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Ulster log: A homage to young men who fought in trenches

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 27/02/2016

The Chocolate Soldiers
The Chocolate Soldiers

Who were the Chocolate Soldiers of the First World War? They were the brave men of the Young Citizens Volunteers, paid tribute to in Steven Moore's intriguing tome The Chocolate Soldiers (Colourpoint £16).

"It has been in the making for close on 40 years, since I was a teenager," the author confides. "It began when I was collecting military cap badges."

Two of his relatives served in both the YCV and the 14th Royal Irish Rifles and he became the recipient of papers, postcards and letters which helped to launch his writing.

He has been to the Western Front countless times and has always felt the need to explore the war in which his great uncles William Moore and John Reid Moore had seen action with the 14th Rifles.

John became a sergeant and later transferred to the 109th Trench Mortar Battery. He was killed aged 22 on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. His brother William was company quartermaster and was later commissioned into the 12th Royal Irish Rifles. He was wounded twice in battle and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917. He survived the war.

In his 256 pages, Moore delicately treads in the footsteps of the naive young men of the YCV and the 14th as they were turned into battle-hardened troops - veterans like Edwin Sterritt who, despite losing a lung at Ypres in 1917, lived to celebrate a Golden Wedding with his wife Isabella.

The YCV was originally a youth movement which matured - through paramilitary leanings at a turbulent time in Irish history around 1912 - into a mighty fighting unit in the British Army during the Great War, merging with the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.

"The book has been a labour of love," says Steven, as he explains how he set out to create a work that would give readers a glimpse of what it was like to be a soldier in the First World War. "I hope I have done justice to the men of both the YCV and the 14th."

But here is the puzzle which lends itself to the title of the book: the Young Citizens did their duty on the field of battle, but were unkindly dubbed the Chocolate Soldiers. Read the book to find out why.

The term "Chocolate Soldiers" was popularised by George Bernard Shaw in his 1894 play Arms and the Man to describe a soldier who looks good in uniform, but isn't much use on the battlefield.

Newlywed Alex still the One for BBC show

Early evening BBC1 viewers will be relieved to hear that, even though she is now a happily married lady of just a few weeks, Alex Jones will not be departing The One Show. Indeed Alex will be there side by side with co-host Matt Baker on Monday at 7pm as charming and professional as ever talking to celebrities.

Alex, who will be 39 on March 18 — she doesn’t look a day over 25 — wed New Zealander Charlie Thomson last month and there were rumours that the couple were planning to move Down Under in the spring.

But they have bought their first home in the London area and have no plans to settle in New Zealand. Insurance broker Charlie has a good business in the UK and Alex is one of the most popular faces on television after replacing Ulster girl Christine Bleakley, who married footballer Frank Lampard recently.

The Welsh lady and the New Zealander met at a party three years ago and they have been an item ever since. Their nuptials were in Cardiff.

Alex’s first language at home was English, but she  was a pupil at the Welsh language school Maes yr Yrfa, and is fluent in both English and Welsh. Perhaps she will give Charlie lessons in Welsh, you never know.

After training as a ballet dancer, she studied theatre, film and television at Aberystwyth University.

Poem finds sunny side of not being with a man

Here’s a poem Eileen Gibb of Comber loves and which she is always asked to recite at church socials. It is called My Friend Kate and was written by a Joan Gaffney.

It often makes me wonder, it often makes me think,

When I rise up in the morning to greasy dishes in the sink,

For I’ve put soda on my griddle and rashers in the pan,

But Kate she’s in Majorca cause she never got a man.

I’ve a week each year in hospital to get a nice new Ba,

I keep changing smelly nappies in the footsteps of me Ma,

I’ll get a day in Bangor and I’ll try and get a tan,

But Kate she’s in Bermuda cause she never got a man.

Now my man he says he loves me and that might even be true,

I wonder will he say the same  when I hit 62?

But the Avon lady’s calling and I’ll look the best I can,

But Kate she’s in Haiti cause she never got a man.

Now do you wonder why I wonder and do you wonder why I think,

When I’m here up to my oxters in this matrimonial sink?

While Kate she’s in Australia, America or Japan,

Lying in the lap of luxury cause she never got a man.

Belfast Telegraph

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