July 31. Third Battle of Ypres begins in WW1. Submariner Magennis wins NI’s only Victoria Cross in WW2. Roll of Honour

On 31 July 1945 Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis a diver in Midget Submarine XE3, overcame major difficulties in an attack on a Japanese cruiser of the Atago class. He was awarded the Victoria Cross. This was the only VC to be awarded in WW2 to a service person from Northern Ireland. In 1916 Hugh Henderson of the Royal Irish Fusiliers is the first to die in the 36th(Ulster) Division’s first action after the Battle of the Somme. In 1917 The Third Battle of Ypres begins with the British and French attacking on a 15-mile front, initially taking 12 villages and 5,000 German prisoners. Irish Rugby international Alfred Squire, a medical officer, was dressing a brother officer’s wound in France when both were killed instantly. The News Letter of this day in 1917 reported that David Forsythe a linen mill worker from Balnamore near Ballymoney had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. The paper said the village “has a record of loyalty to be proud of. Out of a population of 330, every eligible single man is serving in either the Navy or the Army. At present there are 60 men serving with the colours”. The Irish poet Francis Ledwidge also died that day as did Eric Greer of Moy. Colonel Greer, educated at Eton and Sandhurst, was the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards . When he was killed in action he had already been mentioned in despatches three times. In 1940, Joseph Thompson from Lisburn and in 1943 John Herbert O’Farrell from Dundrum were lost over Germany. Both were RAFVR.

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