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MIA(KIA) during RDF first VC winning action in France

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Michael Killeen


2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Michael Killeen was entitled:

- Victory Medal (Roll B/101 B7 Page 553)

- British War Medal (Roll B/101 B7 Page 553)

- 1914-15 Star (Roll B/7B Page 195)

Michael was born in Longwood, Co. Meath as a son of John and Mary Killeen on the 1877. After his childhood, Michael moved to Dublin and married with the Jane Killeen around 1899. They had four sons and three daughters. Michael worked as a Coal Labourer. And their family lived in 33 Constitution Hill, Arran Quay, Dublin (6/8).

When the Great War broke out, new service battalions were called up next to the old regiment battalions. Also modern warfare gained heavy costs and fresh reinforcements were vital for bloody war in France and East.

Because Royal Dublin Fusiliers continued with the old service number series, it is possible to indicate that Michael enlisted for service around second half of May 1915 (20095 enlisted 1st May 1915, 22290 enlisted 29th July 1915. His service number was 20230 (3/4).

After initial training, he was posted to the France on the 14th December 1915, as reinforcement to the 2nd Battalion (nicknamed ‘The Old Toughs’) Royal Dublin Fusiliers, what was part of 10th Brigade in 4th Division (2/4/6). Because that move end of the year, Michael qualified as well for a 1914-15 Star (9).

At this time Battalion have seen some of the bloodiest battles in France, including suffering 1915 summer serious gas attacks against their position. Because heavy losses, they didn’t took part any major battles in the end of 1915 (1/10).

Coming year, Private Killeen took part the battle of Somme, what begun 1st July 1916. The opening day of the battle, British Army suffered the worst one-day combat losses in its history, with approx. 60,695 (19,240 KIA) (1/5/10).

Private Killeen’s unit attacked in the second wave area near Hawthorne Redoubt what was just detonated using explosives in the tunnel but still 503 men who went into battle, 325 became casualties (10).

Almost in the end of the battle, 2nd Battalion was located near Ginchy in October 1916.

On the 23rd October men went over the top in four waves. Their objective was a German machine gun position known as Gun Pits with four machine guns. It was located east of village Lesboeufs (1/10).

Under heavy machine gun fire, men managed to crawl into German trenches where horrific hand to hand fighting started. In the end, 2nd Battalion managed to take that ground. Also history for the whole Royal Dublin Fusiliers was made, Sgt. Robert Downie from B Company won in the Great War Regiment first Victoria Cross (London Gazette 25th November 1916):

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in attack. When most of the officers had become casualties, this non-commissioned officer, utterly regardless of personal danger, moved about under heavy fire and reorganised the attack, which had been temporarily checked. At the critical moment he rushed forward alone, shouting, 'Come on the Dubs'. This stirring appeal met with immediate response and the line rushed forward at his call. Sergeant Downie accounted for several of the enemy and in addition, captured a machine gun, killing the team.

But the price was hard as well: 17 men got killed and 124 wounded, 36 men were missing (10).

One of the soldiers, who became a casualty on that day, was Michael Killeen.

Notification about his death was recorded on the Irish Times on the 27th November 1916 (11).

He is commemorated in the Thiepval memorial (reference Pier and face 16 C) next to the other 377 Royal Dublin Fusiliers soldiers, who found their final resting place in there. He was 39 years of age, when he got killed (1/6/7).


(1) Royal Dublin Fusiliers – a forgotten regiment


(2) British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920


(3) Army Service Numbers 1881-1918


(4) The Long, Long Trail – The British Army of 1914-1918 – for family historians


(5) Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


(6) UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919


(7) Commonwealth War Graves Commission


(8) National Archives: Census of Ireland 1901/1911


(9) British Campaign Medals, 1914-2005 (Shire Library)

by Peter Duckers

(10) Crown and Company, 1911-1912, 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin FusiliersBy Colonel H.C.Wylly, C.B.

(11) The Irish Times, 27th November 1916



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