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  cap badgePrivate Luke O'Neill

1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers
Service No: 22128

Luke O'Neill grave

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Personal details

Family Information

Son of Roderick Roger O'Neill and Mary Ann O'Neill of Portglenone, Co. Antrim. They married on the 30/10/1889 in the district of Ballymoney. Although Luke was born in Portglenone he lived most of his life in Rasharkin. From the 1901 Census - Address - Lisrodden, Lisnagarran, Antrim, Ireland - Roderick O'Neill aged 42, Mary A O'Neill aged 31, John O'Neill aged 10 born 01/01/1891, Alexander O'Neill aged 8 born 21/04/1892, Luke O'Neill aged 7 born 25/03/1894, Hugh O'Neill aged 1 born 07/10/1899. Luke had another brother called Patrick born 23/03/1896 and died 12/03/1898. In his Will dated 14/07/1916 Luke left all his property and effects to his father. His Pension was awarded to his father on the 07/05/1917.

Born / Resided

Gortfad, Portglenone, Co. Antrim / 66j Coats St, Coatbridge

Died

Killed in Action on the 12/10/1916 near Eaucourt during the Battle of Le Transloy (part of the Battles of the Somme)

Enlisted

Coatbridge 24/06/1915

Employed

Labourer in Tennents Foundry

Age

22 / DOB - 25/03/1894

Buried / Remembered

Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 15 A), Somme, France

Cemetery / Memorial Information

The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave, the majority of whom died during the Somme offensive of 1916. On the high ground overlooking the Somme River in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place, stands the Thiepval Memorial. Towering over 45 metres in height, it dominates the landscape for miles around. It is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world. On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, 13 divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July.

Additional Information

The Battalion arrived at Boulogne on the 23/08/1914 and were part of the 10th Brigade, 4th Division. Luke arrived in France on the 31/12/1915. Luke was Killed in Action near Eaucourt and was 1 of 76 of his Battalion Killed on the 12/10/1916. His unit had received orders on the 11th October 'for an attack on German position 600 yards in front of main Le Transloy line on the 12th.' On the 12th 'The Battalion left the trenches in great style. Pressing too close to it [the barrage] as some were hit by our own shells. Suddenly machine guns opened through the barrage in front enfilading the whole line. They were forced to halt. This gave the Germans just enough time to bring up their machine guns and the Regiment then had no chance at all.' Chaos ensued and HQ did not know what was happening. Communications broke down as many officers were killed or injured and partly because 'the enemy put a very heavy barrage on our front line for over five hours.' At about midnight, however, news reached HQ that the men were in the objective, the trench taken from the British at the start of the Somme battle, and 'orders were received to consolidate on line and to push out patrol to Dewdrop trench'. They did so and were then relieved by the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders on the 13th October. This was part of the Battle of Le Transloy, 1st – 18th October 1916 : A period of fighting in terrible weather in which the heavy, clinging, chalky Somme mud and the freezing, flooded battlefield became as formidable an enemy as the Germans. The British gradually pressed forward, still fighting against numerous counter-attacks, in an effort to have the front line on higher ground from which the offensive could be renewed in 1917. This Battle was part of the The Battles of the Somme, 1916 1 July – 18 November 1916: the Somme. A Franco-British offensive that was undertaken after Allied strategic conferences in late 1915, but which changed its nature due to the German attack against the French in the epic Battle of Verdun, which lasted from late February to November. Huge British losses on the first day and a series of fiercely-contested steps that became attritional in nature. For all armies on the Western Front it was becoming what the Germans would call “materialschlacht”: a war not of morale, will or even manpower, but of sheer industrial material might. The 15th September 1916 saw the first-ever use of tanks in the step known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The British army in France is now approaching its maximum strength in numbers but is still developing in terms of tactics, technology, command and control. Luke was confined to barracks for 1 week in Belfast after being absent for 24 hours on the 22/10/1915. He is also remembered in the St Patrick's Roll of Honour (book). See photos for Luke's Medal Index Card, his name on the Ballymena War Memorial x 2, the Ballymena War Memorial and one of myself at the War Memorial taken by my friend Jay Beattie. Also see photos for Luke's Army Register of Soldiers Effects, his Service Medal and Award Rolls, his CWGC Grave Registration, his name on the Thiepval Memorial, the family on the 1901 Ireland Census, Luke's listing in the Ireland Casualties WW1, his Service Records x 6, Luke's Will x 2, his Pension Records x 3 and the Royal Irish Fusiliers Cap Badge.

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