The war memorial in the diamond in Londonderry/Derry has personal significance to me as one of my Great-Great Uncle’s names appears on the south eastern face. He was killed on the second day of the first 1918 Battle of the Somme. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers with whom he was serving reported heavy losses on the first day, his death is recorded as on the second say of action of that spring offensive.
The Irish regiments were a mix of men of protestant and catholic background. Indeed looking through the list of names of fellow Inniskilling Fusiliers who died in that 15 day offensive there is a balanced mix, even on the memorial in the Diamond. Indeed in that battle the 36th (Ulster) Division and 16th (Irish) Division into which the Inniskilling’s battalions were split were the two heaviest losses in that campaign with 7310 and 7149 men falling respectively.
Some of them were remembered in the Diamond on Friday and Sunday. But this morning the remembrance of those men from all parts and all churches in the city was desecrated. A number of the wreathes were taken and found burnt at Free Derry corner.
The distance from the Diamond down Butcher Street, through Butcher gate in the wall at Magazine street and down Fahan Street to Free Derry Corner is all downhill and relatively short in distance. But the distance from one to the other has at times in the city’s past been great. The walled city defended by the Apprentice Boys of Derry and the corner down in the Bogside where the massacre of Bloody Sunday happened.
But from 1914-18 at least and 84 years ago at the time of the first Remembrance Day in the Diamond in 1927 with the finally unveiled memorial the people of Derry had gathered to pay their respects.
Today I’m glad that they are united in their condemnation:
“It is difficult to understand the mind-set of anyone who would do this.” William Hay MLA who also said he was “sickened” to learn of the incident
“There can be no place in our society for this kind of desecration or vandalism,” he said.
“It should not be used as an excuse by anyone to go out and do something similar, or heighten tensions in any community.” Cllr Mickey Cooper Sinn Féin
“I want to make it clear on behalf of the people of the Bogside in particular, that this action is not supported by that community.
“Those that felt the need to destroy items left at the Memorial on Remembrance Day are contributing nothing to the tolerant society we are seeking to build – and indeed I would go so far as to say that if those responsible spent more time reading about the World Wars that Memorial commemorates, than engaging in sectarian destruction, they would see many Irish names amongst the fallen. ” Pat Ramsey MLA
“I am disgusted by the actions of the mindless thugs responsible for the burning of these wreaths.
“It shows a lack of respect to those paid the ultimate sacrifice in two world wars and other conflicts.” Keith McGrellis Alliance Spokesperson
Speaking as someone’s whose family is represented by the 756 names, from all forces and both communities, on those memorial plagues around the base I want to echo the comments of others. With over 10 percent of the city having volunteered between 1914-18 everyone whose roots lie in the City has connections to someone who took part in the First World War. While there is a checquered history since that time in those four sort years men from all parts of that great city by the Foyle fought together and died side by side, irrespective of religion.
Their memory and their remembrance is the remembrance of all the people. We shall remember them and the acts of thoughtless, opportunist, thugs shall not deflect or whither that act of remembrance.