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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 16708
1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Who Was Killed in Action on Monday, 14th October 1918
Age 32

Row A Grave 13
Ledeghem Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Ledeghem Military Cemetery

Ledeghem Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium1

Thomas Henry Buckley was born in Mallow, Co. Cork, Ireland in c18862, the oldest of four children of David (b. c1861, Co. Cork) and Johanna, his wife. By 1901, Johanna had died leaving David with four children to raise and their small farm - a simple farmhouse with stable, cowhouse and piggery - in Mellow to run with the help of a live-in labourer3. By 1911, Thomas had left for England, presumably seeking work and had, somehow, arrived in Beeston where he had found work as a moulder's labourer in an iron foundry. Now aged 25, he was boarding at 6 Hallcroft with the family of John Gorgan, originally from Ireland, who worked on a local farm as a cowman4.

After war came in August 1914, many Irishmen were motivated to serve in the British Forces, some saw injustice in the plight of the smaller European nations - such as Belgium and Serbia - and a similarity with the situation in Ireland, Unionists in the north of Ireland had their particular loyalty to Great Britain, for some it was a chance to get away the widespread poverty in Ireland and for others - like many elsewhere - it was the sense of adventure and the chance to see the wider world. For whichever of these reasons, Thomas Henry soon made a decision to enlist, doing so in November 1914 with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers5.

After initial training Private Buckley was ready to be sent to the front and arrived in France on 20 December 19156. 1st Battalion of his Regiment, which was to be his eventual posting, was then about to be withdrawn from Gallipoli, where it had fought in that disastrous campaign since April. During the initial landing alone, the Battalion had suffered casualties totaling 637 offices and men out of an initial establishment of 1012. Some reinforcements had arrived but, in the desperate fighting, there was little or no progress against a determined enemy, casualties had continued and disease was widespread. In December, the decision to evacuate had been made and, accordingly, what remained of the battalion had been withdrawn to Egypt in early January. Only 11 men who had gone ashore originally with the battalion had survived the killing, mutilation and sickness that it had faced. In March 1916, the battalion arrived in France where it was joined by Private Buckley as part of the reinforcements that were urgently needed to bring it back to its establishment strength.7

It was as a full-strength battalion, part of 29th Division, that it took part in the infamous Somme attack on 1st July 1916. It faced withering machine-gun fire and wire obstructions which had not been destroyed by the preparatory bombardment and was soon forced to halt the attack. It had been another bloodbath with casualties of 12 Offices and 208 Other Ranks. Nevertheless the battalion continued in its contribution to the war throughout the remainder of 1916, through the long months that stretched into 1917. In March/April, the enemy withdrew to a heavily defended Hindenberg Line and the Allies faced a new challenge.

In April 1917, continuing into May, the battalion took part in the Battles of the Scarpe, fought east of Arras around Vimy and often called the Battle of Arras. Once more, early successes petered out and there were again heavy losses. The summer and autumn of 1917 was the time of the Third Battle of Ypres - often known as Passchendaele - fought in terrible conditions with heavy rain and thick mud making progress nearly impossible, shelling once again failed to destroy enemy positions and once again there were terrible losses. During this time, 1st Battalion was in action at the Battles of Langemarck, Broodseinde and Poelcapelle, once again with substantial losses. In October 1917 it took part, now as part of the 16th (Irish) Division, in the Battle of Cambrai when new tactics were introduced and tanks were used on a large-scale for the first time. Early successes were largely nullified by a strong enemy counterattack and, yet again, there were heavy casualties on both sides.

At the beginning of March 1918 enemy positions had been strangely quite and there was a general belief that a major German attack was to be expected at any time Then, on 21st March, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenberg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. The objective was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. 1st Battalion, which in February had taken in 10 officers and 200 men from 8/9th Battalion, was then in well-established trenches near Epehy, alongside other Irish battalions, all part of 16th Division. The German advance was preceded, starting at 4.40am, by a very heavy bombardment which included gas shells and subsequent attack was initially resisted but eventually gained ground on all sides, forcing the battalion to withdraw to a new line to the west of Saint-Emile. In the confusion large numbers became missing and only 5 officers and 90 other ranks remained when it finally regrouped. Other battalions had similar huge losses and, in April, by which time the Germans had called off their offensive, 1st battalion took in what remained of 2nd Battalion and joined 86th Brigade of 29th Division for the remainder of the war.

In August the tide began to change when Allies had achieved a major breakthrough at the Battle of Amiens and now planned to use this significant change in the momentum of the war across the wider front, a turning point of the First World War on the Western Front and the beginning of the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive. For its part, 1st battalion was in action in the capture of Ploegsteert and Hill 63 in early September and the 5th Battle of Ypres in late September/Early October when all of the high ground around Ypres was occupied by the Allies.

It was on the first day of the subsequent Battle of Courtrai, on 14th October, less that a month before fighting was ended at the Armistice, that Private Buckley was killed in action. He had been in France for nearly three years.

Private Buckley is buried in the Ledeghem Military which is located 17 Km east of Ypres town centre. Ledeghem was almost captured on 19 October 1914 by the 10th Hussars, who were forced to retire the same day. It then remained in German hands for four years. On 1 October 1918, the 9th (Scottish) Division captured the village, but could not hold the whole of it; it was finally cleared by the 29th Division on 14 October. The church, the school and the civil hospital of Ledeghem were used by the Germans as hospitals, and in October 1914 to September 1918, they buried German and Commonwealth casualties in three cemeteries in the commune. Ledeghem Military Cemetery was made by the 29th Division (as "Ledeghem New Cemetery") in October 1918. The graves of 14 casualties who died in October 1914 and September and October 1918, were removed to this cemetery in October 1951 from Ledeghem Churchyard. There are now 85 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War in this cemetery. 17 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to two soldiers believed to be buried among them, and one whose grave was destroyed by shell fire in Ledeghem Churchyard. The cemetery was designed by W H Cowlishaw8.

He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star9. His financial effects of 26 3s 3d, which included his War Gratuity of 23, were paid to his father on 14 April 191910.

1The photograph of Ledeghem Military Cemetery is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His year of birth is estimated based on his age recorded in the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
3Mallow, Co. Cork, Ireland: 1901 Census. His father, age 40, was then a widower. His siblings were Ellen (b. c1891), John (b. c1893) and Dora (b. c1897).
4Beeston, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 407.
5As his Army Service Record has not survived his date of enlistment has been calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity,
6The date of his arrival in France is recorded on his Medal Card.
7A more complete account of 1st Battalions deployment in Gallipoli and in subsequent years in France and Belgium can be found at www.dublin-fusiliers.com/battaliions/1-battalion.html. There is a summary of its deployment on the Forces War Records website at www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/298/royal-dublin-fusiliers. 8This description of the Ledeghem Military Cemetery is based on that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
9Details from Thomas Henry's Medal Roll entry and his Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
10Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.

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