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The Royal Irish Regiment remember their 18 VC holders across the world

The 1 July is a significant day for remembrance in the Royal Irish Regiment, but this year was particularly poignant as they remembered 18 Victoria Cross recipients, across the world, in one unique moment in time, at 11am.

This was an inspired concept designed to celebrate the rich and unique history of The Royal Irish Regiment’s 18 VC recipients. On 1st July, we simultaneously marked their valour at numerous locations across the globe General Colin Weir CB, DSO, MBE

General Colin Weir CB, DSO, MBE said:

“This was an inspired concept designed to celebrate the rich and unique history of The Royal Irish Regiment’s 18 VC recipients. On 1 July, we simultaneously marked their valour at numerous locations across the globe; from Israel, to Turkey, to Belgium and France, and in the UK and Ireland.”

General Weir attended the grave of Private (Pte) Robert Morrow, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers at White House Cemetery, St Jean-Les-Ypres, Belgium. Pte Morrow received his VC for rescuing soldiers who had been buried in the debris of trenches wrecked by shell fire. Unfortunately, Pte Morrow never received his award in person as he was fatally wounded thirteen days after his VC action.

Colonel (Retd) Tim Collins OBE travelled to Haifa, Israel to pay tribute to Private Norman Harvey who fought in both world wars.  He was awarded his VC for actions in Belgium as a member of the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 25 October 1918.

The London Gazette of 6 January 1919 reported: For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty near Ingoyghem on the 25 October, 1918, when his battalion was held up and suffered heavy casualties from enemy machine guns. Pte Harvey throughout the day displayed the greatest valour, and his several actions enabled the line to advance, saved many casualties, and inspired all.

Norman Harvey represents a great generation. Having volunteered aged only 15 he won the highest decoration for courage, having fought throughout the First World War." COLONEL (RETD) TIM COLLINS OBE

Colonel (Retd) Tim Collins OBE said:

“Norman Harvey represents a great generation. Having volunteered aged only 15 he won the highest decoration for courage, having fought throughout the First World War. He then left his safe life and family to volunteer during the Second World War in the face of the racist threat knowing full well what to expect.  He was killed in action in a, now, almost forgotten theatre of that war, but one that was crucial to the ultimate victory.”

There were numerous events in France and Belgium, where the The Royal Irish Veterans Associations attended ceremonies at Thiepval, Pozieres and Cambrai, with the focus on three of the four VC recipients: Captain Bell, Lieutenant Cather and Private McFadzean, who earned their award for actions on 1 July 1916. All three fell during the Great War and their VCs were awarded posthumously to their families. 

One of the soldiers remembered at The Thiepval Memorial was Rifleman William Frederick McFadzean, 14th Royal Irish Rifles. His extract from the London Gazette records: "For most conspicuous bravery. While in a concentration trench and opening a box of bombs for distribution prior to an attack, the box slipped down into the trench, which was crowded with men, and two of the safety pins fell out. Private McFadzean, instantly realising the danger to his comrades, with heroic courage threw himself on the top of the bombs. The bombs exploded blowing him to pieces, but only one other man was injured. He well knew his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment's hesitation he gave his life for his comrades."

Of those awarded the VC for actions on 1 July 1916, only Rifleman Robert Quigg survived the war. He died on the 14 May 1955, aged 70, at Ballycastle, Northern Ireland and was buried at Billy Church Bushmills. On Saturday the citation at his grave was read by his Great Nephew Leonard Quigg.

Colonel Stewart Douglas paid tribute saying:

“Rifleman Quigg is a legend in Bushmills. He was reportedly quite a character! He was awarded the VC for exceptional gallantry for valour, saving seven of his injured colleagues from no-mans land and of the four VCs awarded to our antecedents that day Rifleman Quigg was the only recipient who lived to wear his medal. We are very proud of him and the example he set to us all.”

This very special event had been devised by leading lights in our veteran community and was supported by today’s Regiment. We are proud to have been able to take part, and even more proud to be the inheritors of the legacy of these remarkable Irish soldiers." General Colin Weir CB, DSO, MBE

The final act of commemoration took place at Thiepval, on the ground attacked by the 36th (Ulster) Division on the First Day of the Somme. That day, 1 July 1916, remains the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. 19,000 lost their lives and another 38,000 wounded.

Nine VCs were awarded to the men of the 13 British divisions which attacked on the 1 July; four of these were awarded to the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division. On Saturday, for the very first time, all four of the Division’s VCs were present at Thiepval.

This was a very unique and immensely moving moment.

General Colin Weir CB, DSO, MBE said:

“This very special event had been devised by leading lights in our veteran community and was supported by today’s Regiment. We are proud to have been able to take part, and even more proud to be the inheritors of the legacy of these remarkable Irish soldiers.”