RIFLEMAN J.P O’REILLY – information added to www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org

If you have any information on family members who fought in the Great War you can add it to this wonderful new site of the Imperial War Museum which has just gone live. 

I threw in some of this little lot about my granduncle from Baileborough, Co.Cavan who died on the Somme in 1916.


J.P.O’Reilly was born in Baileborough, Co.Cavan. He was just about old enough to enlist in 1914 when war broke out. He did so under the influence of a priest who implored his younger male parishioners from the pulpit to go to the aid of ‘little Catholic Belgium’.  His father, tried to get him out but, although he was not entitled to vote at that age he was entitled to die for Belgium.


He was assigned to the 6th Royal Irish Rifles who, in August 1915 landed at the killing zone of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. The first of three surviving letters home, to his brother Terry, my grandfather, was on 31 August 1915. He was excited at how well Cavan were going in the All Ireland. They’d already had won the Ulster championship.  Later they were beaten in the All Ireland semi final by Wexford.


He told my grandfather that ‘regularly every evening the Turks send across a few shells. These do little damage. It looks like a winter campaign here, but you never know what is going to happen.’ He was wrong about that. The campaign ended in December when Gallipoli was evacuated and left to the Turks.


He was transferred to the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles. On the 29 September 1916, during the Somme offensive, he was killed by the sort of random shell that didn’t seem to cause him much anxiety in Gallipoli. You never know what is going to happen. On 22 October his grandmother wrote to his mother saying ‘I hope you are keeping up and not crying too much. You know crying will do poor Pat no good.. Thank God he is not in the trenches in France now.’


Rifleman 19927 J.P.O’Reilly is buried in Lonsdale cemetery in Picardy. When he died he was still not entitled to vote.