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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Story behind a Postcard - Private James Bradshaw

Postcard of Private James Bradshaw.

A number of years ago, I was keen on collecting postcards of soldiers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Some postcards would be named and others not. Revisiting some of these named cards, I came across one taken by Charles and Russel of 10 Royal Avenue Belfast. Hand written on the back:

‘Machine gunner JE Bradshaw Reg no 13493

C. Company Royal Innis. Fusiliers

66 Caushott (?) Camp


Surrey England’

Further research unravels the following story. James was born at Ballymacsimon, County Wicklow in July 1894. He was the son of James Bradshaw and Hannah Elizabeth Bradshaw (née Bradshaw). James a farm labourer married Hannah in Glenealy, County Wicklow on 29 May 1886.

The 1901 census records the family living in Ballymacsimon. James and Hannah with their children Richard, Ellen, James and Peter Thomas. A nephew and servant are also present. A decade later James was working as an apprentice grocer for Francis Buckley in Greystones Town.

With the outbreak of the Great War James enlisted in the army at Dublin. He was posted to the 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. In fact, the battalion number can be seen on his arm in the photograph. The 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were formed from the Tyrone Volunteers in September 1914 at Omagh, as part of Kitchener’s New Armies. The battalion would later become part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, which was largely made of members of the Ulster Volunteer Force in contrast to the 16th (Irish) Division which was made of up of Irish Volunteers.

Bearing in mind the battalion was formed from the UVF, was James a loyalist? It is possible considering he was of the Church of Ireland faith, but on the contrary, many southern Catholics also served in the battalion, indeed northern loyalists also served in the 16th (Irish) Division. Regardless of his political beliefs he enlisted for service and after training found himself in France in October 1915.

The battalion saw heavy fighting and was present for the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, the attack on Messines Ridge (7–14 June 1917). Sadly, James’ luck was to run out and he was killed in action on 16 August 1917 during the Battle of Langemarck. His remains were never found and his name is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

James’ mother Hannah would receive a small pension in respect of her son’s death.

Tyne Cot memorial and cememtery. Image courtesy of Gary Blakeley via Wikipedia.

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