A Diver of Londonderry & Donegal…
Born on 7 Feb 1898 in 21 Lewis Street in the City of Londonderry, Thomas Wilson Diver was the second child and eldest son of eight born to George William Diver and, my great grand aunt; Elizabeth Wilson.
I discovered Thomas just recently after unearthing Short Service Record No. 8211 belonging to Robert Norry Wilson, his uncle and my great grand uncle; which led me to Burt, Co. Donegal and another Crooked Branch of my family tree.
The 1901 census revealed that three year old Thomas was “visiting” his maternal great aunt, Eliza Jane Doherty (nee Wilson); in 28 Carrowreagh, Burt, Co. Donegal. By the time the 1911 census was recorded Thomas was shown as “living” with the family, who were now residing in 21 Carrowreagh. At this point in time his name was recorded as Thomas Wilson and he was listed as a boarder and scholar. His parents and siblings were still living in Londonderry. It is unclear why Thomas was living in Burt and not with the rest of his family. It bothered me – I needed to find out more about Thomas Wilson Diver.
I researched further and discovered much more than anticipated; it sadly started with his death record. The UK De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour (1914 – 1919) revealed that Thomas “joined the 10th Inniskilling Fusiliers on 12 Oct. 1914 and served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders”. It also noted that he “was wounded and invalided home on 28 Aug 1916.” It would seem that Thomas was not to be deterred – he returned to France in Jan 1917 and transferred to the 2nd Inniskillings in Mar 1918. The record also stated that he “was present at the German offensive that month, and was killed in action 2 Oct. following.”
Although the UK De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour (1914-1919) indicated that Thomas was killed in action on 2 Oct 1918; more records revealed that his actual date of death was 29 Sep 1918 in France and Flanders.
In May 1917 Thomas was “awarded a Parchment Certificate after fighting at Thiepval on the Somme, 1 Jul 1916; and the Military Medal for gallant and distinguished service in the field”. The record shows his address as Creggan Road in Londonderry, his parents’ home. It also noted that he was educated in Burt, Co. Donegal.
The UK Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects confirmed that this was indeed my Thomas Wilson Diver. His father George William Diver was listed as his father and a War Gratuity of £23 10 Shillings for his war service was paid. The Grave Registration Report noted: “DIVER, Lce. Cpl. Thomas, 15459, M.M. “A” Coy. 2nd Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. 29th Sep 1918. Age 20, son of George William and Elizabeth Diver of 5 North Street, Rosemount, Londonderry.”
His life was cut short… Thomas Wilson Diver, not only is he Remembered with Honour at the Tyne Cot Memorial and Commemorated in Perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; he is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial in Londonderry.
The records for the Diamond War Memorial state, “Thomas Wilson Diver – who was a member of First Derry Presbyterian Church and a holder of the Military Medal – was also awarded an Ulster Division Certificate for conspicuous gallantry on July 1, 1916, in the Thiepval sector, for showing great courage and ability in handling his Lewis gun in the German ‘C’ line. Although he escaped unscathed that day, he was later wounded and gassed. Lance Corporal Diver joined the Ulster Division on its formation, although not sixteen years of age.”
It also revealed the contents of a letter written by the Reverend J. G. Paton informing Tommie’s aunt, Mrs. Wilson, of her nephew’s death. It said; “I have known deceased for a long time, and can tell you he was a good boy and a keen soldier, who always did his duty cheerfully. He never did better than on the day on which he was killed; it was in an attack on the enemy, and he did good work.”
Tommie will always be remembered by me! Like many other he has found a little space in my heart!
I would like to say a very special thank you to Nigel Henderson of Great War Belfast Clippings who provided me with a newspaper clipping of a notice which read: “Lance Corporal T.W. Diver, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Creggan Road, Derry, who has received an Ulster Division Certificate, commended for gallantry in the field.” The best part… it came with a photo! Many thanks Nigel!
It is always rewarding to find the stories of those who should be remembered. How sad that his life was cut short. How awful that his parents received just 23 pounds for the loss of their son.
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Thanks for reading Amy. I don’t know why, but this young mans story really touched my heart. Maybe it’s because even after being injured he returned to the front. 😦
Yes, I was taken by that also. So many wonderful lives lost because of war.
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Hi, hope things are too snowed in where you are, we are having 41 C summer days so pretty warm opposites really. Anyway, loved this post. I was never that interested in the war, over the last few years I have read a few novels and non-fiction which has sparked my interest and now with all the centenary events of the 1st WW it brings it home even more. Yes, I find it sad and touching of these young men, who gave their lives in such terrible conditions, and also, as you say, when injured and go back to fight again, and sadly don’t return. When you look at their young innocent faces you have to wonder if they had any idea what they were going into. I think not. Their world back then was so small, same place born, usually same place died! And yet they went so far from home to fight for their countries, and gave the ultimate sacrifice. I find it hard not to read their stories and look at their photographs without tears in my eyes. As always CJ a wonderful post. xx Vicki in Australia
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Hi Vicki, great to hear from home; hope all is well with you and yours! The 40C below temps are really getting on my nerves and the 4 feet of snow on our front lawn needs to go away! I’m most definitely a summer girl. 😉 Like you I’ve was never interested in the wars (just too sad); but since I seem to have lost so many ancestors in the two World Wars it’s taken on an entirely different meaning for me. I still can’t believe that I am so effected by the life stories of my ancestors. I just never realized this research would become so emotional for me. He lived such a short life, but obviously he accomplished much and was recognized for it. It was a real shock to actually be provided a photo of Thomas; it just makes him that much more real for me. Take care Vicki. ❤
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Having just written a piece on a great uncle who died in “the German Offensive” of March 1918, I can’t help but wonder if your Thomas and our Uncle Eric might have been fighting in the same general area? Much of that offensive was fought along the same battle lines as the 1916 Battle of the Somme at which your ancestor also fought; so how terrible for him to have had to return to that awful place. Our uncle died in March 1918, and is buried in a British Cemetery in the Somme Valley. It’s an area I’ve visited before (though I’ve not been to the cemetery) and will go to again; cemetery after cemetery of young men died before they had much chance to live. This was a lovely post Colleen; I’m so glad you are sharing Thomas’s name and story.
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Thanks Su, it is so incredibly sad how many young men died. I’ve found so many in my own family. After I posted the blog it was shared on https://www.facebook.com/westulstergenealogy?fref=ts and one of their followers provided me with more information. The Diamond War Memorial Project in Londonderry provided this information:
Lance Corporal Thomas Wilson Diver
2nd/10th Battalion Royal Inniskillings Regimental Number 15459
Born: —- Died: 1918-09-29 Aged: 20 Enlisted: Londonderry
Name recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. Name also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Resided with his aunt, Mrs Wilson, 24, Creggan Road, Londonderry. Son of George William and Elizabeth (possibly died on September 13, 1927, and interred in Londonderry City Cemetery) Diver, 5, North Street, Rosemount, Londonderry.
Thomas Wilson Diver – who was a member of First Derry Presbyterian Church and a holder of the Military Medal – was also awarded an Ulster Division Certificate for conspicuous gallantry on July 1, 1916, in the Thiepval sector, for showing great courage and ability in handling his Lewis gun in the German ‘C’ line. Although he escaped unscathed that day, he was later wounded and gassed. Lance Corporal Diver joined the Ulster Division on its formation, although not sixteen years of age.
The Reverend J. G. Paton, writing to inform Diver’s aunt, Mrs Wilson, of her nephew’s death, said ? ‘I have known deceased for a long time, and can tell you he was a good boy and a keen soldier, who always did his duty cheerfully. He never did better than on the day on which he was killed ? it was in an attack on the enemy, and he did good work.’
George W. and Elizabeth Wilson, 5, North Street, and Thomas Wilson Diver, 24, Creggan Road, signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant (September 1912) pledging resistance to Home Rule for Ireland.
The gentleman also provided this information:
“Thomas joined the 10th Btn on the 12th 1914 which was the Derry Regiment formed from the Derry Volunteers at the start of the war and were part of the famous Ulster Division.
The Military Medal on the 1st of July came from a short lived offensive involving 660,000 British soldiers on a massive push along the front where the Ulster Div took the Schwaben Redoubt on the opening day of the Somme, this was a German strong point. This was their first regular offensive and being the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne many found inspiration. The German strong points were given Ulster names such as Lurgan, Strabane, Dungannon etc by the ulsters.
Thomas’ division got as far as ‘Omagh’ and came under fire from Thiepval fort and stalled. All officers were killed. They pushed on and got to the German 4th line of trenches. The 10th appealed for ammo and water but no body could get to them. Unfortunately for the successful Ulsters the divisions either side of them failed on the day and they were left stranded out in a bulge in the front line with 3 sides to defend and were forced to concede the ground back to the Germans and retreat taking around 50% losses to their men. A hollow victory.
These soldiers are commemorated at the Ulster Tower near the site of that battle.
On the 1st July the Ulster division lost 5000 men and were given 9 Victoria Crosses.
Thomas was wounded and invalided home on 28 Aug 1916 after this Somme attack.
In 1917 he returned to France and was at the Battle of the Messines and captured Wytschaete; they were involved in the 3rd Battle of Ypres and then captured Bourlon Wood.
Thomas transferred to the 2nd Btn to bring it back to full strength.
He died on 29th Sept 18 aged 20 at Terhard in Belgium when their right flank was held up by enemy machine guns at 9.30am and they captured Terhard by noon.”
He accomplished so much in his very short life; like so many others! 😦
I think you still have a relative in the Coshquinn area of Derry by the name of Beth Diver
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Thank you very much Colm. I do know that as far back as the early 1800’s I have Wilson & Lynch family in Coshquinn. Would you happen to have contact information for her; or could you pass on my email address? email@example.com. Thank you so much for getting in touch! Colleen
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Would it be possible to find out anything about my father who served with the inniskillen fusiliers in France. I am now 77 and would like a little bit of service history about him. I think his service no. Was 3975. He was injured and was in Colchester hospital for a time. William James
Laverty (or maybe spelt Lafferty) he was from 22 Beech Avenue Coleraine.
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Hi Margaret, I would be happy to do a search for you. I’ve sent you an email. Colleen