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War heroes' medals to go on display for Somme's centenary

By Chris McCullough

Published 25/06/2016

Private Robert Quigg
Private Robert Quigg
Rifleman William McFadzean, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Somme
The Victoria Cross awarded to Private Robert Quigg
Rifleman William McFadzean's name on the Ulster Tower

Two Victoria Cross medals awarded for outstanding bravery to two Royal Irish Riflemen will be on display in Belfast next weekend.

To commemorate the centenary of the Battle of The Somme, the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum will showcase the medals at its base on Waring Street, Belfast.

The medals were awarded to Private William McFadzean, from Lurgan, and Private Robert Quigg, from Bushmills, for their actions on July 1, 1916. On the morning in question, while soldiers were preparing grenades in Thiepval Wood, a box of primed grenades slipped off a parapet and fell into a crowded trench, the safety pins of two of the devices becoming dislodged.

Without hesitation, Pte William McFadzean,a 20-year-old rifleman in the 14th Battalion of The Royal Irish Rifles, threw himself on top of the box, which then exploded, killing him and injuring several others.

Pte Quigg, meanwhile, was awarded his medal for entering no man's land to search for his platoon commander.

Shortly after an advance by the 12th Battalion, the Rifles came under heavy machine gun and shell fire, leaving hundreds of soldiers either dead or wounded. After it was reported that Pte Quigg's platoon commander, Lieutenant Sir Harry Macnaghten, had gone missing, Quigg ventured out into no man's land in a bid to find him, returning seven times in as many hours with no success.

Each time he went out, he returned with a wounded soldier, reportedly crawling to rescue a colleague from within yards of a German position on one occasion.

Due to total exhaustion, Pte Quigg was forced to give up his search, and the body of Lieut Sir Harry Macnaghten was never recovered.

Royal Ulster Rifles Museum curator Gavin Glass said: "We are absolutely delighted to display the Victoria Crosses for public viewing. It is the first time for some years that both medals will be on display together. It is a fitting tribute to two outstandingly brave men."

The Royal Irish Rifles Museum will be open on July 1 and July 2, from 10am to 4pm, with many artefacts on display, including maps and a selection of George Hackney photographs from the first morning of the Battle of The Somme.

Also on display will be the war diaries of John Kennedy Hope and Jim Mault, with extracts of their recollections of the Battle of the Somme.

Belfast Telegraph

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