On 1st July 1916, Private Robert Quigg of the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, was one of thousands of Ulstermen who advanced on the enemy trenches at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.
The attack proved a disaster and the terrible sacrifice of those who were killed is still commemorated every year.
As a result of his courageous actions on this day, Robert Quigg was awarded the Victoria Cross. His bravery is best described in this citation:
“..... He advanced to the assault with his platoon three times. Early next morning, hearing a rumour that his platoon officer was lying out wounded, he went out seven times to look for him under heavy shell and machine-gun fire, each time bringing back a wounded man. The last man he dragged in on a waterproof sheet from within a few yards of the enemy’s wire. He was seven hours engaged in this most gallant work, and finally was so exhausted that he had to give it up.”
Recent research has established that the soldier mentioned in the citation above, “dragged in on a waterproof sheet”, was Private Robert Matthews from the Co. Antrim village of Mosside, not far from where Quigg V.C. lived. The two men served together in the same battalion and it is almost certain that they knew each other. Of the seven men who were saved, Private Matthews is the only one that has been identified.
The Robert Quigg V.C. Commemoration Society is working tirelessly to raise funds for a bronze sculpture in his honour to be erected in his home village of Bushmills, Co. Antrim. The sculpture will be unveiled on the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 2016. In addition to the sculpture, the site will need landscaping, railings and a plaque and the total cost is expected to be £55,000-£60,000. To date, thanks to the outstanding generosity of the people of North Antrim and beyond, over £26,000 has been raised by public subscription.
As part of the Commemoration Society’s work, the chairman Leonard Quigg, a great-nephew of Robert, is compiling a book to be entitled “Robert Quigg V.C. - a Bushmills hero”, which will explore not just the story of Quigg’s heroic actions but also the story of how the terrible events of World War One impacted on the Bushmills community in general.
Leonard has already undertaken a considerable amount of research into the life and times of the Bushmills hero and has been assisted by the personal reminiscences of Robert Quigg’s last surviving niece, Miss Jean Gibson of Greenock, Scotland. However, he is keen to hear from any “senior” members of the Bushmills community who may have personal memories of, or stories about, Robert Quigg V.C. and would be delighted to have this information. Anyone who would wish to share these recollections with Leonard and possibly have them included in the forthcoming book should contact him initially on mobile 07891 753473 or by email at LFQuigg@aol.com .
WHO WERE THE SIX OTHER MEN?
Particularly welcome would be suggestions for the identity of the six other soldiers Quigg V.C. rescued from the Somme battlefield. In 1917, it was reported that five of the seven men he saved had survived. It is the hope of the Robert Quigg V.C. Commemoration Society that possibly someone may have recorded these names or may be a relative of one of these fortunate men.
Are you a relative of one of the men saved by Robert Quigg V.C.? Do you have a photograph or a story about this famous hero which you’d like to share with the Society? If so please contact Leonard at the details listed above.
If you like to make a donation to the Sculpture Fund, you can send money by PayPal at the Society website http://www.robertquiggvc.com/donate or post a cheque made payable to the Robert Quigg VC Commemoration Society, c/o 67 Millgrange, Ballymoney, BT53 7QB.