrs Spence, Bryson & Co Ltd, 41 Great Victoria Street, and in this connection it may be mentioned that a member of the firm, Mr John B Bryson, has written to the bereaved parents expressing his deep sympathy with them in their great loss, and his appreciation of the deceased’s character.

Private McFadzean enlisted on 22nd September, 1914, and speedily gained the esteem and affectionate regard of his comrades, a fact which is proved to demonstration by the numerous letters of regret at his death written by those with whom he was serving. He was a bright young man, of splendid physique, and it is to be hoped that his sorrowing parents will have the consolation of seeing his great sacrifice officially recognised.

Tribute To A Bushmills Soldier

[July 15]

Tribute to the gallantry of a Bushmills soldier named Private Robert Quigg, serving in France with the Central Antrim Volunteers, is borne in a telegram which the brave lad’s mother, Mrs Quigg, Carnkirk, has received from Lady Macnaghten.

Her Ladyship, who is at present in London, stated: “I hear from Major Hamilton that your son, Private Robert Quigg, has behaved magnificently, going out in the face of danger seven times to try and find Sir Harry. He brought a wounded man back each time. All are very proud of him.”

Sir Harry Macnaghten has been reported missing, believed killed. It was in an endeavour to find him that Private Quigg went out. He is a member of LOL 1195.

The hope is general that Sir Harry Macnaghten may yet be restored to his mother, Lady Macnaghten, who has the heartfelt sympathy of the entire community in her trouble.

There is yet hope that Sir E H Macnaghten is alive. A letter from the Colonel of the regiment informs Lady Macnaghten that the young soldier baronet was observed sitting, wounded in the legs, in one of the captured trenches. His subsequent whereabouts cannot yet be traced, but as the search for his body has so far proved unavailing, there is reason to hope that Sir Harry may be a wounded prisoner behind the enemy lines.