The 36th (Ulster) Division in 1914-1918
The history of 36th (Ulster) Division
In September 1914, the Ulster Division was formed from the Ulster Volunteer Force which raised thirteen battalions for the three Irish regiments based in Ulster: the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Rifles. A unique situation existed. This summary is from Ray Westlake’s “Kitchener’s Army”:
“It took several weeks after war was declared that permission to form an Ulster Division was granted. The Ulster Volunteer Force, a Protestant organisation created by Sir Edward Carson as a force to counter the threat of the Home Rule Bill, was already in existence and its members were as eager as any to join the war. However, due to the political situation in Ireland, things were held up. Many volunteers refused to wait and either crossed to England or Scotland to enlist, or joined the 10th or 16th Divisions already being formed by the War Office in Ireland.
With over 80,000 members, it was clear that the UVF was in a position to make an important contribution to the recruitment of the New Armies. Lord Kitchener met with Sir Edward Carson in London who, although eager to help was concerned at how the situation in Ireland might turn while his force was away at war. The Government were not able to give any guarantees that might put Sir Edward’s mind at rest. However, he later agreed to raise a Division, without any conditions, and within days had placed an order for 10,000 uniforms with a London firm of outfitters.”
The UVF was not only organised, but trained to some extent as a military force, and had been armed. It was therefore considerably more advanced as a formed body of men than the similar formations of the New Armies now being created elsewhere.
These battalions were clothed and administered by their raisers in the same way as the locally raised New Army battalions in Great Britain, although the UVF was at a high state of readiness in August 1914 as a result of heightened tensions in connection with the Home Rule debate that had occurred earlier in the year".
August: Formed in Ireland as the Ulster Division, with Brigades numbered 1,2 and 3. On 28 August 1914, the Division and its Brigades adopted the titles shown on this page.
July: the Division moved to Seaford on the Sussex coast of England. Lord Kitchener inspected the Division there on 27 July 1915, and later remarked to Carson “your Division of Ulstermen is the finest I have yet seen”. Another inspection took place, by King George V, on 30 September
3-6 October: the Division moved to France, although the artillery remained in England until November.
The Ulster Division initially concentrated in the area around Flesselles, some ten miles north of Arras. Gradually, men were sent in groups for familiarisation with trench warfare conditions, and were attached to the regular army 4th Division for the purpose in the (at this time) quiet are north of the River Ancre near Albert.
On 21 October the Division was moved away from the fighting area towards Abbeville, where it spent most of the winter of 1915-16 continuing training. One of the Brigades was attached to 4th Division for several weeks at this time and the artillery finally rejoined.
The whole Division finally took over a complete section of the front line on 7 February, between the River Ancre and the Mailly-Maillet to Serre road. Division HQ was at Acheux. In the first week of March, the Division extended its front, the 109th Brigade taking over the sector south of the Ancre, known by the name of Thiepval Wood.
The Division remained in the Wesrern Friont in France and Flanders throughout the rest of the war and took part in the following engagements
The Battle of Albert* in which the Division attacked at the Schwaben Redoubt near Thiepval.
This map, an extract of a larger map from the British Official History, shows the ground over which the Ulstermen attacked on 1 July. Their front line skirted the northern edge of Thiepval wood, facing a gentle upward slope toward Schwaben Redoubt, a defensive complex in the second main German trench system north of Thiepval.
The Division was relieved on 2 July, having suffered 5104 casualties of who approximately 2069 died.
* the battle marked * is a phase of the Battles of the Somme 1916
The Battle of Messines, in which the Division captured Wytschaete
The Battle of Langemarck**
** the battles marked ** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917
The Cambrai Operations, including the capture of Bourlon Wood
The Division was substantially reorganised in February 1918.
The Battle of St Quentin+
On 21 March 1918 the Division was holding a sector of the British front line and Forward Zone south west of St Quentin. The main defences consisted of a number of isolated redoubts, in which the Ulstermen held on for several hours while under bombardment and ultimately being surrounded and cut off.
The Actions at the Somme Crossings+
The Battle of Rosieres+
+ the battles marked + are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Messines++
The Battle of Bailleul++
The First Battle of Kemmel Ridge++
++ the battles marked ++ are phases of the Battles of the Lys
The Battle of Ypres^
The Battle of Courtrai^
The action of Ooteghem^
^ the battles marked ^ are phases of the Final Advance in Flanders
On 11 November the Division was at Mouscron, north east of Tourcoing. It remained there throughout the period of demobilisation. It ceased to exist on 29 June 1919.
The Great War cost 36th (Ulster) Division 32186 men killed, wounded or missing.
The order of battle of the 36th (Ulster) Division
|This brigade was attached to 4th Division for instructional purposes between 5 November 1915 and 3 February 1916|
|8th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(East Belfast) renamed as 8/9th from August 1917 and disbanded 7 February 1918|
|9th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(West Belfast) merged into 9th Bn from August 1917|
|10th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(South Belfast) disbanded 20 February 1918|
|15th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(North Belfast)|
|107th Machine Gun Company||joined 18 December 1915, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918|
|107th Trench Mortar Battery||joined 1 April 1916|
|1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers||joined August 1917, left for 108th Bde February 1918|
|1st Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||joined February 1918|
|2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||joined February 1918|
|11th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(South Antrim) renamed as 11/13th from 13 November 1917 and disbanded 18 February 1918|
|12th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(Central Antrim)|
|13th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(County Down) merged into 11th Bn on 13 November 1917|
|9th Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers||(County Armagh)|
|108th Machine Gun Company||joined 26 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918|
|108th Trench Mortar Battery||joined 1 April 1916|
|7th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||joined October 1917, merged into 2nd Bn November 1917|
|2nd Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||joined November 1917, left February 1918|
|1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers||joined from 107th Bde February 1918|
|9th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers||(County Tyrone)|
|10th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers||(Derry) disbanded January 1918|
|11th Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers||(Donegal and Fermanagh) disbanded February 1918|
|14th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(Young Citizens) disbanded February 1918|
|109th Machine Gun Company||joined 23 January 1916, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918|
|109th Trench Mortar Battery||joined 1 April 1916|
|1st Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers||joined February 1918|
|2nd Bn, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers||joined February 1918|
|This brigade was attached from 4th Division in exchange for 107th Brigade between 4 November 1915 and 3 February 1916|
|16th Bn, the Royal Irish Rifles||(County Down Pioneers) Divisional Pioneer Battalion|
|1st Bn, the Royal Irish Fusiliers||joined August 1917, left for 107th Bde same month|
|266th Machine Gun Company||joined 17 January 1918, moved to 36th Bn MGC 1 March 1918|
|36th Battalion MGC||formed 1 March 1918|
|Divisional Mounted Troops|
|Service Sqn, the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons||left June 1916|
|36th Divisional Cyclist Company, Army Cyclist Corps||broken up 31 May 1916|
|The original artillery of 36th (Ulster) Division, shown below, did not accompany the Division to France in November 1915, but rejoined it there in December. The artillery of the 56th (1st London) Division moved to France with 36th (Ulster) Division and remained under command until 12 December 1915.|
|CLIII Brigade, RFA|
|CLIV (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA||broken up late September 1916|
|CLXXII Brigade, RFA||broken up 31 January 1917|
|CLXXIII Brigade, RFA|
|36 Heavy Battery RGA||raised with that Division but broken up while still at home|
|36th Divisional Ammunition Column RFA|
|V.36 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, RFA||joined 20 June 1916; disbanded 11 February 1918|
|X.36, Y.36 and Z.36 Medium Mortar Batteries, RFA||formed 1 June 1916; on 11 February 1918, Z broken up and batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each|
|121st Field Company|
|122nd Field Company|
|150th Field Company|
|36th Divisional Signals Company|
|Royal Army Medical Corps|
|108th Field Ambulance|
|109th Field Ambulance|
|1110th Field Ambulance|
|76th Sanitary Section||left April 1917|
|Other Divisional Troops|
|36th Divisional Train ASC||251, 252, 253 and 254 Companies.|
|48th Mobile Veterinary Section AVC|
|233rd Divisional Employment Company||joined 21 July 1917|
|35th Divisional Motor Ambulance Workshop||disbanded April 1916|
The Ulster Memorial Tower near Thiepval stands on the ground over which the Division attacked on 1 July 1916. It houses a small museum and affords from the grounds superb views over the Ancre valley towards Beaumont Hamel.
This page is dedicated to the memory of 36th (Ulster) Division men like
Private 16434 Samuel Neill of the Royal Irish Fusiliers landed in France on 4 October 1915, serving with the original contingent of the 9th (Service) Battalion, which was also known as the Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan Volunteers. A resident of Tamnaghvelton, Tandragee, he was a 1912 signatory of the Ulster Covenant. Samuel was wounded during the war and transferred to the Labour Corps.
Samuel was researched in detail for a private client by fourteeneighteen|research