Lewis Peter Lawrence

Co. Leitrim

among the fallen ....

101 years ago this July the assassination of a royal Duke & his wife in the small Balkan city of Sarajevo unleashed events that would become known as The Great War and impact on the lives of millions. This single event in history took young 21 year old Lewis away from home & family never to return. In the loss of so many this is his story.

The Lawrence family were farmers and lived just outside the town of Mohill. 1901 & 1911 Census recorded them with the largest residence & working farm of their townsland. Lawrence was one of 12 surviving children and was kept in full time education until at least 16 yrs old. Siblings moved to Northern Ireland or emigrated to America, Lewis had many choices open to him when he joined the army in Nov 1915

Aghadrumderg, Mohill, Co Leitrim - the birth place of Lewis, 15th September 1894.

Lawrence homestead 2015 and still part of a working farm ran by a nephew.

St Mary's Church Mohill, Church of Ireland

The font that saw the Baptism not only of Lewis and his siblings but many members of the Lawrence family still living in Mohill to this day.

Erected in honour of those Mohill men lost in World War 1 and World War 2

Then & now ... I visited Mohill on several occasions, meeting with members of the Lawrence family,

who were so generous with their time & recollections.

Margaret Lawrence                                                           Aideen Abbot                                                  

The journey from Mohill to Boyle travelled by Lewis in the company of his father on Friday 5th Nov 1915
Caterham Barracks where Lewis received basic training in physical fitness,march discipline, drill with specialised training as machine gunner; rifleman; signaller; rifle grenadier etc assigned to those in the role only.

The depot in Boyle, Co Roscommon was his nearest depot and there is no belief that he ever got to return home during the remaining 9 months of his life. Family were not anxious for Lewis to enlist especially his parents but he could not be denied. Lewis was attested into the Irish Guards owing to his impressive height of 6 ft 3 & 1/4 ins!  He signed up for "short service" which committed him to 3 years in the colours (combat) and 9 years in the reserves (usually back on home soil). He was recorded as a farmer, an unusual occupation for voluntary soldiers, although he was labouring on renovations on the Northern Bank in Mohill town.

           The Irish Guards Cap Badge

                 The Irish Guards cap

Lewis spent from Nov 1915 to Aug 1916 in Caterham Barracks. There is little known of this time as no letters home survived but his records show no infractions common to training soldiers such as gambling, intoxication or absence without leave. He left for France on Thursday 10th Aug 1916 embarking in Southampton and arriving in Harfleur to train at the infamous "Bull Ring" Etaples . Training focused heavily on trench warfare and the drills, marching and open warfare learned back in English training barracks became quickly sidelined. Intensive training continued when soldiers came back off the Front Line.                                Lewis joined the 7th Entrenchment Battalion on Tuesday 22nd Aug 1916. These were temporary units and used for improving trench defenses, running messages, gathering their wounded & dying comrades or as a reserves force if necessary. This gave the new soldier his first glimpse of the Front Line life & conditions. It would have been noisy, dirty, smelly and terrifying to the Leitrim lad so far from home.

Battle of Somme Thurs 28th Sept'1916

Lewis died giving water to a fallen comrade when a stray shell exploded. Active warfare had ceased for the day.Rudyard Kipling's book notes that some of the heaviest shelling & greatest casualties happened over the previous 2 days leading to a break in lines and cut off of supplies. There was a water shortage. Family have passed this telling down through the generations and the facts of the book support same.

Famous author Rudyard Kipling secured a place in the Irish Guards for his 18 year old son John. John's visual impairment had prevented his enlistment and he was desperate to play his part. John's death at the Front less than a month into active service haunted his father for a lifetime.

Kipling faithfully complied and recorded the Irish Guards involvement in World War 1, the conditions, the daily death tally, the heavy bombardments experienced. He sought to understand his son's final days and moments. This book provides an in- depth view into the lives & deaths of an Irish Guard, even my Irish Guard Lewis Lawrence.

Final rest place of Pte Lewis Lawrence
Delville Wood Cemetery
Nephew Desmond "Dessie" Abbot - first family member to visit the grave in 1956

Margaret & nephew Dick Lawrence on their visit in 2006. Margaret was the family member I most relied on for family thoughts, memories and information.
Margaret and her 2 daughter, Lewis grand-nieces, Danielle & Lorna Lawrence

The british war medal and the Allied victory medal "Wilfred" awarded to Lewis family posthumously. Ribbons seem to have been swopped over from the more typical presentation.

Why Lewis Lawrence, a young man from rural Ireland, answered the call to arms despite family opposition and a nation slowly turning it's opinion to anti-war never became clear. He was educated and employed with options & prospects not often seen in voluntary enlistment. Some of his story must go untold. He died after only 11 days at the Front like many before & after him. The Battle of Somme alone saw 1.5 million lives lost or destroyed with no clear gain for either side. It was the war to end all wars ....... 

"Quis Separabit" - "Who shall seperate us"  

Irish Guards motto

Ruarcc Ballantine - I'm a Leaving Cert student (or will be come September!) living in Co Leitrim but at school in Sligo Town. I moved to Leitrim from Waterford 11 years ago with my parents and 2 sisters.

I became aware of the "Adopt a soldier" through my history teacher Ms.Galbraith and she is the first person i must thank for this fantastic opportunity.  I didn't always make it easy on her but we got there in the end!

Collins Barracks

Benburb Street

Dublin 2

Here with Ms. Galbraith on our first group meeting and getting to see what the other students soldiers & stories are like. 

Emily & I go to schools in the same town but represent our different counties.

I also need to thank Oliver Fallon, Historian and member of Connaught Rangers Association, King House, Boyle for his time & interest in my project. A born story teller who co-wrote The New Ranger lent me Rudyard Kipling's book that proved invaluable and much more.

Thank you

Nothing would have been possible without the permission & enthusiasm of Lewis nieces especially his niece by marriage, Mrs Margaret Lawrence. I received so much information, documentation, photos and no question was too small, no phonecall left unanswered. 

This is the trip of a lifetime and an amazing way to live history. Getting to the battlefields & trenches, visiting Lewis grave ..... the best is yet to come