I am haunted by the events of the First World War, especially the thought that so many young Irishmen lie forgotten in some “corner of a foreign field,” and the noble cause for which they fought, written out of Irish history. Those young men, of all religions and none – middle class and working class – the cream of Irish society, were slaughtered in their thousands. I embarked on a project in 2001, which I hoped would reveal substantial information on the military and family lives of about 170 officers and men from south and south-east Co. Dublin, who fell in the First World War. The results of this research will be published shortly in a book with the above-mentioned title. It will represent my contribution to the forgotten heroes of the war from my place of birth in south Co. Dublin. The aim of the book is to add to the limited family and military information available in the public domain on many First World War dead. It is also an attempt to keep before the public eye the story of heroism and heart-break of Irishmen who fought and died together in the trenches on the Western Front, Gallipoli and elsewhere. The book will also contain a great number of photographs of our dead heroes, together with images of the villages, towns and houses where many of them lived. It would greatly help my research, if relatives of officers and men who were born, or lived for a time in south and south-east Co. Dublin, could contact me for the purpose of sharing information. In contributing these profiles of three young men who sacrificed their lives to achieve peace in Europe, I hope to offer you a flavour of the finished book.
Roll Of Honour, Dundrum, Co. Dublin
Davoren, Ambrose Joseph Stainislaus. Lieutenant. Royal Field Artillery, Trench Mortar Battery, Commanding Z Battery of 25th Division. Last Day in Action: He was killed in action in sector G15C, near Poperinghe, Flanders, on 18 July 1917, age 27.
War Diary for 18 July 1917 near Poperinge, Flanders, Belgium: The Brigade sustained a severe military, personal loss in the death of Capt. P. M. Chaworth-Musters M.C. and Lt A. Davoren Commanding Z Battery of 25th Division, who were killed by a shell.1 Military Notes: With a brilliant future ahead of him, Ambrose Davoren, decided to join the R.F.A. in 1915 and went to France in 1916. The War Office wrote to his parents on the 28 June 1917 seeking confirmation of the name of his next-of-kin and referring to him as, “Second Lieutenant Davoren.” His mother replied immediately:
As a consequence of the death of my husband, the late Richard Davoren, I am now the nearest living relative of my son, Lieutenant Ambrose Joseph Stainislaus Davoren. I may add that my son was gazetted 1st Lieutenant in August 1917 with precedence from June 1916. A response from the War Office confirmed that indeed her son was promoted to full Lieutenant. The extracts from two letters that follow; one from his Chaplain, Father Smyth, and a second from a fellow officer, Lt. A. J. Cunningham, who had been a clergyman in Scotland before the war, gives a faithful portrait of Ambrose Davoren.
Letter from Father W.P. Smyth S.J.: You will, no doubt, have received official news of your son’s death. It is a sad loss to us all, officers, men, and myself not least. I went across to the Trench Mortar lines this morning and spoke in the same way about him. “Such a splendid officer.” “He was always so thoughtful for others.” “We could afford to lose him least of all.” Since I was attached to the Artillery of the 25th Division four months ago I have always found him most kind and most ready to help me to get the few Catholics in the Trench Mortar Battery together for Mass. Two Sundays ago he was present at my Mass in an open field. He really enjoyed a chat with me about Clongowes and his old rector and masters, most of whom I knew very well.It always surprised me that one of his great ability and disposition took so readily to and seemed so much at home in the very rough and tumble life we had out here. Of course, his heart was in his work, and it was a pleasure to see him arranging his gun positions in the trenches, fixing up telephones and setting so quietly and so thoroughly about all the little details of his duty, as though he had never done anything else and never intended to do anything else in his life. He told me himself that the strangeness of things out here wore off for him in about a week after he came out. That admission meant a very great deal, I assure you, and reveals more than anything the quiet determination that was the stamp upon his character. This afternoon I have arranged to bury him in a cemetery away from the line, so he will lie in a blessed grave and the prayers of the church will be said over him as they would have at home in Ireland.
A. J. Cunningham, Lieut. R.A. Adjt. 25th Division: I write to express my deep sympathy with you and yours in the loss of your son and my own dear friend. It is hard for me to realise that even yet that he has gone, though I brought his body back from the line and saw him buried. He rests in a quiet military cemetery well behind the range of the guns, and we have had a cross made to mark the grave. Captain Nowell Usticke has checked the articles of your son’s kit and is writing you an account of how they have been disposed. For friendship sake, I ask your permission to keep a little book of Shakespeare which he and I used many a time to read together. He was the best friend that I made in France, and there was none among us who did not admire his gentleness and humour, his ability and learning, his broad generous outlook and firm character. He was loved with equal warmth and sincerity by all his men, whether in his particular battery or not. I trust that God will send you comfort equal to the sacrifice he called you to make for he surely does not make love and worthy objects of love only to use them as a means to afflict us. You may rest assured that your dear son suffered no pain in his death, and he never feared his death while he lived. The truest, kindest friend that I had made in France. Captain Smyth, the padre who buried him, was a Roman Catholic, so that his burial was according to the rites of his faith. 2
Note: Lt. A. J. Cunningham was killed in action during March 1918.
Campaign Medals: British War * Victory.
Grave/Memorial Notes: Grave II. B. 42, Poperinghe New Military Cemetery, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. He is commemorated on the War Memorial, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Haddington Road, Dublin, and the Great War Memorial, Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare.
Family & Personal Information: He was born on 13 November 1889, the son of Richard and Catherine Davoren (nee Nugent) of ‘Friarsland’, Roebuck, Dundrum, Co. Dublin, where the family lived during the years 1887 to 1914. There were nine children in the family of whom seven survived. Six of the children were named; Margaret, Mary, Esmey, Ambrose, Frances and Carmen. The children’s aunts, Margaret and Mary Davoren and uncle Ambrose Davoren were recorded at ‘Friarsland’ during years of the national census in 1901/1911. Davoren was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare; University College Dublin and at King’s Inns, Dublin.
A Master at Clongowes Wood College wrote: I should like to add the following little incident which took place in the dormitory when Ambose was in the Third Line. I was standing at the end of the dormitory when Ambrose came up to me and said, “Sir, there is a new boy just arrived, who says he has not brought any soap with him. May I give him some?” This little act of kindly consideration for others was to my mind, the key to his character. It was not confined to the boys but extended to his masters and prefects. To his mother and sisters and also to his nephew, who is at present with us, we tender the very sincere sympathy of his masters and prefects. We feel that his Alma Mater has lost a very devoted son. May his soul ever rest in peace! 3 The union of Clongowes pastmen was founded in 1897 and the first President was Chief Barron Palles. He had often discussed legal topics, as an equal, with a neighbour in Dundrum, Dublin, a young Clongownian, Ambrose Davoren. A brilliant young law student at University College Dublin and at the King's Inns, Davoren was not called to the Bar as he preferred to fight in the battlefield rather than in the courts. Maurice Healy, in his memoirs about the Munster Circuit, recalled Ambrose Davoren reading John Buchan's, A history of the war, and wishing to translate into Greek the historical references to heroes and loyalty to king and country. 4 Following his departure from Clongowes Wood College he followed the Arts course in Classics and secured his B.A. with first place and first class honours. He would have benefited by a Postgraduate Scholarship but for being a solicitor’s apprentice in his father’s office. Some years after he gained his L.L. B. with first class honours, he was elected Auditor of the Solicitors’ Apprentices’ Debating Society, reading a very brilliant paper on The Rights of Minorities. This society awarded him its goal medal for oratory. He was Auditor of the Classical Society in University College and a member of the council of the National Student to which he contributed several articles. Davoren had completed his course for the Bar before he was actually “called.” One might easily imagine that with such a splendid academic record he would not have had much time for the lighter side of University life. But such was not the case as he was one of the founders of the College Tennis Club; in fact, he took a large share in the college life and had made his mark as a very happy after-dinner speaker at college banquets.
His father, Richard, a well-known Dundrum solicitor, was born in Co. Clare and practised from his offices at Dame Street, Dublin.
Dundrum mother devastated by loss of two sonsThe Verschoyle Family of ‘Woodley’ Dundrum, Co. Dublin
Family Information: William Henry Foster Verschoyle (solicitor) and Frances H. H. Verschoyle (nee Jackson), 'Woodley', Dundrum, Co. Dublin, lost two sons in the war. It is said that the boy’s mother, who was born in France and died in 1924, never recovered from her tragic loss. There were four children in the family; George John Foster, William Arthur, Francis Stuart and Kathleen. The children’s aunts included; Catherine Frances Verschoyle, Matilda Anna Verschoyle and Catherine Foster Jackson. During the troubles, William Verschoyle received threatening letters, and on one occasion was even shot, but managed to chase his assailant across the fields and capture the gun. In the years following his wife’s death, he married Winifred Letts. When he died in 1943 his body was interred at Rathcoole Cemetery, Co. Dublin. Their eldest son, George, served as curate at St. George’s, Dublin, during the years 1919-1925, followed by three years at Taney, Dundrum. In later years, he was rector of Killennel & Ardmine, Killenagh, and died in 1954. George and Frideswide had two children, Peter and Patricia, and five grandchildren. Rev. George Verschoyle enjoyed landscape painting in oils, which led to a family art exhibition in 1929 at the Mills Hall, Merrion Row, Dublin. His wife, Frideswide, Sister Kathleen and three other members of the Verschoyle family took part in the exhibition. Kathleen married Rev. William Hogan and died in August 1948.
Arthur and his wife, Sarah Verschoyle were relatives of the Dundrum Verschoyle family and lived near James Joyce in Dublin. The couple featured in the following extract of a poem from ‘Ulysses’: “Love loves to love love,Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14a loves Mary Kelly.Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle.M.B. loves a fair gentleman. Li Chi Han lovey upKissy Cha Pu Chow.Jumbo, the elephant, loves Alice, the elephant.Old Mr. Verschoyle with the ear trumpet loves old Mrs. Verschoyle with the turned-in eye.” James Joyce
Verschoyle, Francis Stuart. Second Lieutenant. Royal Engineers, 2 Siege Company, Royal Anglesey.
Last Day in Action: He was killed in action near Ypres, Flanders, on 24 April 1915, age 19.
Letter from Cpl. Greenhalgh: On the 19th April we left for the trenches, your son being Lieutenant in charge of a mining party. Things went well with us until the Saturday of the 24th, when at 4 a.m. the enemy commenced a heavy shelling which lasted for five hours, and completely destroyed our mine and part of the trench. The shelling having ceased, your son ordered the roll of the men to be called and found there was only himself and two men, of which I am one, left, the remainder having been cut off. I then asked him if he intended leaving the trench, but this was impossible, as there was no way out. We decided to remain until the following night, but unfortunately for us they again started shelling our trench for seven hours. At the end of that time we were ordered to stand to. Your son called another man and myself to the lower part of the trench to man our rifles, as the Germans were advancing. This was at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday the 25th. We were firing together with Capt. Jollie of the East Surrey Regiment. After half-an-hour fighting, I was distressed to see your son and Capt. Jollie shot. Thinking it was only a wound, I immediately bandaged his head, but, to my profound sorrow, he died. Soon after the Germans retreated back to their own trenches, barring 30 officers and men whom we took prisoners. An officer of the East Surreys spoke in high praise of the coolness of your son, and said his name would be held in high esteem by the East Surreys. There being no other officer left, I was compelled to report myself to our Commanding Officer. I informed him of your son’s death, and the major and officers and men were deeply grieved, as they felt they had lost a good leader and kind friend.
Letter to Mrs. Verschoyle from Cpl. J. Whelan: He died fighting with only four men in a trench with him. Lt. Verschoyle himself killed ten Germans in holding the trench so he died a noble and peaceful death. He never spoke a word; his wound was in the head. On the night of the 25th he was to come out of the trenches and one hour before he was to leave he met his death. The evening he was going to the trenches he gave me his fountain pen to mind for him in the presence of our Quarter Master Sergeant, so I made a remark in an innocent way; what will happen if you do not come back? He said, “keep it as a present from me,” so of course Mrs. Verschoyle if you would like it I will let you have it willingly, but if you do not want it, I assure you I will treasure it as a keepsake of the officer I loved to serve, not me alone but everyone in the company. 6
Military Notes: He left Chatham for France on the 13 September 1914.
Campaign Medals: 1914/15 Star * British War * Victory.
Grave/Memorial Notes: Grave G.7, Ypres Town Cemetery, West Vlaanderen, Belgium and he is commemorated on the War Memorial and Verschoyle Memorial, Christ Church of Ireland, Dundrum; Great War Memorial at Castlepark School, Dalkey; Hall of Honour, Trinity College, Dublin and the Roll of Honour and walls of the College`s Memorial Hall at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, England.
Personal Information: He was born on 9 April 1896 and educated at Castlepark School, Dalkey and Marlborough College, leaving the latter in the summer term of 1914 to enter Trinity College.
Roll Of Honour, Foxrock, Co. Dublin Reynolds, Dominick. Private. Connaught Rangers, 6th Battalion, Service No. 4259.
Last Days in Action: He was killed in action at Mazingarbe on 27 April 1916, age 19 years.
Official War Diary for 27 April 1916 at Mazingarbe: At 5 a.m. the enemy launched an attack accompanied by gas against the 8th and 9th Brigades. The gas was very slightly felt by our men in the huts. The enemy bombarded our huts from 5 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. and got some direct hits. The three men killed on this day included; L/Cpl, Monk, Pte. Reynolds and Pte. Duane. 20 other ranks were wounded. Across the entire 16th (Irish) Division there were almost two thousand casualties of which, 1260 were gassed. It emerged that the respirators used by Allied Forces were ineffective and the production of a new more effective respirator was rushed ahead. 7
Other information: General Hickie ordered the strengthening of defenses, especially wire. Blankets soaked in Vermorel, an anti-gas agent, were to cover entrances to all dug-outs. The Irish infantry opened fire, but under cover of gas and smoke, the Germans advanced through the saps close up to the Irish trenches before assaulting. The front-line trenches of the 16th Division were smashed, parapets were blown down, trenches filled in, material and equipment lay scattered all over the battlefield. Walking wounded and gas cases, blinded, choking and retching green bile, supported each other or leaning on fit friends, formed long lines down the choked and chaotic communication trenches making their painfully slow way back to the Regimental Aid Post before being evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Stations. 8
Military Notes: Dominick Reynolds enlisted for the duration of the war, on the 3 May 1915, with neighbour and friend, Daniel Byrne (K.I.A.). The Recruiting Officer’s recommendation was based on the following facts, “He is a smart, intelligent and respectable lad, his three chums have joined the Connaught Rangers and he would not join any other Corps.” His early training took place at Fermoy, Co. Cork. He was posted to France on 17 December 1915. Regrettably, there were no effects found for him.
The late Brendan Reynolds, local historian, related an amusing incident, involving Dominick, which took place in the trenches at the front-line:
The German and Allied trenches were about a hundred yards apart and during a lull in fighting the ‘Rangers’ got the opportunity to shoot and kill a hare, which was passing between the two lines. The sudden return to shooting caused some German helmets to rise above the parapet to observe what was happening.
Later that evening, under the cover of darkness, Dominick, probably because of his small size (he was 5ft. 2ins.) was chosen to go out and get the hare. A rope was tied around his waist and he headed out in the direction of the German trenches. He was gone some time before pulling on the rope indicating that he wanted to get back to the relative safety of his trench. When he returned his comrades enquired about the hare; Dominick retorted, “The bloody Germans got there first – but the smell of hare soup was lovely.” 9
Campaign Medals: 1914/15 Star * British War * Victoy.His mother signed for the 1915 Star medal on 9 June 1920, and his father received the British War * Victory medals on 12 December 1922.
Grave/Memorial Notes: Grave I. A. 6. Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France.
Family & Personal Information: Dominick Reynolds was the son of William (Batty) Reynolds (gardener) and Kathleen Reynolds of, 8, Brighton Cottages, Foxrock, Co. Dublin. There were seven children in the family; Thomas, Edward, Daniel, William, Dominick, Julia and Cathleen. Dominick was educated at St. Brigid’s National School, in nearby Cornelscourt, and he was an unemployed gardener prior to enlisting.
Three families with the Reynolds’s name lived in Brighton Cottages: Brendan Reynolds said: “There were three families living in Brighton Cottages with the Reynolds surname, and each head of family had a nickname. They were the brothers, Thomas (Gosh), William (Batty) and my father was Edward (Panter). My father, who was not related to Thomas or William, earned his nickname because he was employed as a gardener with George William Panter of ‘The Bawn’, Kerrymount Avenue, Foxrock. The Panter’s son, George, a confirmed Unionist, survived the war despite his left arm being shot off in air action.” 9
1. The National Archives, Kew, London.
2. Margaret V. Doyle, archivist, Clongowes Wood College.
3. Margaret V. Doyle, archivist, Clongowes Wood College.
4. In Wigs and wars, by Anthony P. Quinn,
5. Joan McPartland (nee Verschoyle).
6. The National Archives, Kew, London.
7. The National Archives, Kew, London.
8. Orange Green & Khaki , by Tom Johnstone.