Information, articles, stories photographs and memory's from the 1st and 2nd world wars.
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Location: Warrenpoint


#1 Post by dukestreet » Mon May 06, 2013 8:08 pm

(PART 1)
In the summer of 1914, Ireland was a deeply divided country. Nationalists and Unionists were preparing to go to war over Home Rule but fate intervened and by August 1914 after a series of diplomatic blunders by sabre rattling powers, the nations of Europe found themselves at war. The accelerating conflict in Ireland was brought to a halt by Great Britain declaring war on Germany and her Allies and almost immediately old divisions and enmities were forgotten. Historians have estimated that as many as 300,000 Irishmen fought in WWI, in the British Army, American army and the armies of other dominions of Britain such as Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Almost 50,000 Irishmen lost their lives.
Many young Warrenpoint men, imbued with a sense of patriotism and adventure, hastily enlisted, afraid that if they didn’t volunteer quickly enough, they would miss the war. Men of all classes and creeds from the town enlisted in that force and many of these men never returned from France, they were shot, blown up, atomised in the ferocious brutality that was World War I.
All they have now is their names engraved on marble plinths in lonely graveyards in France, Gallipoli and the Middle East. Irish men of all hues found out that German or Turkish bullets and bombs were not bigoted, they killed Catholics and Protestants indiscriminately. Many families in the town received the dreaded buff telegram that informed them that a family member had perished. Of the men that did return we shall never fully know of the torments and trials they went through, as they tried to get on with their lives, rear their families and try to put the atrocities of war that they witnessed at first hand behind them.

WORLD WAR I – An Overview
In June 1914, Warrenpoint seemed far removed a world war but that all changed on June 28th of that year when a Serbian assassin named Gavrilo Princip, shot and fatally wounded the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife Sophia, in Sarajevo. This act, many historians argue, was the spark that ignited the First World War, a tragic conflict that may have been avoided, if wiser heads had prevailed.
The combatants on both sides were confident of a quick victory, and many believed that the war would be over by Christmas 1914, sadly it was not to be. World War I quickly became a war of attrition, stalemate and great tragedy; the participants were soon engulfed in a great ocean of human misery. The First World War lasted from 1914-1918 and involved more countries and it caused more destruction than any other war before it. Millions of people lost their lives and many more lost limbs, were blinded or horribly disfigured. Men were gassed, suffered shellshock and never recovered and were dogged with poor health for the rest of their lives.
By the end of 1914 the fighting in France had settled into a stalemate along a 450 mile long front from Switzerland to the English Channel. For four years soldiers endured dreadful conditions in the trenches. The killing was on an industrial scale previously unheard of. They faced constant shelling and were ordered to march out to attack German positions in a holding formation, to face the enemy machine guns, without the aid of a helmet. Steel helmets were not issued until 1916. Soldiers had to stand for hours up to their knees in freezing water. Naturally their health deteriorated and the cases of ‘Trench Foot’ skyrocketed. They also had to contend with lice and rats as big as cats.
These veterans on returning home were promised a ‘home fit for heroes,’ by David Lloyd George the British Prime Minister but many of the Irish soldiers instead faced political uncertainty, massive unemployment, dreadful social deprivation and virtual starvation.

The First World War had long term repercussions on the social fabric of society, with many children orphaned and wives widowed. Obituaries from the Newry Reporter during the war years, confirm that Warrenpoint soldiers were included in the ‘glorious dead’. One such report (extract from the paper below) from May 22nd, 1915 highlighted the case of Warrenpoint native Mrs. Mary Foote. Married to Private Herbert Lester Foote, from Warley in Essex, she was formerly Miss Mary Morgan from Church Street Lane in Warrenpoint. Private Herbert L. Foote was with the Rifle Brigade, Prince Consort’s Own and was only in France from 12th September 1914, he was the first casualty with a Warrenpoint connection when he was killed in March 1915; sadly he would not be the last.
‘At a patriotic entertainment held in the pavilion, Warrenpoint, in September last ‘The P & Q’s Variety Company’ handed over £5 for the first woman in Warrenpoint who was widowed by the war. Mrs, Mary Foote, of Church Street Lane, has just claimed the money, as her husband, Bugler Herbert Foote, of the Royal Irish Rifles having been killed in action on the 24th March last. Mrs. Foote has two little children, one of whom has been born since her husband went to France. The money, which was on deposit receipt in the names of Messrs. W. Johnson and R.S. Redmond, was sent to her on Monday.’
This would not be the last of the pain the Morgan family would have inflicted on them as a result of WW1. Mrs. Mary Foote (nee Morgan) had four brothers, Patrick, John, William and Francis, who enlisted in the fight against the Germans. John, a Corporal in the East Surrey Regiment and Francis, 24552, Highland Light Infantry was wounded in May 1916, and he eventually was killed as well. William the youngest also enlisted in the armed forces. Mr. Patrick Morgan Senior received a letter from 2nd Lieut. Cowper of the East Surrey Regiment on the 22nd June 1916 from “somewhere in France.”
Dear Mr. Morgan,-
It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of your son Corporal John Morgan’s death. He was killed by a shell about 3am. Corporal Morgan was a man I was very fond of; he had been under me since August last. And was one of my best ‘Lewis’ gunners. His wristlet watch has been handed in to the authorities, who will forward it to you. His death was instantaneous, and he suffered no pain.
We buried him with another of his team on the battlefield and marked his grave as best we could. Again expressing my sympathy, believe me.
Yours very sincerely,
C.R. Cowper (2nd Lieut.)
John’s brother, Patrick ‘Spuddy’ Morgan ex-Royal Irish Fusiliers, who fought at the Battle of Mons in October 1914 and had a very narrow escape from death when he was seriously wounded during heavy fighting at the Battle of Ypres, in the spring of 1915. Patrick was shot through the head, but miraculously survived and was repatriated home to Warrenpoint but he recovered and returned to the front line in France. Paddy Morgan and many other casualties like him would have been glad of a steel helmet. Following his return to the battlefield ’Spuddy’ was captured by the Germans and spent some time as a POW before returning to the ‘Point. Three other son-in-laws of Mr. Patrick Morgan, a general dealer, of Church St. Lane also served in WW1, Private Hegarty, Private Thomson and Private Smith.
Mrs. Mary Foote remarried and settled in Kent in the South of England, where her grandchildren live today.
Another local family who suffered losses during the Great War was the Toombs family. Mrs. Sarah J. Tombs of 13 Thomas Street, Warrenpoint was informed by the War Office that her husband Joshua R. Toombs, a private in the Inniskilling Fusiliers was reported missing in action on the 1st of July 1916. More bad news was to come for the Toombs family, when Sarah’s son Robert Toombs Junior, aged 20, a private in the 164thCompany, Machine Gun Corps died of his wounds on the 10th of September 1916 at the Somme. He is buried at Bernafay Wood Cemetery. In March 1917 Mrs. Toombs got an official communiqué from the War Office that her previously reported missing husband Joshua R. Tombs, was officially classified as having been killed.
Other members of the Toombs family who enlisted included Richard Toombs, of the Royal Engineers, Robert Toombs of the Royal Irish Rifles and 19 year old Lance Corporal Joseph Toombs of the 1st Battalion Kings Liverpool Regiment, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for getting injured men back to their own trenches. On five different occasions he went out into no-mans-land to bring wounded comrades to safety

During my childhood in the early 1950’s, the name Johnny ‘Foggy’ was used by my father as a subtle threat to make me curb my misbehaviour. I often heard the threat, ‘You better behave or Johnny Foggy will take you away,’ and this simple sentence terrified me into submission. Due to my father’s bizarre, but effective parenting skills, the name Johnny ‘Foggy’ has been branded indelibly into my mind; he became my very own bogey man.
The vague image I have of Johnny ‘Foggy’ is of a sad, elderly gentleman walking down Duke Street wearing a flat cap and an old greasy dustcoat, just minding his own business. As I got older, when this man’s name was mentioned by older acquaintances, I had lost my fear of him and often wondered who was this spectral figure? It was only in more recent times I found out what this mythical man’s surname was. It was Forgey, but as Warrenpoint people can very easily bestow nicknames on to people, or maybe the surname was simply mispronounced as Foggy, the name stuck, which in a way added to the myth. A man who lived in a fog.
Johnny ‘Foggy’ was born, John Forgey, in 1887, and his mother died while he was an infant. As a youngster he lived with his father and stepmother Margaret on a farm on the Upper Dromore Road. A few years later the family moved to 8 Back Seaview, nowadays we call that area Springfield Road. Johnny was an agricultural labourer but he also found work as a coal-heaver at Kelly’s Quay. By all accounts he was a man who knew how to perform a good day’s work.
Through my research I discovered that Johnny’s involvement in World War I came about as a result of legal proceedings. According to an edition of the Newry Reporter in May 1915 Johnny attended a Special Court of Petty Sessions in Warrenpoint on charges of alleged larceny. Constable Enright arrested Johnny for the theft of a red flannel petticoat, the property of his stepmother Margaret, which she said he had sold for 6d.
His stepmother immediately dropped all charges when she found out that her stepson was involved with the missing garment. But the court in its infinite wisdom and mercy granted Johnny bail, on receiving a promise that he would immediately enlist in the British Army.
Cannon fodder on the Western Front was getting very scarce after a year into the war. Johnny Foggy enlisted in the 17th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in 1915, and prior to going to France he was stationed at training camp on Slieve Donard, Newcastle.
Unfortunately trouble followed Johnny like a shadow. During his stay in Newcastle he ‘borrowed’ a bicycle and cycled to Warrenpoint. He had been eager to visit his hometown because a large-scale recruitment day was taking place, lead by the Vice-Regal, and he decided to find his own means of transport to take part in what reportedly was a gala day in the ‘Point. When the authorities discovered his act, Johnny found himself in trouble yet again, but rather than face charges, he opted to head off to France sooner than scheduled and he soon found himself in the thick of the fighting.
He was transferred to the Royal Engineers as a Sapper and was stationed at the frontline in France digging trenches and earth work fortifications. While he was reinforcing some trenches on the Western Front, Johnny got caught in a barrage of German artillery. Johnny was trapped underground for a week and only survived by sucking on ice, before he was rescued.
Johnny returned to Warrenpoint after the war, and took up work as a casual labourer. He had further run-ins with the law which were mostly alcohol related incidents. The last alleged sighting of Johnny was in Ardee in the 1950s.
For a man who faced down his own personal bogey men in deplorable conditions during World War One and survived through sheer tenacity, it seems a rather inglorious end that he ultimately became a figure of fear for a young boy, when he could so easily have been a childhood hero, which he probably was.

PART TWO of Warrenpoint & WW1 will be featured in the next edition of the Warrenpoint Historical magazine, due to lack of space in this year’s edition. It will feature more local families such as the McKinleys, McGibneys, Gouchers, McGiverns, Nugents, Campbells, Steensons, Ruddys, Pedlows, Reays, and Peers.

1901 Census
1911 Census
I am indebted to local men Michael Hourican, Albert McMahon, Billy Larmour, Billy McKinley, Jim Taylor, who shared their memories of relatives and people who served in WW1, and to George Goucher who put at my disposal his considerable research documents.
More information provided by these gentlemen will feature in part two of this article. Unfortunately due to space restrictions, I’ve had to divide the article in two halves.

Hugh B. Heatley
Sadly the men who served in WW1 that are named here are only a fraction of the people from this town who endured that hell. I know there is still a host of information out there concerning this subject; I would welcome any information about local involvement regarding WW1.


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#2 Post by Deirdre » Tue May 07, 2013 5:56 am

Excellent writing Hugh... Interesting reading matter.

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