Branch Meeting, 20 January, 2018.
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died of Wounds
20 January 1918
William was born in Dublin circa 1891, his Father was Francis Birney, by the time of the 1901 census the family was living in Lower Oriel Street (North Dock, Dublin). (1)
William is not on the Irish Census of 1911 and we know that he joined the army at Clydebank in Scotland, (2) from the amount of War Gratuity paid to his Father after his death we can estimate that this was in January 1915.
Given the number 18800, after training he was posted to the 1 Battalion, who had been at Gallipoli since 25 April 1915, he then entered the Balkans War theatre on 28 August 1915, where he presumably joined up with the rest of the battalion.
At some stage William was transferred to either the 7 or 8 Battalion, both of whom were in action in the Ypres area around the17/18 August 1917, where they suffered heavy casualties. The remnants of both battalions were moved to Achiet le Petit on the Somme where on 23 August 1917, they were amalgamated to form the 7/8 Battalion.
1 January 1918 found the battalion still on the Somme and in the front line, they were relieved on the 4th and moved to Villers-Faucon and then onto St. Emelie, the time being spent in training and clearing up, work parties etc. On the 16 they moved back into the front line and on the following day the Germans put down a heavy barrage and carried out a trench raid. Although the raid was beaten off the battalion suffered one killed, 7 wounded and 7 missing, given that William is reported to have died of wounds on 20 January, it would seem likely that he received his wounds in this action.
William was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory medals and is buried in Tincourt New British Cemetery just east of Peronne.
1. It would appear that his Mother was Mary Birnie, civil records show that a Mary Birnie, aged 38, died in Dublin in 1895, certainly Francis remarried in May 1897.
2. Soldiers Died In The Great War database.
Ian Chambers January 2018