Amongst the Diggers and the Kiwis

Apr 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

Lance Corporal Garnet Oyston Melloy, 7th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died 16th August 1915 at Gallipoli, Age Unknown, Helles Memorial

Private Harold George O’Brien, 7th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died 16th August 1915 at Gallipoli, Age 30, Helles Memorial

Garnet Melloy and Harold O’Brien would have known each other well.  Members of the same city centre parish, they probably enlisted together; volunteers for a war from a country where there was no conscription.  They were to die on the same day, perhaps side by side, in the futile and disastrous Gallipoli campaign.  Landing at Suvla Bay on 7th August 1915, both were killed and their bodies were unidentifiable nine days later.  Their names appear on the Helles Memorial, along with the names of 21,000 others who shared their fate.

Saint Thomas’ Church, their home parish, stood in Gloucester Street in Dublin’s north inner city.  A fine Georgian building, it was destroyed in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, burning timbers from a neighbouring building that had been shelled by the Free State forces setting the building alight.

On the losing side on the shores of Suvla Bay, Melloy and O’Brien and their comrades would be written from history back at home.  The Irish ballad The Foggy Dew expresses the sentiment that had they died alongside Pearse in the GPO they would have been remembered, but instead they lie in ‘lonely graves’.

‘Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go
that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Suvla’s waves
or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side
or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep
where the Fenians sleep
‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew.

Melloy and O’Brien would have attended church a few hundred yards from where Pearse would lead the Easter Rising in 1916; their Sunday worship was within a few yards of where Cathal Brugha would fall, after refusing to surrender to Free State troops in 1922; but dying in Suvla Bay was to be on the wrong side of history.

Even now, the idea of Protestant working class communities in the centre of Dublin is hard for some to accept.  A recent production of The Plough and the Stars cast the formidable Bessie Burgess, a Protestant and Loyalist whose son was away at the Western Front, as an Ulsterwoman.  Was it too much to accept that Protestants could be Dublin working class people?  Are the stereotypes still so deep rooted?

All who fell at Gallipoli will have been remembered at dawn on this ANZAC Day as the Australian and New Zealand peoples around the world mark the 94th anniversary of their forces’ landing on that ill fated expedition.  This evening, as the President is present at an act of commemoration at a service at Saint Anne’s Church in the city centre, the Rector of Saint Thomas’ Church, which was rebuilt from the ashes of 1922 and now stands in Cathal Brugha Street, will be present at that service, surplice freshly pressed to be chaplain to the President, and will remember Garnet Melloy and Harold O’Brien. I know she will, because I have told her so.

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  1. All wars are bloody, civil wars are the worst. Wars are made by politicians and fought by soldiers. I am not religious, but on remembrance day I think of all that have been sacrificed on the political altar. May they all rest in peace

  2. Are we the only nation that celebrates a national defeat so earnestly. I agree with Peter, Civil Wars are the worst, neighbour against neighbour but all wars are rubbish and in the end, they achieve little. Apparently the economic crisis has affected attendance by particularly Aussies and Kiwis at both Gallipoli and France this year . . .how we forget the ANZAC representation in the European and Japanese conflicts . .it’s all about Gallipoli . .

  3. “I know she will, because I have told her so”

    Love, honour and obey? 😉

  4. What’s even sadder about this is the British forces lost 43,000 men in this campaign and there is very little mention of it made ever due to the even more staggaring losses made in places like the Somme. The Turks lost 65,000 men – the whole campaign and similarly the war was a completely futile waste of human life.

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