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16 October 2014
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WWI: Private McFadzean

Two sections of the community celebrated, if that's the right word, the news that the men of Lurgan were off to war.


William McFadzean

Private McFadzean

War Hero

Two sections of the community celebrated, if that's the right word, the news that the men of Lurgan were off to war by parading from The Orange Hall and halls linked to the Order of Hibernian. This act of solidarity and sense of companionship was a pre cursor to the amazing act of bravery and selflessness by a young private who was born in the town........................

On 1 July 1916, near Thiepval Wood,  France, in a concentration trench, a box of bombs being opened for distribution prior to an attack slipped down into the trench, which was crowded with men, and two of the safety pins fell out.
Private William F .McFadzean, instantly realising the danger to his comrades, with heroic courage threw himself on top of the bombs, which exploded, blowing him to pieces, but only one other man was injured. He well knew the danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment's hesitation he gave his life for his comrades.  

Private McFadzean  was awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery, even before the Battle of the Somme began.                                                      

Local war enthusiast Neil Hutton adds detail to the life of Private McFadzean, below, and asks the question - can anyone identify the soldier ringed as William McFadzean?

Private McFadzean was detailed as a bomber in his company, one of those who went over the top carrying canvas buckets filled with hand grenades. His physique marked him out for such a role: he stood six feet tall, weighed thirteen stone and had been an enthusiastic junior rugby player, lining out for Collegians RFC.
Perhaps you can identify the others , as they paraded for Sir Edward Carson at Balmoral on 6th June 1914.

Can you recognise anyone?
The YCV Battalion (14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles) crossed from England to France on the 5th October 1915 on board the Isle of Man paddle steamer the Empress Queen. In a letter home Billy McFadzean writes:
"You people at home make me quite proud when you tell me I am the soldier boy of the McFadzean's. I hope to play the game and if I don't add much lustre to it, I certainly will not tarnish it."

Commemorations for William McFadzean include: Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 15A and 15B), Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, First Lurgan Presbyterian Church, Collegians RFC and Castlereagh Borough Council .

On Sunday 1st July 1917 in Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, on the outskirts of Belfast, an afternoon service was held to pay respects to the memory of William Frederick McFadzean in what had been his home church. A tablet was unveiled on which were the words: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends". The last post was played and the congregation sang "O' God our help in ages past" and the choir performed a beautiful anthem, a setting by Woodward of Tennyson's poem " Crossing the Bar".
William's father (also named William) was presented with his sons VC by King George V at a ceremony held in Buckingham Palace on Saturday 28th February 1917, having been granted a third-class return ticket from Cregagh to London.

See also:

Somme hero: Robert Quigg VC 1885 - 1955

Battle of the Somme

Battle of the Somme - Memorabilia

The Larne Fallen

An Enniskillen VC

Lurgan Men in the Great War

World War I: Soldiers of Down

The Peake Brothers at War 1914-18


Your Respones

Aaron - Feb '08
true ulster man at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember him.

Marion hebblethwaite - Oct 07
I wonder if anyone knows if John Archibald Beckett is on Lurgan war memorial - he came from Lurgan but died in Israel in 1947.
If he is perhaps someone could photograph it for me . He won the George Cross and is a little known man in most books.
see my website

i would love to hear from anyone with some information

P. Michieli - Mar '07
We share the same family name.

Stuart Griffin - Mar '07
A true son of ulster

Christina Mcfadzean - Nov '06
Recently after visiting the somme my family have discovered we are realated to william thank-you

Gordon Sharkey - Oct '06
I have also taken the time out to study the life of Billy. Little did he ever realise that people would be still talking about his heroic death over ninety years later.

Colin Lowry - Aug '06
I found your information very interesting this was a very brave man, my grandfather Joseph Lowry served in the Gordon Hylanders, apparently he was fighting in france his rank was sergeant and he was injured during a battle and had to leave he received an award for gallantry and distinguished service in the field 14 Jan 1914. When his wounds healed he joined the14th batt royal Irish Rifles as a csm information has been passed down by family members that he was with private Mc Fadzean at the Somme. My grandfather was awarded the distinguished service medal and the military cross the 27th of July 1916. This is all the information that I know, if possible may be you can tell me where I could access your photograph to see if I could identify him. Could you please also inform me if it is possible to find out what my grandfather did to receive such honors?
thank you.

Stuart Allen - July '06
A true Ulsterman.

Philip White - July '06
A well deserved Victoria Cross to in impecible solider. whom gave his life to save his comrades. Always Remember in our minds. They gave theri day for our tomorrow. No surrender is there cry.

Ken Snowden - May '06
Both my grandfather and his brother were soldiers in the 14th battalion of the YCV, my grandfather was Matthew Snowden, John was his brother. My grandfather survived but john was killed at Wuvlergem in april 1917, I have only recently come across this information, if any one has any information on the 14 th battalion I would love to here from them, I am visiting my great uncle John's grave in june 2006. Something I am looking forward to eagerly, please don't hesitate to contact me on my email if you want a chat or have any information to help.

George Fleming - May '06
Glad to see I share the same surname as such a great guy. Other memorials were William McFadzean VC name are commemorated:

First and second world war memorial War Memorial Lurgan Co Armagh.

Bronze wall plaque erected by Lurgan Royal British Legion on old Lurgan Town Hall in 1997.

Ashley McFadzean - March '06
Glad to see i share the same surname as such a great guy.

Chris Berkeley - July '05
Your ancestor was if I am not mistaken Thomas Hughes VC of the Connaught Rangers. There is a Wikipedia entry on him at which you could add to if you have further information.

Daniel Munday - November '04
My great great grandad was a war hero for the 6th Iirish Battalion and he won the Victoria Cross by singlehandedly shooting and killing a machine gunner and taking 4 prisoners. The pride is greater then you can imagine.


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