Hugh Boyle Soldier

"And the Irish move to the sound of the guns
Like salmon to the sea" The Irish Guard

certificate-discharge-serial-no-8217Irishman. Born in Lifford, Donegal. Province of Ulster.  Volounteer Hugh Boyle Sapper 95328 Army Form Z21
176th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers
Attested April 1915 and shipped by troop train and steamer to Lestrem where 176th Tunnelling Company was formed.

Photos of Manchester's WWI 'unsung hero' tunnellers found.
Link: BBC News 17th September 2012

Hugh Boyle 176th Tunnelling Coy Royal Engineers

Hugh Boyle Volounteer Hugh Boyle 95328. Seen Stood at Ease with the newly formed 176th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Somewhere near Neuve Chapelle France. Read War Diaries 176th Tunnelling Company Hugh Boyle Sapper 95328 Royal Engineer

We're not so old in the Army List,
But we're not so new in the ring,
For we carried our packs with Marshal Saxe
When Louis was our King.
But Douglas Haig's our Marshal now
And we're King George's men,
And after one hundred and seventy years
We're fighting for France again! The Irish Guard

Attestation Royal Engineers

Hugh Boyle Sapper 95328 Military Qualifiation: Carpenter. Very Superior.

His shuttering skills were put to good use in shoreing galleries, trenches and tunnels.

He was a very good tutor and listener. I remember him for his humour, calmness and most of all his
Donegal brogue
"Little birds in their nests agree! Why oh why, don't we?"

The 176th Tunnelling Company spent the war building saps, dugouts and tunnelling beneath German trench lines. Every hour burrowing closer and closer. Never knowing whether your Sloth like movements have been detected. Slicing and removing the clay like pieces of cake, gently moved from hand to hand. Detonating massive mines, entombing and being entombed, deep below no man's land.

The Messines Ridge was undermined by 27 mines using over 450 tons of ammonal explosive. Over 10,000 were killed when the mines were detonated. Most vapourised and never found. The British lost this Ridge some time later adding to further loss of Lives.

Much of the heavy work being done by Tommy Atkins.

"When the band begins to play".


I went into a public 'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, " We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' " Tommy, go away " ;
But it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's " Thank you, Mister Atkins," when the band begins to play.

Rudyard Kipling


Many were not so fortunate

Many were not so fortunate and died within days of arriving at the Western Front.

Frederick Niven Gerds.
Resigned from private enterprise to join the newly formed tunnelling companies of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Commissioned May, 1915. 2nd Leiutenant 176th Tunnelling Company. Previous service in Rhodesian Volunteer Force. Born in South Africa.

Son of Ada A. Gerds, of Four Winds, South Benfleet, Essex, and the late F. W. Gerds. Educated at Repton School. Associate of the Royal School of Mines. Associate Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. Manager of the Radnor Mine, South Rhodesia. Employed by the London and Rhodesia Mining and Land Company from 1910, as Surveyor and Assayer, Cam and Motor Mine.


The Sniper

Extract from 176th Tunnelling Company War Diary

1st May 1915.
No1 Section moved to GORRE
3.45AM. 2nd Lieut. Frederick Niven Gerds Royal Engineers (Temp)
When coming back from in front of our parapet through a small hole used by patrols, after he had seen to a pipeline, was hit by a bullet in the head. He was at once brought in but died (Underlined) painlessly after a few minutes.
His body was buried on 2nd of June 1915 at the churchyard at the head of the St. VAST corner M33 C23 Sap.

War Office Records pertaining to Frederick Niven Gerds. WO 339/28463 


Little birds in their nests agree! Why oh why, don't we?

Underground medieval warfare. For many men it would be dark, prolonged & terrifyingly brutal.

Bayonets were used to pick gently at the clay when close to other enemy chambers. A counter-offensive tunnell would be carefully gouged out beneath the enemy chamber and a camouflet carefully aimed upward. Ready to pulverise the attacking tunnell when it was occupied.

Listening intently for the slightest of enemy digging or scraping sounds. When a "Hightened activity" of opposing tunnellers was detected, it would be blown. It was a natural instint to rescue your fellow tunnellers from the collapse. So a short wait ensued. When the rescuers were heard and they were always heard, a secondary device would be detonated. Killing the rescuers.

"Will you walk in to my parlour?" Said the spider to the fly. Mary Howitt

Rat Traps from 4" x 4".

Used a bell to announce unwanted visitors to his allotment & garden apple trees. Would string a tripwire around his plot. Armed with a catapult he would repel any unwanted guests from his bedroom window. Built me a wooden fort, carving the stonework into the ply.

Man traps in counter tunnells were employed  at precisely calculated break-in points. These were identified by "Listeners" using a long wooden dowel. Biscuit tins of water were placed on the solid floor, watched day and night, close activity causing ripples with each picking vibration vibration vibration. The French Geophone was later used. Transferring the compass points to a vector mapped position up to 200 feet away and over a period of days of listening intently, gave his exact direction and pace of travel.

100's of tons of Amatol and gun cotton were packed into underground chambers and backfilled with sand bags to create massive underground mines. Mine craters 100's of feet wide were blown. The detonation of 19 mines beneath the Messines Ridge trenches, all at once at the "Battle of Messines", killed approximately 10,000 German soldiers.


Everybody damns the Tunneller; GHQ because he invariably has his job finished months before the rest of the Army are ready for the ‘Great Push’; Army troops because he invariably upsets all their preconceived notions as to the safety of trenches and dugouts; Divisional troops damn him because he is outside their sphere of influence; Brigade troops because he refuses to move when they do and because he knows by heart that part of the line to which they come as strangers; Brass hats because they dislike his underground habits; Regimental officers because he refuses to allow them to use his deep and snug dugouts; Subalterns because of his superior knowledge; Tommy because he is the direct cause of numerous extra fatigues and – alas that it should be so – because of his extra pay; and last and loudest, the Boche damn him because of his earnest and unceasing attempts at uplifting and converting them into surprised angels. It is also owing to his success in this noble work of the missionary that the Tunneller is highly respected by all branches of the forces.

[E Synton, 1918]


Re-enlisted at Omagh, Royal Engineers. 1919 during the Irish war of Independence.

The Irish War of Independence was a Guerilla War that relied heavily on civilian participation. Entaganists: Irish Republican Army v British Army, Royal Irish Constabulary.

Civil War started when Eamon De'Valera and Republican supporters walked out of Teacht Dail. Leaving Michael Collins with thoughts of Not what fame the position of Commander in Chief of the Irish Free State Army would bestow but the memory of a whispered premonition.

During the Irish Civil War and weeks after the shooting in 1922 of Michael Collins, Commander-in Chief of the Irish Free State Army. He joined Oglaigh na h'Eireann training ex IRA combatents also known as Free Staters. He was billeted at Portebello and Mullingar Barracks.

Discharged in 1927 "Time Served". He spent the 30's fitting out Bars and well known Dublin City Hotels putting to good use his "Very Superior" carpentry skills. Gresham Hotel, Powers Hotel Kildare Street.

Born 8 September 1895 his organizational skills were only out shined by his great discipline and tactfulness. That soft Donegal brogue, always smiling. Read cowboy comics and "The Irish Independent", met Hopalong Cassidy in Croke Park and shaved every morning in his wooden workshop, back of house.

Gunga Din

So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone
Where it's always double drill and no canteen.
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Rudyard Kipling


Lifford Leifear. Lifford lies in the Finn Valley area of East Donegal where the River Finn meets the River Mourne to create the River Foyle. The Burn Deele (also spelled as the Burn Dale), flows into the River Foyle just north of Lifford. 



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