Marion Maxwell - Nov '05
The Gunning children grew up in Enniskillen
with a love of sport, especially rugby, and, living by the
lake, were accomplished swimmers and oarsmen.
All four brothers joined up at the outbreak of war
in 1914. Jack went into the Navy, Cecil and Douglas into the
army, Willie into the Royal Navy Reserve. Their young sister
Kathleen remained with her parents.
Cecil and Douglas, then aged 21 and 19 left jobs
in the bank to join up. Douglas, then working in Sligo, cycled
fifty miles on an old pushbike to be in time to join up with
his elder brother in ’D’ Company, Royal Dublin
'D' Company "Pals" - Royal
Back row left - Douglas Gunning
Front row left - Cecil Gunning
Immortalised as the ’Pals’ it consisted mainly,
though not exclusively, of young professional men, many from
Dublin, all sharing a strong pride in their Irishness. Referred
to as ‘The Footballers’ , many of them were bound
by a passion for rugby - a large element had formed up on
the rugby pitch at Lansdowne Road to volunteer. On a point
of honour, most declined commissions, choosing to serve as
squaddies. Because the Dublin Fusiliers - ’Dubs’
for short had a reputation for toughness, ‘D’
company were wittily dismissed as the ‘Toffs among the
Tuffs’. History would prove otherwise.
After training at the Curragh and Basingstoke, the
two Enniskillen brothers set sail with the 7th Batallion
the Royal Dublin Fusiliers for Gallipoli. They kept
a diary of their experiences, part 1 written day-about
by Cecil and Douglas on the month long outward voyage,
part 2 by Douglas after being invalided home. Fused
with excitement, the outward journal reads like a Boys
Saturday 10th July saw us steam out of Plymouth in
up-beat mood aboard the Alaunia. ‘D’ company
were stuck at the bottom of the boat, but-good food,
salt water baths and sea air had already combined to
make us feel fit.
Each day began with a run at-the-double round the
deck. They relished the luxury of ice cold oranges from
the refrigerator, took part in swimming races, witnessed
splendid sunsets and saw porpoises swimming by moonlight.
Typical of the close camaraderie among the ‘Pals’
Batallion the two brothers and their best friend Guy
feature in the diary under their nicknames Golly, Mollie
and Gertie. 13 platoon quickly developed a reputation
for schoolboy-like rascality.
The voyage opened up a whole new world - one highlight
was a route march round the magnificent harbour at Alexandria,
the ‘Dubs’ taking their leave with a rousing
rendering of ‘Tipperary’.
However, the sight of Red Cross boats returning from
the Dardanelles full of wounded soldiers gave a hint
of what was to come.
The 7th Batallion landed at Suvla Bay on 7th August
1915. Provided neither with maps nor clear orders, their
artillery guns sent to France by mistake, they arrived
to a barrage of Turkish fire from the towering heights
above the bay. On those slopes, ‘D’ Company
- the ‘Pals’- would earn a lasting reputation
for bravery, but at a terrible cost: of its 239 men
who landed, only 79 remained after 8 weeks.
Douglas later described the scene:
At 4 a.m. I awoke off the Gallipoli
coast. We could hear the boom boom and see the flash
from Turkish guns coming from the big ridge of mountains,
shells bursting, our men landing from the lighters and
stretcher bearers bringing down and collecting wounded
on the beach. The whole bay was quivering with the vibration.
Mind you, just before this, Gertie and Mollie had been
up playing a little tune on the small piano in the saloon
- I’m sure that was quite a unique event to have
occurred in the Gallipoli campaign.
Somehow, we got on to the beach
safely. It was remarkable how quickly you got used to
it and soon we never bothered ducking unless the shell
was quite close. I must say the discipline stood to
us marvellously.. for we were more or less stupefied.
We got on past stretcher bearers,
wounded, dying and dead ..and arrived at a long strand,
shells dropping, men groaning and the medical corps
bandaging like fury. We lay like sardines under the
cliff. The Inniskillings were there also and who was
with them only our uncle Captain Bob Stevenson from
After one frightening near miss, the brothers separated
to minimise the chance they would both be killed .
Respite came at night fall, as the Turks were, for
the moment, driven back over the summit .
We were so tired, some of us
didn’t eat as much as a biscuit or take a sup
of water . It was absolutely miserable in the dark to
hear the moaning of the wounded and dying, both of our
own brave men and the Turks. I slept for an hour and
woke, my teeth and knees shivering cold.
Despite the efforts of a human chain passing buckets
up and down the mountain side, thirst soon became a
torture. Nearby was a big lake of dry salt for all the
world like frozen snow. The hot air rises off it in
the day time and you could see a rim of white scum formed
on our lips by it. In this state, you could drink anything
and it was a maddening thirst, I’m sure, that
helped me to get dysentery. After a few days, the wells
dried up we were drinking mud and gravel as well; our
teeth used to be black with the dirty water.
Reunited during a lull in the battle, the trio, Golly
and Mollie and Gertie exchanged experiences and shared
a ‘gloriously sweet’ tin of condensed milk.
Someone had found the body of a young Turkish girl sniper
with fourteen chilling trophies round her neck - identification
tags mostly from the Munster Fusiliers. Another find
was a bag of clothes: they all bagged a Turkish waistcoat
and one joker put on a Fez and peeped into the next
trench for a bit of crack!
Anything that brought a bit of cheer helped to alleviate
the sense of horror: Responding to the constant call
for stretcher bearers, there to the fore would come
their good-humoured friend Fatty Clements, a clergyman’s
son from Moira, leading the way with a broad grin on
Day after night passed in a blur of exhaustion: Just when
they thought they were going to base for a rest, they
were ordered to undertake a five hour hike to reach the
beach where they had landed. Stumbling over make-shift
burial mounds in the dark, the two brothers found each
other again and slept for two hours under a rock. Rubbing
sand over their bodies to remove the dirt, they surveyed
the scene: shells bursting, mules shifting supplies, a
steamer condensing sea water into fresh. Then, off up
the slopes again. It was exhausting carrying dixies of
water, then having to dig themselves in.
A mail bag from home brought a letter that made them
terribly home sick. Also enclosed was the Punch Summer
I thought it awfully tragic for
people at home to be laughing over such silly things
while we were in a game of life and death. Sunday. Our
hope of sharing divine service with our Catholic friends
and good old Father Murphy, vanished before dawn as
we came under Turkish shell fire that lasted all day.
At one point, a cheer went up in front - the gallant
Munsters had taken a ridge of trenches at bayonet point
and were yelling like madmen.
Often, the men in the front line
were to be seen catching the bombs and throwing them
back but their heroism was never recorded because their
officers were practically all killed. The brothers witnessed
terrible woundings, but actually only a third of casualties
at Gallipoli were due to injuries: the rest contracted
illnesses caused by extremes of heat and cold, plagues
of flies and lack of clean water.
By roll call on 17th August, over 100 of ‘D’
company were absent.
That evening we sat looking
at the sun setting in the west and thinking of home.
Although we couldn’t, I’m sure a ‘blub’
would have made us feel better.’
Next day, Douglas felt the symptoms of dysentery and
joined the line of men being sent down to the field
hospital. - a rough and rocky journey. In daylight,
they were brought down to the beach and labelled like
parcels. They lay under a shelter until put on board
the Alaunia - now refitted as a hospital ship accommodating
2,000 cases. The attention of nurses and luxuries like
hot milk brought comfort and as he improved, Douglas
helped the hard-pressed medics. There were 68 burials
Back in London, Douglas spent a week in hospital, but,
determined to get back to Ireland, he discharged himself.
was up since dawn for a first glimpse of Ireland,
then to Enniskillen to my dear, dear Father and
Mother who met me at the station with open arms.
Just weeks later, Douglas helped shoulder the
coffin at his father’s funeral. Cecil was
still far from home, by then invalided to a hospital
To the distress of the family and against medical
advice - for he was still traumatised - Douglas
answered the appeal for trainee officers and took
a commission as a sub lieutenant in the 6th Inniskillings.
They left for France on 16th June 1916.
Gunning with his mother, Kathleen whilst home
Writing two days later to his mother, Douglas assured
As long as I left you without
any tears, dear, my heart did not ache. I did feel proud
at Charing Cross to be one of that noble lot going out.
On 30th June, the eve of the battle of the Somme, he
Well, here I am in the thick of it all and talk about
Suvla Bay, why this is a thousand times worse. The noise
would put you astray in the head. For the sake of us
all, pray for a speedy and victorious peace. Mizpah.
The next communication came from the War Office:
regret to inform you that your son is reported
believed killed in action, 1st July.
According to the official citation, Douglas was
leading the Enniskillen platoon when a bullet
took off one of his fingers. As he was binding
it up, his men urged him to go back to the dressing
station. Insisting that his place was with them,
he refused and went on until a shell extinguished
his bright and noble spirit.
Douglas’s name appears on the Thiepval
memorial along with those of more than 72,000
men who died at the Somme and have no known grave.
Cecil survived to resume his career in banking.
He talked little of his experiences, but retained
a strong dislike of barbed wire.
Clark - May '08
Alexander James Gunning married Margaret McGovern in Belfast,
Ireland and settled in Detroit, Michigan. He is the original
ancestor to all the Alexander Samuel Gunnings I found his
cemetery site as well as obituary, etc. Contact me for more
information via this site.
Thomas Gunning - Mar '08
My father Thomas Gunning (RCN) was born in Newtownards, Ireland. He was born
in 1926. His parents were Thomas Gunning and Mary nee McCracken. My father
had one older brother, William (Bill), and three sisters. My grandfather Thomas
was in the British Regular army. The family immagrated to Canada in the early
1930s. Beyond these points, I know very little. Can you help?
Alexander Theodore Maxwell Gunning - Mar '08
Hey, hey okay so I made a comment last year and if there are any Gunning's out
there that want to get in contact with the Gunning's down here in South Africa
use this address dubbelodub1on1athotmaildotcom
I am of Irish descent.
Alexander Theodore Maxwell Gunning (me)
Gary Darryl Gunning (my dad)
Nolloth Edward Desfountain Gunning (my Grandfather) Edward
Alexander Samuel Gunning - Feb '08
I am Alexander Samuel Gunning. I am the fourth with my name
to live in the US. My great, great, grandfather was born
in Ireland around 1817 and came to the U.S. around 1849.
I am related to Sharon who left a message in 06. Can anyone
shed any light on my branch of the family in Ireland?
Janice Hosking nee Gunning - Jan '08
Came across this site by accident. My great grandfather came out to Australia
in 1870s. His name was Henry Gunning, married and Aussie girl and had 4 sons,
one of these being my grandfather Egbert, (and he did have brothers.) There
are not many out here that are related directly to me, but I guess we could
all be related down the track.
Janice Hosking nee Gunning.
Bernadette Sweetman (nee Gunning) - Dec '07
My father's (John Gunning) family are from Williamstown,
Galway and go back a numer of generations in this area.
I believe a few of the previous generations emigrated to
America. It is fascinating to read about our family name.
Mairaid - Apr '07
So interesting to read of the courage of these young men.
My Uncle Charlie DONNELLY from Lisnaskea also joined up for WW1. He was found to have enlisted "underage" and sent home. But,he returned to the fray later. He survived the Somme and returned to Ireland. Later,he left Ireland and bought a farm in Wales,where he later died. Nort sure what regiment he was in ,but my mother used to refer to the "cavalry" He often took part in the Rememberance Day parade in London,until he was no longer able to make the journey up to the city. Does he figure in any wartime archives or memories.
His parents were Michael and Catherine and he was one of 12 children. Any information you have would be most welcome
Heidi Mongo - Mar '07
This is a fantastic article it really shows
how hard it was for some people. And some who are still missing.
It is great for children so they understand what is going
on and what happened
Steven Miller - Mar '07
Alexander Gunning was reported to have died of scurvey on
his travels to the United Stated in 1849
Shereen Murray - Feb '07
I am from Jamaica and my grandfather name is Gunning, was
there some connection between the Carribean gunning and
the British gunning? It is a very unusual name in Jamaica
and people with that last name are all related. I am just
trying to find out more about my grandfather descendant.
James Gunning - Jan '07
Hello everyone, My name is James Gunning and I live in Philadelphia.
I am 25 yrs old and have lived in Philadelphia all my life.
As far as I know so has my father and my Grandfather (Richard
Gunning). I was always informed by family that we were of
Irish descent, it was not until recently that I learned the
Gunning name originated in England. I was wondering if anybody
had any interesting information about the family name and
how Gunning's eventually migrated to the United States.
Samuel Nigel Gunning - Nov '06
I rarely visit the BBC Ulster site but on Rememberance day
came accross this site. Very well done I wonder if I'm related?
Perhaps someone out there can please contact me to see if
I can add a bit of my family tree to whats already been done.
I'm originally from Belfast Kind Regards Nigel Gunning.
Lindsay - Nov '06
I am not sure whether you will be able to help me, I have
started my family tree and so far I have managed to go back
to my great, great, great, grandad, who is William John Gunning
born 1821, not sure where. Although once married to Mary Jane
Clelland lived in Barr,Ayrshire, Scotland. If anyone can help
me with any other branched this would be greatly appreciated.
John Gunning - Oct '06
Also Gunning's in Australia - Irish/English Catholic from
a long way back 1800s. Gunning Shire is near the nation of
Australia's capital, Canberra.
Amy - Aug '06
Hi I don't really have any interesting information just that
I share the same surname as you, but I actually come from
north west England. I don't know whether I may be related
to any of you, but it would be nice to talk to some new relatives.
Charleen Thom Nee Gunnung - Aug '06
Ok here is the thing. My grandfather's name was Jack Gunning
his eldest son is named John Gunning, this seems to be a family
name that is used throughout the Gunning family, that is now
living in South Africa. I know that my great grandfather who
was also called Jack brought his family out here from Wales.
What I want to do is trace the family history as far as I
can thing is that this is the only site that I have found
that could maybe help me. Could you please leave me an email
address for communication. Thank you.
Debbie Gerrard - Aug '06
Hi! My name is Debbie Gerrard. I'm form Canada. My Grandmother
was Catherine Gunning, form Mold, Wales. I have 12 Generations
of Gunnings (14 if you count myself and my kids) back to 1569,
more when we go back to 1437. John Goulstone's booklet "The
Gunnings of Cold Ashton in Gloucestershire, England"
gives alternate spellings and traces back to 1216. Alternate
spellings: (in Bristol) 1216: Godewyn, Gundewine, Gundwyne,
1260:Gundwyn, 1608: Gundevine, 1610: Gunwin, 1613: Gunwinn,
1624: Gunwyne. In 1548, there was a Thomas Gonnyng, 1581 a
Henry Gonning, in 1610 a Robert Gunninge. He also mentions..."The
doubtless related Gunning family of nearby Cold Ashton is
reasonably well documented since the med 15th. Century. Three
successive generations seem to be covered by the Cold Ashton
manorial court rolls published in volume 9 of the "Gloucestershire
Notes and Queries".
Gunning Family in England
The Gunning family can trace their ancestors back to the ancient
territories of England between the 11th and 12th centuries.
The Gunning family traces their ancestral roots back to Anglo
Saxon origin, and first appeared in ancient medieval records
GUNNING Shield: Red with three doves and three crosses.
GUNNING Crest: A dove holding a crozier.
GUNNING motto: "Imperio Regit Unus Aequo"
-Descendants of David Gunning ( presume from the USA), Descendants
of William Gunning of Ireland 1755 +Jane Akis, Descendant
Trees, Genealogy Reports, Kinship & Merged Descendants
Thomas Gunning & ANN GUNNING 1794 (in Bitton, England),
Descendants of John Gunning +Dionisia, John Gunning +Joan
Chambers of Wick Abson, Gloucestershire, England 1572, Descendants
of Thomas Gunning 1437, Descendants of Thomas Gunning &
ALICE BRYANT of Torneys Ct. (died 1603) -Plus I have a photo
of Cold Ashton Manor, Gloucestershire, England, a photo of
Cold Ashton Holly Trinity, Gloucestershire, England, a photo
of Torneys Court, Gloucestershire,England, All on my web site:
Debbie’s Genealogy Page! - http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pointe/2598/index.html
Hannah Gunning - July '06
Hi, I'm Hannah Gunning. I'm 14 and from South Wales, UK. My
Dad has been working on our family tree for a while now and
we thought we were doing pretty well - until I visited the
battlefields of Somme and Ypres on a school trip. I found
lots of other 'Gunning's and then found this site while I
was looking them up. There is a chance that we also have Irish
family and we thought maybe somebody could give us some help!
Alexander Gunning - July '06
Hi, my name is Alexander Theodore Maxwell Gunning, i'm seventeen
and come from South Africa. I'm not sure if i'm tied in with
you guys but anyways, our surnames are the same if you think
we are related then reply to this message.
Sharon - June '06
Wonderful article, My great great grandfather was Alexander
Gunning. Still searching for information on the Gunning family,
He came to the United States around 1849.
Bertie Martin - May '06
Many years ago my brother and I had a long established family
business in Portadown and our Bank Manager was a Mr Gunning
in what was then the Belfast Banking Co in High Street. I
remember him as a quiet friendly man, and this programme revealed
to me what he and his brothers endured. Your article said
one of the Gunnings went into Banking and I am sure this is
the man referred to. He was probably heading to retirement
when I knew him.
Joey Brooks - March '06
I think whoever set up this site is a momentous and truly
wonderful person, people of the great war should be remembered
not only because they gave the most important thing in their
live, but also because of the bravery they had, in the face
of certain death they still did their duty, and died like
men, like soldiers and like heroes. These men were given a
order, a gun and a direction and charged, without question,
this shows that they had an absolute trust in the officers,
maybe to much, but they still had it, they believed they were
the ignorant and thick ones, but really they were the greatness
and the heroes, they were the ones that made it world war
1, the were the ones that made it a historical war, they made
it a great war, not just any war, but the great war, they
my be gone, but definitely not forgotten, and people never
really go, they are always in our hearts and they will be
Kevin Donnelly - Dec '05
At last a bit of info to help my research on my father, a
James Patrick Donnelly. He was a regular soldier, born in
Tralee Co. Kerry, joined the 1/Royal Munster Fusiliers pre
1914 and found himself in France in the third week of August
1914 involved in the retreat from Mons. That's family folklore,
some from my father, some from my mother, for Dad never talked
at length. In the retreat from Mons his battalion was covering
another unit, and never got the order to fallback and they
were bypassed by German units. Dad and a few others escaped
by taking bicycles from a shop and riding towards the south
west through the evening confusion as German units were setting
up camp for the night. From later authors like Barbara Tuchman
(Guns of August) and others, I'm pretty sure that 1/Royal
Munsters (some writers say it was 2/Munsters) was heavily
involved in the action at Etreux on September 27th, and had
ceased to exist by the end of September 1914. From the web
I understand that there's a small cemetery at Etreux with
some Munsters buried there, but I've never visited it. Dad
was wounded at Ypres in November. He must have been drafted
into the Dubs for his war service medals including the Mons
star, all now lost but which I remember gave his regiment
as the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The medals would have given
his army name, rank and number, which is info I'd like to
find from somewhere. I know he was later in the Salonika campaign,
and then Egypt before coming home to demob and reunite with
my mother whom he married in Manchester in 1917. My only other
clue is that an officer escaped with the others in the bicycle
story; one Lt. Dan Godfrey but was shot and killed and never
reached the BEF lines.
Angela Crookes nee Devlin - November
Found this account very moving as I have discovered that my
great uncle Private Thomas Craig died at Gallipoli on 22nd
June 1915 and probably endured similar hardships. He was with
the 1st battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Does anyone
know if he would have been in the same part of the battle
as 10th battalion? Thanks.
Mr. R Lindsay - November '05
Really interesting, what a story and sacrifice all these men
of the 1st world war made on behalf of us all makes one feel
very humble indeed. Thanks for making this info available
for all to appreciate.
Stephen Gunning - November '05
Excellent! Thank you so much Marion Maxwell for producing
this excellent historical account. My wife and I heard you
on the radio this morning and then looked up the web site
- very impressive piece of work it is too!
As Gunnings living in Belfast, with ancestors from Enniskillen,
my father and I would be very keen to make contact with you
and your husband, John, to see if there is any connection.
My father (aged 82 and ex-RAF) has been working on our family
tree for some time and is missing some vital information about
the Enniskillen period. It would be nice to touch base and
see if you can help fill in any gaps.
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