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THE GREAT WAR EXPERIENCES OF EDWARD REDDY, RATHBRIDE

The Great War experiences of Edward Reddy, Rathbride

James Durney


On 2 September 1914, a little over a month after the outbreak of the Great War, Edward Reddy, of Rathbride, Kildare, enlisted in the British Army for ‘the duration of the war’. He was demobilized on 27 July 1919, after four years and 269 days service, in which he had served in three different campaigns. Edward Reddy returned home to Co. Kildare, with three medals – the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal – and the physical scar of a wound to his right hand. Few, if anyone, asked of the mental scars of his four years of war in three of the war’s decisive battles fought in some of the world’s most unforgiving territory.
Edward Reddy was the youngest son of James and Bridget Reddy, Rathbride. James Reddy married Bridget Nolan on 5 January 1873. They had six children, recorded in the 1901 Census. All were born in Kildare and baptized in Allen parish: Margaret, 21 November 1880; Mary 3 September 1882; Anne, 26 October 1884; Patrick Joseph, 3 April 1887; Simon – only the year 1889 is recorded; and Edward, whose baptism is not recorded. Edward was eight years old in the 1901 Census, so we can assume he was born around 1892/3.
The Reddy family was heavily involved in the local GAA scene and Simon lined out for Kildare Round Towers when they beat Eyrefield, by 0-6 to 0-3, in the Co. Kildare 1911 Junior Football Final, played on 21 October 1911. On 25 July 1914 Edward and Patrick Reddy played for Milltown against Rathangan in the South Kildare Junior Championship at Maddenstown. Milltown won 0-8 to 0-0. A few weeks later Edward donned British Army khaki and on 31 October was assigned to the newly formed 7th Service Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers.
Within ten days of the outbreak of the war Lord Kitchener had called for 100,000 new recruits, and announced that six new divisions would be formed from them. One of these new divisions was the first ever ‘Irish’ division in the British Army – the 10th Irish. The 7th Royal Munster Fusiliers, together with the 6th Munsters and the 6th and 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers formed the 30th Brigade of the 10th Irish Division. Basic military training on the Curragh was followed by battalion training and then brigade field days. In April 1915 the division moved to Basingstoke, in England, where they practiced trench warfare and divisional route marches.
On 9 July 1915 the 30th Brigade of 10th Division, including the 7th Munsters, left Liverpool for the Greek island of Mudros and cast anchor there on 16 July. These troops were the first of the division to reach the advanced base of the Dardanelles operations. The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force had landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 to secure the high ground commanding the Narrows of the Dardanelles, and to silence or capture the Turkish batteries which barred its passage to the Allied fleet. The 10th Division (less one brigade) was to land at Suvla Bay, a name which brought sorrow to many Irish, and indeed, Kildare homes.
The 7th Munsters landed on the north shore of Suvla Bay on 7 August with a strength of twenty-eight officers and 750 men. They immediately went into action attacking the Kiretch Tepe Sirt Ridge and suffering severe casualties. After capturing the western edge of the ridge the Munsters dug in and then on 9 August attempted to advance but were beaten back. As Turkish reinforcements arrived all hope of an easy victory faded. In the fighting on 9 August Edward Reddy was hit in the hand by a Turkish bullet. On 15 August, a day known in Ireland as ‘Lady Day in Harvest,’ the 7th Munsters made an attack taking the north slope of the ridge, but Turkish reinforcements compelled them to retire. Twenty-three members of the battalion were killed. On the whole the 10th Division lost 114 officers and 3,000 men killed and wounded. The 10th Division had been shattered. The work of a year had been destroyed in a week.
By the 19 August the 7th Munsters were down to half-strength with more casualties being caused by sickness rather than enemy action. On 26 August Edward Reddy was admitted to the Field Ambulance Unit with complications due to his hand injury. He was subsequently placed on a hospital ship and arrived back at Hayton House Hospital, Carlisle, on 23 September 1915. A letter addressed to his father, James, said:
'I beg to inform you that your son No. 2006 Private Edward Reddy 7th R. M. Fusiliers was admitted to Hayton House Auxiliary Hospital Carlisle 23/9/1915 suffering from bullet wound right hand (slight).'
In February 1916 Edward was fully recovered and was shipped to Salonika, in Greece, where he joined the 6th Battalion, of the Royal Munster Fusiliers. The 10th Irish Division had left Gallipoli in late September 1915 and was dispatched to Salonika to assist the Greeks who were under threat from Bulgaria. In Edward’s absence the 10th Division had suffered a severe mauling from the Bulgarians in appalling winter weather. Throughout the spring and summer the Division refitted and retrained. In May the Bulgarians invaded Macedonia and the Munsters were involved in action on the Sturma river over the next couple of weeks. Private Arthur Moran, of the 6th Munsters, died in Macedonia on 29 September 1916. Arthur Moran was born in the Curragh, but it is not known whether Edward Reddy knew him. Malaria took a huge toll on troop strength and when few replacements were forthcoming the 6th Munster Battalion was amalgamated with the 7th Battalion.
On 18 August 1917 the 10th Division received orders to move to Palestine. Edward Reddy was admitted to hospital on 22 August suffering from malaria. By the end of the third week of September the division was concentrated in the area of Ismailia on the edge of the Suez Canal. A period of rest and training followed and then it was off to war again. The division had a limited involvement in the Battle of Gaza and was also involved in the capture of Jerusalem in December. By the middle of 1918 most of the battalions were well below strength and many units were further amalgamated, with only one Irish battalion remaining in each of the three infantry brigades of the 10th Irish Division. The other Irish battalions were sent to the Western Front and were replaced by Indian infantry battalions. From then on the Division ceased to be ‘Irish.’ Edward was transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 6 October 1918. By then the war in the Middle East was over.
Edward Reddy was demobilized in Dublin on 27 July 1919 and returned home to Rathbride, Kildare. His character was noted as ‘very good’. Two of Edward’s medals – the 1914-15 Star and the British War Medal – have survived, although the ribbons are missing.

Tom Reddy made a recent visit to Kildare Collection and Research Services at Newbridge Library with some information on his father, Edward Reddy.


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