Election 2016

Somme Voices: The Sons of Ulster

rte.ie“The whistle blew, it was over the top, we kept running on. At first all went well, then the German machine-gunners opened up and killed and wounded hundreds of our boys. And then a kind of disorder set in. To me it seemed more like a riot than a battle.”

George McBride, UVF volunteer and member of the 36th Ulster Division, describing the first day of the Battle of the Somme; a day that saw 1,751 killed or fatally wounded. 1,283 from the North were to die, 468 from the South. The battle was to continue until November leaving one million dead and injured. 3,500 of the former were Irish. For George McBride talking to historian Philip Orr in 1986, in the UVF hospital in Craigavon, the trauma of those days was still vivid: “It’s an awful thing to kill a man. I was a Lewis Gunner and the ones that I did kill, maybe they had wives. Perhaps there is wife somewhere who is still mourning for her husband.”

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