Thomas Farrell survived three World War I major campaigns

Hugh Farrell


Hugh Farrell

During his time in the British Army, Pte Thomas Farrell fought at Gallipoli, the Somme, and the Third Battle of Ypres. Photo: Hugh Farrell collection
Born to William Farrell and Anne Grey in Rathowen, Co Westmeath, in 1894, Thomas Farrell was the third youngest of seven boys.

Born to William Farrell and Anne Grey in Rathowen, Co Westmeath, in 1894, Thomas Farrell was the third youngest of seven boys.

On the 28th of September 1914, Thomas enlisted with the British Army and was assigned to the Leinster Regiment. Along with friends who were alongside him throughout the war, his first call to action was at Gallipoli in August 1915. Out of the 1,100 men from the Leinsters who landed to give battle, only 100 were fit to walk when they pulled out.

Thomas was then sent to France with two of his companions, George Glanfield and a man named ‘Duke’ or ‘Duck’, and after some time behind the lines for a much-needed rest, they were ready for the next big push at the Somme.

The Battle of the Somme started on the 1st of July 1916 and lasted until November of that year. On the first morning, the British suffered 60,000 casualties. Thomas received a slight shrapnel wound which left him out of action for a while.

Between rests from the front line and periods in the trenches, Thomas and his two companions remained together until the 31st of July 1917 at the Third Battle of Ypres.

Heavy rain and ten days of artillery fire meant the ground between the trenches was a quagmire. At half three in the morning, they left the trenches to cross ground that resembled a sea of mud. Many died from machine gun fire, and many wounded died in the clinging mud. Tom and his companions got to the German lines only to discover that the British artillery barrage had not cut the barbed wire. They turned to go back, and it was then that he almost stepped on his friend George, who now lay dead in the mud. It was a defining moment for the group of young men, who up to that point had thought they were invincible after all the previous battles they had come through.

A few days later, Tom was wounded again, which led to a longer period in hospital. When he returned to the front, most of his comrades from the Leinsters were either dead or wounded, and his battalion consisted of young conscripts from the UK. After the Armistice he was transferred to Class Z - the first soldiers to be called up if the Germans reneged on the truce.

Discharged inMarch 1920, Tom returned home and married in 1923. Around eight years later he moved his family to Cluntymullen in the parish of Legan, and then to Kinard. He died on the 30th of October 1957 and is buried in Foxhall Cemetery in Legan.