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At 1130 pm on Saturday 15 May 1915, men of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers advanced to attack strongly held German defences near the village of Festubert in northern France. By the time they were relieved forty-eight hours later near midnight on 17 May, they had sustained 649 casualties – nearly two-thirds of the strength of the battalion. Amongst these casualties were 264 dead.
In a new book titled, ‘It was an Awful Sunday, the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Battle of Festubert, 15-17 May 1915’, local man Michael James Nugent, analyses the battle to discover why the Inniskillings suffered such horrendous casualties in this engagement.
The 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were a regular British Army battalion, part of a local Regiment with a long and distinguished history. With the Regimental depot in Omagh, the battalion recruited mainly from counties Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone and Belfast, but many other Irish counties were also represented.
On 15 May 1915, the 2nd Inniskillings were taking part in the first attack carried out at night in the war by British troops. The plan was to make their way out into no man’s land under cover of an artillery bombardment and lie down. At the appointed time, they were to advance with fixed bayonets and seize the German lines. However, the Germans were prepared and simply mowed down the Inniskillings with accurate machine-gun fire. Despite this, the Inniskillings were the only battalion in their Brigade to seize and hold the German trenches.
In the book, Michael takes the Inniskillings from the beginning of the war and describes what life and conditions were like for local men at the front. He also analyses factors which occurred over the months prior to the battle which had such a disastrous impact on the advance. How the battle was reported through the newspapers at home is also covered in detail, along with how families were informed of casualties. In addition, each of those killed is identified along with his place of origin.
The book is an authentic account of life and death at the front for local men in the early years of the First World War.
Published by Reveille Press, the book is available from all mainstream booksellers, priced £14.99
"At 1130 pm on Saturday 15 May 1915, men of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers advanced to attack strongly held German defences near the village of Festubert in northern France. By the time they were relieved forty-eight hours later near midnight on 17 May, they had sustained 649 … more
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