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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

'A very fine young officer' - Second Lieut Gerald White, Royal Irish Regiment

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Today’s post is themed to coincide with the 104th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It focuses on Gerald John Davis White, a promising Trinity College Dublin student, who joined up to fight in the Great War. His British War Medal, which is in my possession, is in terrible condition. Perhaps having been burnt or buried at some point in its life.

Gerald was the youngest son of Rev. Harry Vere White and Alice White. Gerald was born in Dublin on 17 July 1896. He was baptised by his father in St. Bartolomew’s Church, Clyde Road, Dublin on 12 August 1896.

The 1901 census lists Gerald lived with his parents and siblings in 117 Darthmouth Square, Dublin.

Gerald studied in Campbell College, Belfast. He was a pupil from September 1909 until December 1913. During the summer of 1913 he played cricket for Campbell. He was a bowls man in a match against the 1st Battalion, Norfolk Regiment. He was also in the Officer Training Corps. Campbell College formed the first Officer Training Corps unit in a school in Ireland. Upon leaving Campbell Gerald held the rank of Corporal.

Gerald studied medicine in Trinity College Dublin. With the outbreak of the Great War he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment in August 1915 after training in Sandhurst College.

Second Lieutenant White arrived in France in April 1916. Two months later he found himself on the eve of the Battle of the Somme. On 1st July the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment where in reserve during the attack on Memetz. On 5th July, Second Lieutenant White was killed during the attack on Wood Trench, 12 days shy of his 20th birthday.

The War Diary for the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiments records: ‘Our casualties in this attack were 125 all ranks. Capt Bell and Lieut White were killed, both inside the German wire; Capt Moore-Brabazon, Capt O’Reilly, Lieut Blake, Capt Gordon-Ralph, Lieut Price and C.S.M. Burns were wounded’.

The Irish Times reported that Second Lieutenant White ‘was very gallantly leading his platoon against a strong position’ His commanding Colonel wrote of him ‘he was a very fine young officer and a gallant soldier’.

Second Lieutenant White has no known grave and is commemorated on the Theipval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, he is also remembered on a memorial in St. Bartholomew’s Church, Campbell College and in the 1937 Memorial Reading Room in Trinity College. White’s father, who by the time was the Bishop of Limerick applied for his son’s medals.

Second Lieutenant White's British War Medal.
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

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