Painting 'Attack of the Ulster Division, 1st July 1916' by J P Beadle

Beadle Attack Ulster Division 1st July 1916
'Attack of the Ulster Division, 1st July 1916' by James Princep Beadle

In the painting, Lieutenant Francis Bodenham Thornley is depicted leading an attack during the Battle of the Somme. He had been wounded and later while recuperating was tasked with giving military advice to the artist J P Beadle.

In the painting the Riflemen are carrying the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield Rifle (SMLE) fitted with Sword Bayonets, and a Rifleman can be seen carrying a battalion marker used to indicate the Battalion's progress in the advance. The painting depicts the actions of the 5th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles.

Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1917, the painting was greatly admired in the north of Ireland where there was a widespread feeling that Ulster would be the appropriate home for it. When Beadle was approached by R J Woods with a view to purchasing the picture for the benefit of UVF War Funds, Beadle very generously allowed £50 to be deducted from the price and placed to the credit of the funds, although he had already received several offers for the painting.

A committee chaired by Sir James Stronge was appointed to oversee the reproduction and sale of a thousand copies of the painting (250 signed copies at 10 guineas each, the remainder at two guineas each). Beadle was generous with his time, arranging the reproduction and signing the artist’s proof free of charge. The profits were allocated to the UVF Patriotic Fund, the UVF Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and the Ulster Prisoners of War Fund. The Committee also decided to present the painting to Belfast Corporation on behalf of the UVF. Sir James Stronge made the presentation at a ceremony during the monthly meeting of the Corporation on 1 July 1918. The painting was unveiled by the Lady Mayoress and accepted by the Lord Mayor (Alderman James Johnston) on behalf of the Corporation. Except in 2006, when the painting was on display at the Museum of the Great War (L'Historial de la Grande Guerre) at Péronne, the painting has hung in the City Hall ever since.