Private Peter Farley/Farrelly 1878

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The following is a copy of Peter Farrelly’s letter from the First World War Trenches in France:

 

Page 1

March 17/03/16

3440 Pte

Peter Farrelly

9 Batt D Coy

RMC

BEF France

Dear Brother, 

Just a few in ancer to your kind and very welcome letter that I know receive to hand, as you were the last I tought in the world I would heare from but its better late than (never) to write (I am) verry glad to (hear) from you 

Page 2

and I hope you are Doing well I myself need not be grumbling for I will haft to put up with my lot now sink or swym  Dear brother it an naful country out heare  I am writing this letter within 1000 yearrds of the germans and its a hot (carn…) with shot and shell but (the…s) no (yaus…) of being afraid but… better of…

Page 3

I dont feel a bit a fraid of deth a tall but sill there is a lot of pepal getting killed and wounded but I think the warr will soon be over, we are looking on the bright side of it know if I get out of the trenches this time I thinke I will get a pass home for A few days and that wount be so bad I had a letter from (….) gray to day he is in the police in Liverpool and he is doing well and A letter from (….) ellen from USA she is well all so in (…….) I do have A letter every day from sum.. so I … this… you all… say good by from…

Page 4

brother Peter Farrelly give my love to the family good by good luck

 

Note: This is typed version of a letter from Peter to his brother Tom Farrelly.  The letter is damaged in parts from fire.  Spaces were left where there are gaps and for words that cannot be made out by Tom Cooney, grandnephew of Peter Farrelly on 26 December 1996.

Peter wrote this letter on St. Patrick’s Day 1916, twelve days before he was killed but it gave enough information to enable his family trace his last few months.

Peter at thirty-eight was not the typical young man dashing off to join WW1 for excitement but as conscription loomed under the Military Service Act in January 1916 for single men aged between eighteen and forty-one with certain exemptions and living in Great Britain, he may have had little choice but hope that this war would end soon.[1]

Peter was born in Relaghan, Bailieborough, (now Shercock) Co. Cavan on 24 April 1878 to Thomas Farrelly and Elizabeth (Bessy) Farrelly (née Carragher).  He was baptised the following day by Rev. P. O’Connell, his sponsors were Owen and Catherine Clarke.[2]  He went to Dhuish National School, which was approximately half a mile from his home.  Thomas, his father was a labourer and they lived on a small holding on Dhuish mountain which was leased by Peter’s grandfather Michael Carragher from Henry Singleton, the local landlord.  On 17 January 1894, his father Thomas died at the age of fifty-five.[3]

Peter cannot be positively identified in the 1901 and 1911 Irish census.  He may have gone to England or America as his Uncle Michael Carragher was in Pennsylvania from 1885 and two of Peter’s sisters Mary Ann & Ellen had also emigrated, though Mary Ann did return.

World War 1 started in 1914 and the 9th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was formed in October 1914 and came under the orders of the 48th Brigade in the 16th (Irish) Division.  The Battalion moved through Cork to Kilworth, Ballyvonare and to Ballyhooley in June 1915.  It then moved to England in September 1915 for a final three months of training at Blackdown near Aldershot in Surrey.[4]

Training was poor it mainly consisted of route marching and limited target practice.  On 2 December 1915, Queen Mary inspected the Irish troops, where they marched ‘to their regimental tunes of Garryowen, Come back to Erin and St. Patrick’s Day’.[5]

Peter joined the 9th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, most likely in England as he gave Liverpool as his last address.  He landed with them at Le Havre on 20 December 1915.[6]  They spent the first few months in France preparing for the trauma of trench warfare.  Then they headed for the muddy trenches around Hulluch and here ‘the Irish Brigades received their baptism into the terror of Flanders’.[7]

The following is a summary of events from the Battalion’s War Diaries:

On St Patrick’s Day 1916, they were in Marles Sur Mines.  Divine Service Parades were held - Roman Catholic at 8.45 a.m. and Church of England at 9 a.m.

Corps Commander’s Inspection of 48th Brigade was postponed.

Brigade Sports in the afternoon – General Sir Charles Munro, Commanding First Army was present.  The Battalion was first in the following events: grenadier individuals of battalion, machine gun competition, tug-of-war, dancing and mule pace and second in wiring competitions.

Draft of 13 arrived.  7 recently sent to Base as medically unfit by A.D.M.S. (Assistant Director Medical Services) 16th division, included in reinforcement.[8]

On this day Peter replied to the letter from his brother.

According to the War Diaries in the days preceding his death, the soldiers had taken part in various types of training including musketry, bombing, bayonet fighting, close & extended order drill and a lecture on ‘Sleeping when on Sentry’.  On March 25, the battalion engaged in preparations for evacuation of billets, collection of stores, checking of equipment etc.  The combined bands of the Ninth Munster Fusiliers and the Eighth Dublin Fusiliers played.

On March 26 the dismounted portion of the battalion moved off at 7.40 a.m. to Lapugnoy Station for Noeux-Les-Mines.  They arrived at 9.15 a.m. and marched to take over the left sub-section, Hulluch Sector.  They had a long wait from 10.35 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. at Mazingarbe for hot dinners, which were served from travelling field kitchens.  Transport proceeded by road via Place a Bruay and Noeux Les Mines, where they met guides at the Vermelles-Philosophe crossroads at 2.50 p.m.  The relief was completed at 6.15 p.m. with two companies in front line, one in support and one in reserve trenches.  They occupied 800 yards of frontage from Stone Street and Hay Alley.  No casualties were sustained during the relief.

Then at 6.31 p.m. the enemy exploded two mines causing large craters and destroying about 70 yards of fire trench and at the same time heavily shelled Essex Lane, Hay Alley, support and reserve trenches.  The enemy was simultaneously active with rifle grenades and trench mortars.

The grenadiers occupied near and far lips of the craters, notwithstanding the attempt of the enemy to occupy the edge of the craters with bombing parties, the enemy was driven back by machine gun and rifle fire.  A number of men were buried by debris, but most of them were dug out.  Five were killed and seventeen were unaccounted for. There was activity with rifle grenades and machine gun while rifle fire continued throughout the night.

The front line was extended and they set about repairing portions of the fire trench, which were destroyed by mine explosions.  Work was carried on with difficulty owing to hostile machine gun and rifle fire.

On March 30, enemy blew camouflet at 8.45 a.m. and simultaneously bombarded them with trench mortars and rifle grenades.  400 rifle grenades were returned with effective result.  The battalion was relieved by the Seventh Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and proceeded into Brigade Reserve at Philosophe.  Casualties during the four days tour of trenches were: seven killed, thirty-two wounded with seventeen missing, believed killed leaving the trench strength at 372.

Peter was among those missing.  He was ‘Killed in Action’ on 28 March 1916 and his body was never recovered.  According to the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, he was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-1915 Medal.  The first two medals were returned for reasons unknown, possibly as they were sent out in 1922 to his previous address in England.[9]  Research in Kew at The National Archives yielded no more information as 60% of WW1 records were destroyed in during WW2.[10]

The residue of his salary and war gratuity was paid to his mother Bessie Farrelly and his sister Ellen Elliot.[11]  Records also reveal that his mother was in receipt of a pension as a result of his death at least until 1922.[12]  His mother died on 22 August 1929 in Nolagh with her daughter Mary Ann O’Callaghan at the age of ninety-two.[13]

He is remembered on the Loos Memorial in France.[14]  In Ireland he is listed in Ireland’s Memorial Records in the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge, Dublin.[15]

I wish to acknowledge assistance from the families of Peter’s siblings with this research.

Carmel O’Callaghan.

 

 

 

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/priv...

[2] https://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000634823#page/86/mode/1up.

[3]https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/deaths_retur...

[4] https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-inf...

[5] http://www.dublin-fusiliers.com/battaliions/9-batt/campaigns/1916-hulluc...

[6] https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=1543&h=48847&ssrc=pt&tid=46243774&pid=6503265525&usePUB=true

[7] http://www.dublin-fusiliers.com/battaliions/9-batt/campaigns/1916-hulluc...

[8] War Diary, 9th (S) Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers 9 March to 31 March 1916, available at The National Archives, Kew.

[9] http://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=medalrolls&h=319494&ti=5538&indiv=try&gss=pt

[10] http://www.greatwar.co.uk/research/military-records/british-soldiers-ww1...

[11] National Army Museum; Chelsea, London, England; Soldiers' Effects Records, 1901-60; NAM Accession Number: 1991-02-333; Record Number Ranges: 292001-293500; Reference: 147

[12] https://www.fold3.com/image/668657588

[13]https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/deaths_retur...

[14] https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-war-dead/results?firstName=peter&lastName...

[15] http://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=irelandmemorial&h=19218&ti=5538&indiv=try&gss=pt

 

Additional Information
Date of Birth 24th Apr 1878 VIEW SOURCE
Date of Death 28th Mar 1916 VIEW SOURCE