Brian Normanby Fitzgibbon was born on the 14th of April 1894 at Yate, Gloucestershire, England, and baptised at St Mary Yate on 17th May 1894.
He was the only son of John Arthur Fitzgibbon and Katharine Maud Randolph, who married 4th June 1882 at St. Peter, Fulham Middlesex. John was born 12th October 1854 in Middlesex, the son of Gerald Normanby Dillon and Lady Louisa Isabella Fitzgibbon. His father was the 13th Viscount Dillon of Costello-Gallin..
In the 1861 Census, Gerald’s occupation is shown as ‘The Hon. Clerk India Office’.
In 1871 John was a pupil in Edgbaston, Birmingham., but by the 1891 Census he had followed his father in changing his surname to Fitzgibbon.
Brian appears in the 1901 Census living with his parents and elder sister, Kathleen Beatrice Florence, born in 1891, in The Cottage, Yate, Gloucestershire. His father is shown as ‘Living on own means’, Brian is a scholar. The 1911 Census shows Brian continuing his education, at Rugby School, aged 16, and living at 2, Arnold Villas, with his sister, 20, and Servant Leah Thornycroft.
Unfortunately Brian’s Service Records did not survive the fire generated by a German bomb during World War 2. However the War Diary of the 6th Battalion of The Royal Irish Regiment has survived.
It is written initially by Lt. Colonel Finlay E P Curzon, and commences on 17/12/1915 with the Regiment leaving Blackdown, Hampshire to join the British Expeditionary Force as part of the 47th Infantry Brigade, of the 16th Infantry Division.
27 Officers, 826 men embarked at Southampton on the SS Marguerite, and 6 Officers, and 170 men embarked on the SS Bellerophon with the Regimental Transport. They disembarked at Le Havre on the 18th and went by train to Choques overnight. They marched to Drouvin and over the next week they had instruction on Front Line Trench warfare in Reserve trenches.
From the 30th December to 8th January, they marched to Amettes, Borny, Hazebruck in Belgium, Verquin, Palfont, Matringham and Allomanye. They took up position in Front Line Trenches (FLT),
north east of Loos with other Scottish Regiments of the 47th Infantry Brigade.
Loos is a small settlement north-west of Lens and south-east of Bethune.
Their first fatality happened on 17th January, followed on the 26th by the death of Major G W Page at Noeux Les Mines. On that date the diarist records ‘no attacks but heavy shelling’.
29th January saw the Regiment on the march again, ending in Philosophe. Courses in musketry, bombing and drill occupied the men for 2 days.
They moved again on 8th February to Philosophe, and then into FLT, before being relieved 4 days later.
Into FLT again at Festubert, the front line consisting of 16 isolated breastworks, the support trench, 80 yards to the rear, was 8oo yards long of breastworks, with the reserve company in the village.
On the 19th February they marched to Beaumetz Les Aire and were inspected. As a result 48 Other Ranks were declared to be medically unfit to fight and were transferred to base.
Between the 11th and 14th March they were attached to the 12th Division and were clearing trenches and carrying bombs and RE material to the front of the Hohenzollern trenches at Allequin. They moved to Barbure in 40 motor lorries. 17th March 40 OR joined from their 3rd Battalion.
25th March, on the move, marched to Lilliers, train to Noeux Les Mines and finally marched to Loos.1 OR killed..
They were relieved on 28th March by the 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers. And went into billets at Philosophe. 31 March to 5th April, in reserve at Mazingarde, then they relieved the 49th Brigade at Hulloch at the sector from Stone Street to Posen Alley.
9th April they were relieved by the 7th Leinster Rangers, and themselves relieved the Connaught Rangers. During the period, 9th to 16th April their trenches were shelled resulting in 1 Officer and
7 OR killed and 12 OR wounded.
20th April, they moved back to Noeux-les-Mines. One man was killed accidentally during bombing
27th April, the Battalion were in support trenches, when the Germans attacked preceded by smoke and gas, but the 16th Division held firm.
They moved to the Front Line Trenches 2 days later at Puits, from Railway Alley to Gordon Alley.
On May 3rd they were relieved and moved back to the Support Trenches, but on the 7th, they returned to their previous trenches.
This pattern of time in Front Line Trenches, followed by days in the Support trenches and then in Reserve, continued throughout May, with little real infantry action. On the 9th May a small party of German soldiers entered their trenches, and were driven off without casualties. A heavy bombardment on 11th May killed 6 other ranks and wounded 12. On the 27th May a deserter was captured who said that an attack was in preparation.
June started with a heavy bombardment for 2 hours on the 3rd and on the 6th, 60 8” shells were fired but 50 were duds. One did blow out a dug out burying 6 men , all but 2 were dug out alive.
10th June, back in Reserve in Noeux Les Mines, they went through 7 days training in Musketry, Bombing and Bayonet fighting. On the 18th Sergeant T Cahill was awarded the DCM and Private J Bryant the Military Medal.
The next day a raid was made on Cameron Crater (in No Man’s Land) by 2 Officers and 20 OR. Sentries were killed and a large working party bombed. The party suffered no casualties. They were commended by the Brigadier and the Divisional General.
25th May, preparation for a gas and smoke attack took place, but the wind was too feeble, as it was the 28th. The next day saw an attack with rifle grenades and trench mortar bombs. There was only slight retaliation.
3rd July onwards they were in Divisional Reserve carrying huts and ladders. They also had rifle practice. Back in the FLT from 12th to 14th July they suffered intermittent shelling, with 5 OR killed and 19 wounded. On 15th July back in Divisional Support, 84 NCO’s joined them. !9th July they were carrying stores and ammunition to the FLT.
Heavy shelling killed 2 OR and wounded 4 on 21st July. They retaliated with a raid carried out by 2 groups each with 1 Officer and 12 OR. Bangalore torpedoes were used to cut the wire but were not successful, bombs were thrown.
25th to 31st July, in Divisional Reserve they were busy working and carrying to the FLT, no casualties.
9th August, FLT in Cameron and Haymarket Alleys. The trenches were badly damaged. The next day they came under heavy mortar fire which resulted in the killing of 8 OR and wounding 15. They returned to Brigade Reserve on 13th.
They took up places in the FLT on 17th August.
The Battalion Diary records the events of 21st August:
The 6th Battalion Irish Regiment carried out a raid to the east of Harrison’s Crater with the assistance of a mine. The mine was blown at 2 am and the raiding party under 2/Lieutenant Kelly were in the enemy’s trenches within 5 minutes. Bangalore torpedo parties were arranged for, but owing to the loss of all officers commanding the parties and the heavy fire of all kinds these parties did not attain their objectives. At 3am the raiding parties are withdrawn after bombing down several dugouts and inflicting severe casualties amongst the enemy, unfortunately 2/Lieutenant R J Kelly and 10 O R in safe guarding the withdrawal of this party are reported missing, believed to be prisoners as a German next morning shouted ‘Tommy we have one officer and a man here’. Lt. B N Fitzgibbon was killed when i/c of one of the M G (Mine Group) 5 OR killed. 2/ Lieutenant M A Hurley wounded and 18 OR killed, 2/Lieutenant M A Hawley wounded and 18 OR, 2/ Lieutenant T B Keegan and AO C Patman shell shock 2 OR missing.
On the 24th of August the diarist records 107 killed 352 wounded and 5 missing (total464) since the Battalion landed in France. The diarist is now Captain V E Ward Simpson.
He was buried at Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery, a town 6 kilometres south of Bethune on the main road to Arras.
Lt. Brian Fitzgibbon was awarded the British War Medal, the 15 star the Victory medals.
Probate for his effects was given to his mother and his estate of £372 18 10.
He is recorded in both the British and Irish Casualties of WW1.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM