Today’s post is slightly different from my usual fare. As the majority of readers will be aware today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Reuben Orr of the tenth battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, regimental number 21190. He’s the boy in the middle of the photograph that no recruiting officer could possibly have believed to be of fighting age when he took the King’s shilling.
The Royal Inniskilling Regiment raised thirteen battalions during the First World War. At least three of those young recruits were Reuben and two of his siblings. His cousins may have joined up as well. It was something of a family tradition. His half-brother James Futter had enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Regiment at the age of eighteen in 1905.
The 10th (Service) Battalion (Derry) was formed in September 1914 at Omagh from the Derry Volunteers. The division left for France in July 1915 and the following year found itself on a battle field that would become known as The Somme.
The artillery began its final bombardment of enemy lines at 6.45am on the morning of July. The tenth battalion as part of the 109th Brigade left their trenches at 7.15 am. They began their advance across the no-mans land at 7.30 am on the sound of Drummer Jack Downs bugle call. Their task was to move up the Thiepval Ridge and take the Schwaben Redoubt by means of a direct frontal assault. At their head was a drum and a flag bearing the name “Derrys.” They moved so swiftly that by 8.45am the German redoubt had been taken and the brigade advanced towards their next objective. However, they had become isolated as the units on either side of them were unable to take their objectives.
Of the 2,700 Inniskillings who took part that day 604 died. They are buried and commemorated at the memorial at Thiepval. One of them, the boy in the photograph at the beginning of this post has no known grave. He died on his seventeenth birthday. He’s my husband’s great-uncle.