James Somers VC


James Somers VCJames Somers was born in Belturbet, County Cavan on 12 June 1894. His family was living in Cloughjordan, Tipperary (in the Diocese of Killaloe), when he enlisted in The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1912 and was wounded during the British Expeditionary Force's retreat from Mons.

He was a 21 year-old serjeant in the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle of Gully Ravine, Gallipoli during the First World War. His award appeared in Supplement Number 29281 to The London Gazette dated Tuesday 31 August 1915 and stated:

No. 10512 Serjeant James Somers, 1st Battalion,
The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
For most conspicuous bravery on the night
of lst-2nd July, 1915, in the Southern Zone
of the Gallipoli Peninsula, when, owing to
hostile bombing, some of our troops had retired
from a sap, Serjeant Somers remained
alone on the spot until a party brought up
bombs. He then climbed over into the
Turkish trench, and bombed the Turks with
great effect.
Later on he advanced into the open under
very heavy fire and held back the enemy by
throwing bombs into their flank until a
barricade had been established. During this
period he frequently ran to and from our
trenches to obtain fresh supplies of bombs.
By his great gallantry and coolness Serjeant
Somers was largely instrumental in
effecting the recapture of a portion of our
trench which had been lost.

He wrote in a letter to his father:

'I beat the Turks out of our trench single-handed and had four awful hours at night. The Turks swarmed in from all roads, but I gave them a rough time of it, still holding the trench. It is certain sure we are beating the Turks all right. In the trench I came out of, it was shocking to see the dead. They lay, about three thousand Turks, in front of our trenches, and the smell was absolutely chronic. You know when the sun has been shining on those bodies for three or four days it makes a horrible smell; a person would not mind if it was possible to bury them. But no, you dare not put your nose outside the trench, and if you did, you would be a dead man.'

Following a period of touring and recruiting throughout Ireland, he died on 7 May 1918, just before his 24th birthday - and probably from lung failure resulting from damage caused by trench gas. He was buried with full military honours in the Modreeny Church of Ireland cemetery where his Union Jack-draped coffin was carried on a gun carriage led by the Pipe Band of The Cameron Highlanders. His headstone states simply.

He stood and defended. The Lord wrought a great wonder.