Five Brothers of World War I
John Patrick Fitzmaurice 1882 - 1956
Peter Fitzmaurice 1887 - 1966
Walter Fitzmaurice 1889 - 1941
Henry Fitzmaurice 1891 - 1917
Thomas Fitzmaurice 1897 – 1962
The Fitzmaurice brothers were second generation Irish immigrants whose father, Thomas, had left County Mayo in the later 19th century to find a better future for himself. He made that future in Blackburn, Lancashire. In 1914 the call to arms came and the brothers went off to fight for their adopted King and Country.
27094 Pte. J.P. Fitzmaurice was posted to the 11th Battalion East Lancs on the 10th Sept 1916 and remained with the unit until buried on the night of the 13/14th April 1918. The 11th was better known as the Accrington Pals.
J.P. enlisted on the 10th of December 1915, he was 35 yrs 210 days old. He was described as 5’ 3½”, 116lbs; he had poor eyesight, flat feet and bad teeth but otherwise V Fair physical development!
He remained at home until hurriedly deployed to France to be posted on arrival in May 1916, he was eventually posted on the 11th in September 1916 where he reinforced the then decimated Accrington Pals. It would be easy to say he remained with the 11th until April 1918 but that would belie the amount of action he saw as an infantryman with this battalion. He finally fell at the battle of Lys and after a month at no. 54 London General Hospital he was medically downgraded to the Labour Corps and continued to serve on the railways at Boulogne.
He volunteered to remain after the war where he helped to clear the battlefield of the fallen until May 1920 when he was discharged due the pains in his back and head due to his injury. He was also described as being of a nervous disposition. He had one minor indiscretion on his regimental conduct sheet - he was absent without leave for 5 days in July 1919, he served 7days in the brigg and forfeit 5 days’ pay. I think we can forgive him this!
John Patrick never married and spent his later life with his widowed sisters, Mary and Maggie.
His time with the battalion is represented in italics.
Sep 1916 3rd: 158th R.F.A. moves to Arras front.
Sep 9th: C/158th R.F.A. leaves to be split between 157th and 159th R.F.A.; replaced by D/163rd R.F.A.
Sep16th (to 5th Oct): At Festubert.
Oct 1916 15th: Battalion returns to line in front of Serre.
Nov 1916 17th: Trench Raid
Jan 1917 8th: A/158th leaves on disbandment of 158th R.F.A. to become C/48th Army Field Artillery (A.F.A.).
Jan 10th-12th: Battalion moves to Doullens area for rest & training. 10th: B/158th leaves to become C/64th A.F.A.
Feb 1917 7th/8th: C/64th A.F.A. into line at Maroeuil.
Mar 1917 6th-9th: In line east of Puisieux.
Mar18th: Battalion moves to Merville area for training (to 8th Apr). 20th: C/48th A.F.A. into line at Beaurains.
Apr 1917 9th onwards: C/48th A.F.A. and C/64th A.F.A. take part in Battle of Arras.
Apr 29th: Battalion moves to Arras area. 28th: 64th A.F.A. support infantry attack between Oppy and Gavrelle.
May 1917 3rd: 64th A.F.A. support attack by 31st Division between Oppy and Gavrelle.
May 8th-11th: In line. 11th/12th: 48th A.F.A. support attack by 4th Division against Roeux Chemical Works.
May 14th to 17th: Actions near Oppy (Arras). 14th: 64th A.F.A. withdraw from line at Arras.
May 19th: 48th A.F.A. support attack by 29th Division on Infantry Hill.
May 25th-27th: 64th A.F.A. move into line at Woodcote House, Ypres.
Jun 1917 7th: 64th A.F.A. take part in Battle of Messines (to 14th June).
Jun 10th-19th: In line.
Jun 28th: Successful attack at Oppy-Gavrelle (Arras).
Jul 1917:Training & re-fitting.
Jul 31st: 64th A.F.A. take part in Third Battle of Ypres (to 10th November).
Aug 1917: Trench warfare in Acheville sector (Arras).
Sep 1917: Strengthening Vimy Ridge defences (through Nov).
Sep 17th: Battalion bombarded with mustard gas shells.
Sep 20th: 64th A.F.A. support infantry attacks in Battle of Menin Road.
Oct 1917 4th: 64th A.F.A. support infantry attacks in Battle of Broodseinde.
Oct 29th: 48th A.F.A. leave Arras for Ypres.
Oct 31st: 48th A.F.A. begin to move into line on Steenbeck River.
Dec 1917: Battalion working on improving defences (through Jan 1918).
Feb 1918: Battalion transferred to 92nd Infantry Brigade, 31st Division.
Mar 1918: Training in St. Pol area.
Mar 27th: Defensive action at Ayette. 2/Lt. Horsfall earns Victoria Cross.
Mar 27th: 48th A.F.A. fight in Battle of the Somme (to 5th April).
Apr 1918: Battalion withdrawn to St. Pol area.
Apr 11th-13th: Defensive actions near Vieux Berquin (Battle of the Lys).
Apr 9th: 64th A.F.A. heavily involved in Battle of the Lys, supporting 31st Division at Vieux Berquin on 12th April.
In civilian life Peter Fitzmaurice was a railway stationmaster, he enlisted in the 4th East Lancs as part of the 1st Volunteer Battalion in August 1902, transferring in April 1908 to the 1/4th, he spent his time drilling and training at home in England.
Much like a territorial would do today.
In 1914 he sailed to Egypt as a sergeant where he served in the disastrous campaign at Gallipoli. During this period he rose through the ranks from L.C.Q.M.S. (Company Quarter Master Sergeant), then C.S.M. (Company Sergeant Major) and finally 2nd Lieutenant (junior commissioned officer). A Company Sergeant Major (CSM) is the senior non-commissioned soldier of a company, responsible for standards and discipline.
In combat, his prime responsibility is the supply of ammunition to the company. He also oversees the distribution of other supplies such as water or food; although that responsibility mainly is the Company Quartermaster Sergeant's (CQMS), and evacuating the wounded and collecting prisoners of war. These responsibilities were crucial at Gallipoli which is when Peter was promoted: rapidly.
In March 1917 he left his brother, Walter behind in Egypt and embarked for the Western Front. At some point he was transferred to the Royal Engineers, Railway Operating Division and he retained his rank of 2nd Lieutenant, indicating his gift for logistics. He served on the Western Front until the 14th August 1917 when he returned home, posted as Officer Commanding the 8th Battalion East Lancs Regiment. He was discharged from active duty on the 30th April 1918 and gazetted (a desk job) at Heywood, Bury.
The family were and remain immensely proud of Peter’s achievements, so much so, that there is a “Peter” in every surviving branch of the family. Peter married and immigrated with his wife and daughter to America, where his great grand-children still live.
Pte. Walter Fitzmaurice was wounded in the “buttocks” on the 7th of August 1915 at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, Gallipoli and was removed to the Greek hospital in Alexandria, arriving on the 14th. He did not return to the peninsular but remained in Egypt. As Peter left for the Western Front, Walter was transferred to the 80th Rifle Brigade; he stayed in Egypt and the Sinai area for the duration of the war.
He spent time at Kantara defending the Suez Canal and he was granted five weeks furlough and embarked for Blighty on the 15th March 1917. He did not re-join until 14th July 1917 where he was stationed at Pelussium and had a further 5 day stay in hospital in November of 1917, suffering from T.B.
The First Battle of Gaza (26-27 March, this Division being in reserve)*
The Second Battle of Gaza (17-19 April)*
The Third Battle of Gaza (1-7 November)*
Wadi el Hesi (8 November)*
Burqa (12 November, 156th Brigade only)*
El Maghar (13 November, 155th Brigade only)*
The capture of Junction Station (14 November)*
The Battle of Nabi Samweil (20 - 24 November)*
The Battle of Jaffa (21-22 December)*, including the passage of the Nahr-el-Auja
* the battles marked * are phases of the Palestine campaign .
The Division remained in the line near Arsuf until March 1918. Orders were received on 24 March that the Division would be relieved by the 7th (Meerut) Division and that it would then proceed to France.
In the April of 1918 Walter was transferred to the 53rd Welsh Division and was posted to the 5/6th Btn Royal Welch Fusiliers on the 12th August 1918. He remained in the Jerusalem area until he embarked from Port Said on the Kalwa on the 19th October 1918; he was demobbed 7th March 1919.
Walter returned home to his wife, Emily. They had three children, Walter, Thomas and Margaret - only Walter and Thomas survived.
Henry Fitzmaurice was a Driver in the 55th Ammunition Column of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. He was married to Margaret Mary and had two children, Margaret and Peter. We have very little actual information about Henry’s service apart from the general battles of the 55th but Henry’s story is a tragic one. We know he signed up on the 31st of May 1915 but remained at home until the 2nd of March 1917, whereupon he was sent to France to join the 330th Brigade, “A“battery. On the 12th August 1917 whilst he was serving in the field with No2 section of 55 D.A.C. his daughter of 11 months died from the measles. We will never know if Henry received this news as he himself was killed in action on the 28th August 1917 at Passchendaele. Several months later his son, Peter also passed away. Margaret Mary received a military pension of 18/9 per week; she later remarried only to lose her own life in childbirth.
Henry was buried at the casualty station where he died, which is now Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, just outside of Ypres.
Shortly after the tragic event of Henry’s death the family received another blow, Thomas, the patriarch of the family, had a serious accident at work; he was a labourer in an iron foundry and sustained an injury to his eye which blinded him. He underwent surgery to remove the remainder of the eye but unfortunately, he died from the effect of the chloroform. This left his two daughters, Mary and Maggie alone at home to fend for themselves and to worry and pray for the safe return of their brothers and sweethearts.
202214 Pte. Thomas Fitzmaurice, the youngest brother, also enlisted in the East Lancs, although no records remain. He would only have been 17yrs old at the outbreak of war and probably determined to follow his brothers despite the protestations of his sisters. This he did, but probably later in the campaign. We know he was with the 2/4th battalion and from a photograph he was in Colchester in March 1916. The battalion landed at Le Havre on the 2nd March 1917, he was 19yrs old. He saw action in northern France, at one point, four of the five brothers were all serving in Northern France but we do know for certain that Thomas was taken prisoner in the spring offensive of 1918, around the 23rd of March 1918 we have notification from Limburg, Germany. Then, a postcard, dated 7th July 1918, from Gustrow, Germany. It reads:
My Dear sisters, again I write hoping that this card finds you in the pink. At the time of writing I am not so well but will be all right in a day or so, hoping you held up my birthday the 9th of July. I wish I could have had a few bottles with you. Still waiting for a letter. I remain your devoted brother. Thomas
It was postmarked 27.7.18, the birthday was his 21st.
Thomas returned home toward the end of 1918 and was invited to a mayoral welcome home party in January 1919. He went onto marry Ruth Mellor and together they had a son, Peter who went on to have five children of his own, three of which still live in Blackburn, Lancs.
War records provided by ancestry.co.uk
Article by Shirley Fitzmaurice, 2014