Visit to Thiepval Memorial 2016

96 Year-Old Niece Travels to Somme to Honour Liverpool Scottish Uncle

On Friday 1st July, 96½ year old Mrs Ellen Gobbi ventured in her wheelchair to the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme battlefield in France. There the name of her uncle from Prescot, Corporal Matthew Kennedy O’Brien of the Liverpool Scottish, is commemorated with 72,000 others who died during the Somme battles and have no known grave. Accompanied by her daughter, Professor Mary Gobbi of Southampton, they attended the principal national commemoration. Only 8000 tickets were available in a national ballot last year. They laid a poppy wreath bearing the silver bonnet badge of The Liverpool Scottish. The badge shows the horse of the King’s Liverpool Regiment on a Scottish St Andrew’s Cross.

Kennedy O’Brien, as he was known in the Army, had joined the Liverpool Scottish immediately after watching a football match on Saturday, 29 August 1914 as part of a group that brought the Liverpool Scottish, a Territorial infantry battalion already existing at then start of the war, up to the strength needed to serve in France and Belgium. Previously he had been a miner, probably at Sutton Manor Colliery near St Helens. The battalion, with Kennedy O’Brien, was in France by the beginning of November 1914 and in action three weeks later. By New Year 1915 he was evacuated back to the UK ill but returned to the front in March 1915. He was killed in the 55th (West Lancashire) Division’s attack on the village of Guillemont on the Somme on 9th August 1916. He is commemorated on the St Helens Roll of Honour and Rainhill War Memorial.

Ellen and Mary bought a special Somme commemorative poppy pin made from the brass salvaged from the artillery fuses that are still found by farmers in their fields today. This poppy pin is one of only 19240 of which have been made, one for every British killed on the battle’s opening day, 1st July 1916. In an amazing and emotional coincidence, their pin turned out to have been dedicated to another Liverpool soldier, the 26 year-old Private William Hodson 24811 from Everton. He belonged to the 17th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, This was the senior battalion of the Liverpool Pals, men who volunteered right at the beginning of the First World War on the basis that they would serve with their friends or ‘Pals’. William Hodson was probably in the 17thBattalion’s successful attack on the Montauban ridge at the extreme right of the British line, one of the few attacks to achieve all its aims on that day, William came from Underley Street in Liverpool’s Edge Hill area. The street is , now demolished and is the site of the new Archbisop Blanch School.

Further Info: Contact Ian Riley 07889234022 or 01925 766157

Additional Info:

Kennedy O’Brien (from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site )

 Rank: Corporal Service No:3395 Date of Death:09/08/1916 Regiment/Service: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 1st/10th Bn. Panel Reference: Pier and Face 1 D 8 B and 8 C. Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

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