William Frederick “Billy” McFadzean VC (9 October 1895 – 1 July 1916) was born in Lurgan, County Armagh. From Ulster, he was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
|Born||9 October 1895
Lurgan, County Armagh
|Died||1 July 1916 (aged 20)
|Years of service||1914 – 1916|
|Unit||14th Battalion, The Royal Irish Rifles|
|Battles/wars||World War I – Battle of the Somme|
Private Billy McFadzean 36th Ulster Tribute
McFadzean was a 20-year-old rifleman in the 14th Battalion, The Royal Irish Rifles, British Army during the First World War. On 1 July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme near Thiepval Wood, France, a box of hand grenades slipped into a crowded trench. Two of the safety pins in the grenades were dislodged. McFadzean threw himself on top of the grenades, which exploded, killing him but injuring only one other.
His citation read:
No. 14/18278 Pte. William Frederick McFadzean, late R. Ir. Rif.
For most conspicuous bravery. While in a concentration trench and opening a box of bombs for distribution prior to an attack, the box slipped down into the trench, which was crowded with men, and two of the safety pins fell out. Private McFadzean, instantly realising the danger to his comrades, with heroic courage threw himself on the top of the Bombs. The bombs exploded blowing him to pieces, but only one other man was injured. He well knew his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment’s hesitation he gave his life for his comrades.
McFadzean’s father was presented with his son’s VC by King George V in Buckingham Palace, London on 28 February 1917.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
McFadzean played rugby for Collegians RFC.[ He was also a member of the East Belfast Regiment of the Ulster Volunteers and the Young Citizens Volunteers
Private McFadzean was remembered in song:
- Let me tell you a story of honour and glory
- Of a young Belfast soldier Billy McFadzean by name
- For King and for Country Young Billy died bravely
- And won the VC on the fields of the Somme
- Gone Like the snowflake that melts on the river
- Gone like the first rays of days early dawn
- Like the foam from the fountain
- Like the mist from the mountain
- Young Billy McFadzean’s dear life has gone
- Now Billy lies only where the red Flanders poppy
- In wildest profusion paints the field of the brave
- No piper recalling his deeds all forgotten
- For Billy McFadzean has no known grave
- So let us remember that brave Ulster soldier
- The VC he won the young life that he gave
- For duty demanding his courage outstanding
- Private Billy McFadzean of the U.V.F.