ON THIS DAY: 1st July 1916: SENTRY HILL & THE SOMME
Amidst the many commemorations that are taking place around the world today to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, it can be easy to forget how the small town of Letterkenny and its immediate hinterland was affected at the time by one of the bloodiest battles in human history. Between 1st July and 18th November 1916, the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front claimed more than one million casualties on both sides, either wounded or killed, and we know that at least 7 men from Letterkenny were amongst the dead, 4 of them on the very first day.
One of these men was Lance Corporal Daniel Doherty from Sentry Hill. He was the son of Maurice and Elizabeth Doherty and decided to enlist along with his three brothers Johnny, William and James. Sadly though, similar to the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, only one brother, William, would return home.
Corporal James Doherty served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and died on 16th Aug 1917 aged 20 years old and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium while his brother, Company Quartermaster Sergeant John Doherty of the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was killed in action on 22nd Mar 1918. He is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial at the Somme in France and was also the recipient of a Military Medal.
They were both predeceased though by their brother Lance Corporal Daniel Doherty, who had enlisted in Ramelton and served in the 11th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Along with three other men from Letterkenny, he died 100 years ago today, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916.
Edward Doohan who served in the 16th Battalion Royal Scots, Edward Tees Scott from Killylastin of the 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and Albert Victor Speer of the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (aged just 19) also died 100 years ago today and like Daniel Doherty are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial at the Somme. Of the approximately 200,000 Irishmen who enlisted in World War 1, somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 never returned home, including 1,200 from Donegal and approximately 91 from the Letterkenny area.
One hundred years on, we will never know the real reasons why these men chose to enlist and fight and it would be unfair to compare the complex political landscape that they lived in with what we live in today. However, whatever their personal motives may have been, first and foremost, these men were Letterkenny men and today we remember them with pride.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha