A historic event will take place in Enniskillen on Saturday September 10 to commemorate the actions of the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division at the Battle of the Somme.
A Beating Retreat will be held at iconic Enniskillen Castle on the banks of the Erne, bringing together for the first time in Northern Ireland the Irish Defence Forces Army No.1 Band and the Band, Bugles, Pipes and Drums of the Royal Irish Regiment.
Neil Armstrong, Curator-Manager of the Inniskillings Museum, said: “This is a highly significant event honouring the Irish sacrifice at the Somme. Every county on this island was touched by the war and this is a unique history-making occasion to commemorate the actions of the two divisions through the combined musical talents of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Defence Forces.”
The 16th and 36th Divisions were authorised in September 1914, and reflected in their composition the differing political and religious divisions in Ireland which had brought the country to the brink of civil war in early 1914.
The 16th (Irish) Division’s soldiers were mainly nationalist, Roman Catholic and loyal to the idea of Irish self-government. Many of them had been in the Irish Volunteer Movement to defend Home Rule. The 36th (Ulster) Division’s men were largely unionist, Protestant and loyal to the Empire. Many of them had been in the Ulster Volunteer Force to oppose Home Rule.
In 1916 the 36th (Ulster) Division went over the top on the first day at the Battle of the Somme, July 1, near Thiepval Wood, where they lost more than 5,000 men, including over 2,000 killed.
The 16th (Irish) Division captured the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy between September 4 and 9 at huge cost, with over 1,000 killed.
Richard Bennett, a trustee at the Inniskillings Museum,said: “The divided Ireland of the years after the end of the First World War afforded the 36th (Ulster) Division the honour of recognition for heroic sacrifice, while the 16th (Irish) Division was forgotten.
“In the words of Thomas Kettle, it became “a secret sacrifice”. 100 years on, we can now give an equal tribute to the bravery and suffering of the men of both divisions.”
The Beating Retreat is a standing-only outdoor event with gates opening at 5pm and the performance commencing promptly at 6pm.
Admission is by ticket only, priced £8 each, and are available from the Inniskillings Museum reception at Enniskillen Castle, through the museum’s online shop at www.inniskillingsmuseum.com or by calling the museum office on 028 6632 3142.