Saturday, 28 June 2014

1914: one hundred years on

Exactly one hundred years ago today, on June 28th 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip. It was an event that quickly precipitated the start of the First World War (1914-1918).

I shall be taking a short summer break from my series of blog posts commemorating the 17 CONDR*Ns who gave their lives serving in that war. I have seven more still to write about.

On a happier note, I see from my database that there were 30 CONDR*Ns born in the British Isles in 1914: 15 in Ireland, 11 in England, 3 in Scotland and 1 in Wales. Of these, two were CONDRENs (one each in Northumberland and in County Kilkenny) and 28 were CONDRONs. The greatest concentration was in Dublin, with two born in Dublin North and three in Dublin South. The most popular boys' name was James (3) and the most popular girls' name was Margaret (3). Other names included Cecil, Herbert, Hubert, Irene, Ivy, Jessie and Olive.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

24941 Private Thomas CONDRON (1880 – 1917)

On 9 April 1917 the British armies in northern France embarked on what they hoped would be the decisive, final campaign of the war. On that date, British forces (including Canadian and Australian forces) attacked the German defensive lines to begin the Battle of Arras.

The shaded area shows the ground gained during the Battle of Arras. Courtesy of .
The first day was a great success for the Allies. The Canadians attacked and captured a large part of Vimy ridge. Elsewhere, almost the whole of the German first-line front was captured. In particular, the 4th Division of the Third Army pushed forward and captured Fampoux, about 3 miles to the east of Arras.

The early successes were not sustained. From 10 April onwards, the Allies came up against renewed German resistance, and initially the artillery of the Third Army was too far back to support its infantry. Tanks were deployed but were too few in number to be effective. The 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, with a fighting strength of 20 officers and 617 men, was part of the 4th Division. The Battalion’s war diary notes that 11 April was a snowy morning. On that day, the Battalion was to push forward from a point north of Fampoux in an advance of over 2000 yards. However, the troops came under heavy fire and suffered severely. The Battalion lost 11 officers and 307 men in the action.

By the time the battle officially ended, the British had made significant advances but had failed to make the decisive breakthrough.

Private Thomas CONDRON (service 24941) died on 11 April 1917 in the Battle of Arras.

Thomas CONDRON was born in Dublin in about 1880 (possibly early 1881), the fourth child of Thomas and Anne (née WHELAN) CONDRON. In the 1911 census of Ireland, Thomas is recorded as a coal labourer and is living at home in Dublin with his widowed father, one brother and a married sister. Thomas moved to Scotland and married Susan COURTNEY in 1914 in Glasgow. The couple had three children: Thomas (born 1914), Michael (1915) and James Patrick (1917). Thomas joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers and was subsequently transferred to the 1st Battalion.

Thomas’s father was Thomas CONDRON, born in about 1853 in County Wexford. Thomas (senior) married Anne WHELAN in 1873 in the registration district of Gorey. The couple had seven children: Anne (1873) who married Patrick MITTEN, Michael (1876), Julia (1878) who married Denis McGRATH, Thomas (1880), Mary (1884) who married Michael CONNOLLY, Peter (1888) and Sarah (1891). Thomas (senior) was listed as a general labourer in the 1901 census and a brewery labourer in the 1911 census.

Thomas CONDRON is buried in Brown’s Copse Cemetery, Roeux, in northern France.

(Note that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has him wrongly listed as J. CONDRON and has his date of death as 16 April, though other sources give 11 April).

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG .

Sunday, 11 May 2014

3046 Private Hugh CONDRON (1890 – 1916)

For my earlier postings about the Battle of the Somme, including the Battle of Pozières, click here.

Private Hugh CONDRON (service no. 3046) was killed in action on 18 August 1916 in the fight for Pozières during the Battle of the Somme.

Hugh Hume CONDRON was born in Boorhaman, Victoria, Australia, in 1890. He was the son of John CONDRON and Anne Maria WRIGHT.  He married Maud Agnes HAMILL in 1912. The couple had three children: Harold, Alan Thomas and Gladys Evelyn. Hugh enlisted on Jul 27, 1915, in Melbourne. After first being assigned to the 4th Depot Battalion, he was eventually transferred to the 8th Battalion, Australian Infantry (Australian Imperial Force - AIF).

Hugh's father was John CONDRON, who was born about 1835 and died in 1908 in Wangaratta, Victoria. John married Anne Maria WRIGHT in 1864 and the couple had a number of children, including Isabela (born 1871), Elizabeth (1873), William (1876), Robert (1879), George (1881), Henry (1884), James (1887), Hugh Hume (1890) and Harold Reginald (1893). All of the above children were born in Wangaratta, Victoria, except for Isabella who was born in Oxley, Victoria. According to one of my correspondents, the couple also had children Mary Agnus (1866) and John Thomas (1869), both born in Oxley. The report of John CONDRON's death in the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (November 20, 1908) states, "Mr. John Condron, aged 73 years, died at his residence in Templeton Street. The deceased served as a gunner in the Indian mutiny." The Indian mutiny  took place in 1857.

Hugh's grandparents were Thomas and Elizabeth CONDRON. According to various online family trees, this couple are the same Thomas and Eliza (née McGOVERN) CONDRON who migrated from Co. Cavan, Ireland, and about whom I have blogged previously.

Hugh CONDRON is memorialized on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, in northern France.

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG .  I would particularly like to receive firm evidence that John CONDRON is indeed the son of Thomas and Eliza (née McGOVERN) CONDRON.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

4/8173 Private Arthur CONDRON (1897 – 1916)

I wrote in my last blog post about the first weeks of the Battle of the Somme. After the initial phase, the offensive evolved into a series of battles for prominent towns, woods and high grounds. Significant amongst these were the Battle of Delville Wood (14 July – 3 September 1916) and the Battle of Pozieres (23 July – 7 August 1916).

The Battle of Delville Wood, which involved an Allied offensive and German counter-offensive, was one of the last examples of close hand-to-hand infantry fighting on the Western Front. Casualties were high on both sides. Notable is the heroic action of the South African 1st Infantry Brigade, which suffered 80% casualties but held the wood. Amongst the British troops involved in the battle were the 3rd Division of the Fourth Army under General Rawlinson, including the West Yorkshire Regiment.

The Battle of Pozières involved the 1st Australian Division (Australian Imperial Force) as well as British troops. The fortified village of Pozières was captured by the Australian forces early in the battle, and the village was held against heavy German bombardment in the days that followed. The Australians lost as many men in the Battle of Pozières as in the whole of the Gallipoli campaign.

The Somme offensive was also notable for the first deployment of tanks on the battlefield by the British. Tanks were used in the battles of Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Thiepval Ridge.

The Battle of the Somme continued through September and October until the middle of November. Particularly in the latter stages of the battle, the Allied forces made what by then seemed significant advances. But overall, the gains by the Allies amounted to advancing the front line by a few miles. The total combined casualties on both sides in the battle, though still debated, undoubtedly amounted to more than one million men, including three hundred thousand killed. In human lives, it was one of the costliest battles in history.

Private Arthur CONDRON (service no. 4/8173) died on 18 August 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.

Arthur CONDRON was born in Leeds in 1897, the third child of Thomas and Mary Ann (née THAXTER) CONDRON. In the 1911 UK census, Arthur is recorded as a steam hammer driver and is living at home with his parents, brother and two sisters. Arthur enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment (“Prince of Wales’s Own”) in Leeds and, at the time of his death, was serving in its 12th Battalion.

Arthur’s father Thomas CONDRON was born in Aldershot in 1858: his birth is registered as Thomas CONDRAN in the registration district of Farnham in the second quarter of that year. In the 1871 census he is recorded as a valet in Portsea, near Portsmouth. In 1877 he enlisted for a 12-year term of duty in the British Army, at which time his occupation was recorded as seaman, and he served in India (1877-78, 1880-85, 1887-89), Afghanistan (1878-1880) and Burma (1885-87). Thomas was discharged from the army in 1889, and married Mary Ann THAXTER on 2 June 1890 at St. George’s church, Leeds. The couple had four children: Thomas Francis (born 1891), Elsie Margaret (1894), Arthur (1897) and Gladys (1901). All four children were baptised at Christchurch, Leeds. Thomas is recorded as an inspector of telegraph messages (1891), town postman (1911) and attendant (1920): he died in 1938, and Mary Ann died the following year.

Arthur’s grandfather was also a Thomas CONDRON, and according to Arthur’s parents' marriage certificate, Thomas CONDRON senior was a tailor.

Arthur CONDRON is memorialized on the Thiepval Memorial in northern France.

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A/7579 Private Patrick CONDRON (1894 - 1916)

The Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916) still has a particular resonance, especially in the United Kingdom. It was one of the costliest battles of the First World War in human lives, with more than one million casualties and more than 300,000 killed or missing. On the first day alone, British forces suffered 57,000 casualties including more than 19,000 men killed.   

The location of the Somme offensive in northern France was chosen in large part because it was planned as a join French-British action where the forces of the two allies were both engaged on the front line. It was not ideal militarily, since the German front line was strong there and commanded the high ground. British Commander-in-Chief General Haig would have preferred to mount an attack further north in Belgium. In fact, the Somme offensive was largely a British military action because the German offensive of 1916 against Verdun drew French efforts away to defend against that.

The area of the Battle of the Somme, showing the Allied front line on 1 July 1916 (solid line) and on 19 November (dashed line). Image courtesy of Cruttenden Connections.
The initial battle plan was founded in the optimistic conceit that the bombardment of the German lines by Allied artillery would cut the barbed-wire defences and leave no-one alive in the opposing trenches, meaning that the infantry troops of the British Fourth Army would be able to cross no-mans land and take the German trenches unopposed. In fact, many German troops saw out a week of artillery bombardment sheltering in dug-outs. Thus on the fateful morning of 1 July 1916, as the British infantry advanced from their trenches at 7.30am and walked across no-mans land, they were assailed by machine-gun fire from the German front line. The British battalions advanced at a slow walk, wave after wave in slow formation, their rifles held aslant in front of them with bayonets upwards. By the end of the day, many of the battalions (initially one thousand men strong) were left with hardly one hundred men.

Although the British barely made any advance around Thiepval, on the left and right flanks they had greater success. The British commanders were slow to capitalize on those successes in the coming days, but General Rawlinson leading the Fourth Army subsequently formed a plan to break through the German defences on the right in the area of Longueval. Advancing under cover of darkness after a brief artillery bombardment, the British troops started an assault early on 14 July against the Bazentin Ridge, and eventually captured Longueval on 18 July. The 33rd Division, including the 1st Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), were part of that action and the attack on High Wood on 20 July.

I shall write more of the Battle of the Somme in my next posting.

Private Patrick CONDRON (service no. A/7579) was killed in action on 20 July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme.

Patrick CONDRON was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, in late 1894, and baptised in Doonane Roman Catholic parish. His parents were Michael and Catherine (née KELLY) CONDRON. He moved with his family to Scotland, where he is listed in the 1901 census for New Monkland, Lanarkshire. In the 1911 census he is a coal miner (hewer) living in New Monkland with his father, two brothers and four sisters. Patrick enlisted in Maryborough, Queen’s County, with the Leinster Regiment (service no. 3157). At the time of his death he was serving in the 1st Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Michael CONDRON and Catherine (Kate) KELLY married on 22 October 1893 in Mayo church in the parish of Doonane, Queen’s County, Ireland. Michael is recorded as a miner in the 1901 Scottish census and as a coal miner (hewer) in the 1911 census. Catherine, who was born in about 1874, died in the first months of 1911. The couple had the following children: Patrick (1894), Mary (1896), Elizabeth (1898) and Bridget (1900), all born in Ireland; and Catherine, John and Michael, all born in New Monkland, Scotland.

Patrick CONDRON’s grandfather was also a Michael CONDRON. It seems likely that Patrick’s father Michael was baptised in Doonane in 1870. In that case, Patrick’s grandmother was Mary KEATING. Michael CONDRON and Mary KEATING married in Doonane in 1857. They had a number of children, including Mary (1858), John (1859), Michael (1870), Alicia (1872), James (1874), John (1876), Catherine (1878) and Bernard (1882). Michael CONDRON senior was a farmer, according to Michael CONDRON junior’s marriage certificate.

Patrick CONDRON is buried in the London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval, northern France.

The London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval (courtesy

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG

Sunday, 30 March 2014

4525 Corporal Frank CONDRON (1894 - 1915)

The Battle of Loos took place on the Western Front between 25 September 1915 and 14 October 1915. It was part of a larger plan by the French and British to break through the German defensive lines and take a major offensive action which would also give some relief to Russia, which was embattled with Germany on the Eastern Front.

Amongst the western Allies at this time, France had superior numbers of men and artillery in the field, and the British Expeditionary Force was very much the junior partner. When Commander-in-Chief Joffre proposed the plan, British commander Sir John French had little choice but to comply. Joffre contended that the British attack would “find particularly favourable ground between Loos and La Bassée”. When the Commander of First Army, Sir Douglas Haig, inspected the area, he reported back to Sir John that the ground was quite unsuited to a large attack. Sir John French, under strong pressure from Joffre, ignored Haig’s advice. The attack (“the Big Push”) around Loos, north of the mining town of Lens, went ahead, with the British First Army and the French Tenth Army to their south attacking eastwards against the entrenched German Sixth Army.

The German trench defences consisted of a front line and a second line. British bombardment of the German lines started on 21 September and continued until the ground assault began on 25 September. The Battle of Loos was the first occasion that the British used chlorine gas as a weapon. The Germans had used it earlier in 1915 first against the Russians and then in April and May on the Western Front. However, delivery of the gas depended on wind direction, and on this occasion it probably impacted the British troops as much as the intended targets. At 06:30 on 25 September, British infantry units moved out from their front lines and advanced across no-man’s land. Casualties were severe as the advancing troops came under heavy fire, though in places the British did achieve their first objective of taking the German front trenches. Troops involved on that first day included the 2nd Battalion of the Border Regiment, which as part of 7th Division formed part of I Corps of the British First Army. They were engaged in the attack near Hulluch, to the north-east of Loos.

The early successes could not be capitalized upon. Two divisions of reserve troops, which Haig had requested to be stationed close to the front line for quick deployment, were instead stationed 16 miles behind the front. The reserves were therefore not able to join battle until the afternoon of 25 September and the opportunity to push the attack on had been lost. Strong resistance in the German second line had brought the attack to a halt. The Big Push had broken into the German positions, but not through them.

The British suffered 60,000 casualties in the Battle of Loos including over 2,000 officers. Nearly 8,000 British troops died. The Scottish Divisions (9th and 15th Divisions) suffered particularly heavy casualties.  By the end of the year, Sir John French had resigned and Sir Douglas Haig had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.

Acting Corporal Frank CONDRON (service no. 4525) was killed in action on 25 September 1915 in the Battle of Loos, northern France.

Francis John (Frank) CONDRON was born in 1894 in the West Derby registration district of Liverpool. He was the son of Francis Patrick and Mary Ellen (née HAY) CONDRON. In the 1911 census of England and Wales, Frank is living in Salford with his parents and seven younger siblings (four brothers and three sisters): his occupation is given as “cart lad” on the railway. Frank joined the Border Regiment and served in its 2nd Battalion.

Francis Patrick CONDRON and Mary Ellen HAY married in 1893 in the West Derby registration district of Liverpool. Francis’s occupation is given as “furniture porter” in the 1901 census and as “ships boiler scaler” in 1911. The couple had at least nine children: Francis John (born 1894) and Robert (1896) born in Liverpool; Lilian Winifred (1898), Thomas Baden P. (1900, possibly died 1902) and William Daniel (1901) all born in Colwyn Bay; Mary Jane (1903) born in Liverpool; and Michael (1905), Thomas (1907) and Amelia (1910, died 1912) all born in Salford.

Frank CONDRON’s grandfather was Francis CONDRON, who was born in Dublin in about 1842 and died in Salford in 1921. Francis was a color sergeant in the army, as recorded in the censuses for 1871 and 1881. Francis married Ellen BOURKE in Limerick in 1863, and the couple had at least seven children: Anne (born 1864 in Limerick), Amelia Emily (born in about 1866 in the East Indies), John Joseph (born 1869 in Chatham), Francis Patrick (born 1871 in Aldershot), Thomas Michael (boon 1874 in Devonport), Albert Edward (born 1877 in Newport, Monmouthshire) and William Henry (born 1882 in Liverpool).

Frank CONDRON is memorialized on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, northern France.

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG

Saturday, 15 March 2014

3015 Private Lawrence CONDREN (1877 - 1915)

I have written previously about the Gallipoli campaign from its beginning through June 1915. In July 1915, the British government decided to send a further five divisions of troops to strengthen the seven divisions already on the Gallipoli peninsula. The land forces commander, Sir Ian Hamilton, planned an operation to  sever the middle of the peninsula with attacks from both Anzac Cove and Sulva Bay, five miles to the north of Anzac. Troops landed at Sulva Bay on 6 August and initially took the Turkish forces by surprise, but the offensive failed and the Allied forces found themselves pinned down. New Australian troops landed at Anzac in August and September. But soon the autumn rains came, and in London the British government began to explore withdrawing Allied forces from Gallipoli. Hamilton opposed the withdrawal plan, and was promptly replaced as commander by Sir Charles Munro. Lord Kitchener visited the peninsula in November and decided that evacuation was inevitable. Troops were withdrawn from Anzac and Sulva in mid-December 1915, and the last Allied troops were withdrawn from Helles on the night of 8 January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign was over.

In his History of the First World War, Liddell Hart writes, “Thus the curtain rang down on a sound and far-sighted conception, marred by a chain of errors in execution almost unrivalled even in British history.”

Estimates of the total casualties in the Gallipoli campaign vary, but one source estimates that the Allied casualties (excluding those due to illness) were 56,700 dead (including nearly 9,000 Australians and over 2,700 New Zealanders) and 123,600 wounded. The numbers of casualties amongst the Turkish troops were similar.

Private Lawrence CONDREN (service no. 3015) was killed in action on 15 August 1915 in Gallipoli. Lawrence CONDREN was born in 1877 in Cardiff, Wales, and was christened on 12 September of that year at St. David’s Roman Catholic church. He was the son of David and Sarah (nee ROSSER) CONDREN.

David CONDREN (born 1850, died 1916) married Sarah ROSSER (born about 1849, died 1909) in Cardiff in 1870. David was a ships’ rigger. The couple had a number of children in Cardiff, including Rosavena (born 1872), Mary Jane (1875), Lawrence or Laurence (1877), William (1883) and Arthur (1890). Other children could be David, Albert and Violet.

Lawrence’s grandfather was William CONDREN (born about 1824), who married Jane NEWTON in 1849 at St. Mary the Virgin’s church, Cardiff. I have written previously about this family.

Lawrence CONDREN joined the Royal Munster Fusiliers, and served in “C” Company, 6th Battalion. He was killed in action on the Gallipoli peninsula on 15 August 1915. He is memorialized on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.

For other blog posts about CONDR*Ns in the First World War, click on "First World War" in the Labels list on the right of the blog web page. Comments and corrections welcome, either by leaving a comment below or by email to me: CONDRAN[AT]ONE-NAME.ORG