Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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6982776   Fusilier Hugh O'Neill
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 14/10/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 23/01/1922
Died: 07/04/1943 (Killed in Action)
Age: 21
Summary      
Fusilier Hugh O誰eill was born on 23rd January 1922 and was the son of Hugh & Bridget O誰eill, Chapel Street, Cookstown. He had worked as a message boy prior to enlisting with the Inniskillings on the 26th June1940 at Omagh. The 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were stationed in India prior to the outbreak of World War Two. On 7th / 8th April 1943 Hugh O誰eill was part of a patrol which engaged a Japanese force in Padana Chaung area, Burma. Fusilier O誰eill was killed in action during one of these engagements.
Further Information
Hugh O誰eill was the son of Hugh and Bridget O誰eill. He was born on 23rd January 1922.
Hugh had worked as a message boy prior to enlisting with the Inniskillings on the 26th June1940 at Omagh.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 13th January 1940: Patrick O誰eill brother of Fusilier Hugh O誰eill
Driver Patrick O誰eill, Royal Army Service Corps (eldest son of Mr Hugh O誰eill of Chapel Street, Cookstown), who has been home on ten days leave from France, was welcomed by his parents and friends and all who knew him. He left on Wednesday to re-join his unit in the best of health and spirits. He wishes to thank the ladies of the town for the parcels he received from Cookstown, and to say how much the men out there appreciate a parcel.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 22nd June 1940: Patrick O誰eill brother of Fusilier Hugh O誰eill
Mrs W Irvine, of ex-Soldier痴 Cottages, Tullyhogue, has been notified by the Air Ministry that her eldest son, Aircraftman (1st Class) William C Irvine, was killed on 11th June when the aircraft, of which he was wireless operator, crashed at the aerodrome when taking off. He was 19 years of age.
Mrs Burns, of Morgan痴 Hill Road, Cookstown, has been notified that her son, Private Joseph Burns, Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed in action on Flanders.
Local men of the British Expeditionary Force who arrived home on leave since Friday last were:
bullet Private George Taylor, R.I.F., of Coagh Street, Cookstown
bullet Private Norman Nelson, R.I.F., of Coolreaghs
bullet Sergeant John Stirrup, Pioneers, of William Street, Cookstown
bullet Lance Corporal William Cunningham, of Fairhill, Cookstown
bullet Driver Cecil Slane, Royal Army Service Corps, of Chapel Street
bullet Gunner Joseph Espey, Royal Artillery, of Fortview, Cookstown
bullet Private John Cheevers, Duke of Cornwall痴 Light Infantry, of Cemetery Cottages, Cookstown
bullet Driver Patrick O誰eill, Royal Army Service Corps, of Chapel Street
bullet Sapper James Kelly of Orritor Street, Cookstown
The 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were stationed in India prior to the outbreak of World War Two. When the Japanese swept through south east Asia and into Burma, the battalion were rushed north of Rangoon to destroy oil wells in March 1942. They succeeded, but less than a third of the battalion eventually returned to India.
1943
On 7th - 8th April 1943, Hugh O誰eill was part of a patrol which engaged a much stronger Japanese force in Padana Chaung area, Burma. The patrol suffered heavy casualties as the enemy seemed to be in strength. A decision was made that the battalion lay up in the undergrowth for a whole day. Any sign of movement was met with indiscriminate firing from the Japanese, in the course of which, their Medical Officer was killed. The plan was made to move at dusk southwards and then strike due west to come out on the beach south of Indin. Movement that night through enemy lines was extremely difficult. Fusilier O誰eill was killed in action during one of these engagements, aged 21.
From the Battalion Diary from April 1943 - 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers:-
(5 April) 0800 hours. A Company withdrawn within Inniskillings Boundary - a quiet day Companies improving sites for defence of area. Yesterday news was received that the Japs have taken out the Indin Headquarters at 541015.
(6 April) 0700 Hours. Orders for withdrawal given by 47th Brigade. Brigade to withdraw to Kwason. Order of withdrawal 5/8 Punjabis, Brigade HQ, A.D.S, Inniskillings. The original order to withdraw down the Sinoh Pass to Indin was countermanded when the enemy blocked the Pass, cutting off 1/7 Punjabis from the rest of the Brigade. 1/7 Punjabis were to make their own way out.
1000 Hours. Withdrawal began. Route across country to Kwason chiefly jungle covered hills with steep drops into chaungs (river or stream). Rate of movement less than half a mile an hour. The brigade moved in single file. By dusk the force was clear of the main ridge of hills. There was no moon and darkness fell, direction was kept by touch only.
1930 hours. Leading men of the battalion reached a deep river bed. A.D.S., who were in front of the Inniskillings, lost contact and passed message back that the enemy were reported ahead. Each unit took its own route from then on.
(7 April) Early this morning Inniskillings bumped into Japs in Padana Chang, suffered a few casualties. As the enemy appeared to be in strength in this area, the battalion lay up in the undergrowth the whole day. Enemy were much in evidence and made considerable poise, firing indiscriminately at any signs of movement. Captain A O Karstaedt, Medical Officer, killed. Plan was made to move at dusk southwards and then strike out due west to come out on the beach south of Indin. Movement that night through the enemy lines was extremely difficult but at dawn we reached the foothills at about 587995.
(8 April) Just as dawn was breaking the advance guard (14 people of C Company under Lieutenant J R Bathgate) pushed forward too quickly and disappeared. They were not seen again.
0830 hours. Enemy were again bumped. The battalion withdrew slightly and lay up. All ranks were suffering from lack of sleep.
1000 hours. Enemy attacked and inflicted further casualties. From now on the battalion split into small forces and withdrew further into the jungle on the hill sides.
1945
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 13th October 1945:
Mr and Mrs Hugh O誰eill, of Chapel Street, Cookstown, have received official notification from the War Office regretfully stating that their son, Hugh Con O誰eill, who was serving with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, is presumed killed in action in Burma on 7th April 1943. Fusilier Hugh Con O誰eill was reported missing since 1943. He joined up in 1940 at the age of 18 years and served for two years at home and afterwards abroad.
Memorials
Fusilier Hugh O誰eill has no known grave and is commemorated on Rangoon Memorial in Burma.
Fusilier Hugh O誰eill is commemorated locally on Cookstown Cenotaph.
The CWGC record Fusilier Hugh O誰eill as the son of Bridget O'Neill of Cookstown, County Tyrone.
Read more
Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Chapel Street, Cookstown Cookstown Central Parents lived in Chapel Street 54.641446 -6.744144
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 CWGC Captain Abraham Oscar Karstaedt, RAMC, attd 1st Bn R Innis Fus
2 Forum discussion (WW2 Talk) Photos of Battalion Diary from relevant days
3 Inniskillings in Burma: Jan - Apr 1943 Details of the Inniskillings in Burma
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2021