1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Date Of Birth:
17/05/1915 (Died of Wounds)
William G Little was born in Moneymore and lived at Coolkeeghan, Blue Doors, in Cookstown. He enlisted when he was 16 and served with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for 8 years in China and Trimulgherry, India, where he served with Robert Falls and William Nixon, two of his childhood friends. In December 1914 the Battalion returned to England, and landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25th April 1915, where they suffered very heavy casualties. During this action on 17th May, William Little was wounded and died from his wounds a few hours later.
William George Little was the eldest son of William and Eliza Little (nee Hamill/Hammond). William was born on 9th September 1889 in Moneymore.
The spelling of the surname alternates throughout between Little and Lyttle. The CWGC use the former spelling.
The 1901 census lists William as age 11 living with the family at house 3 in Ballygruby, Moneymore, Londonderry. William was still at school. His father was a farm servant.
Family: William Lyttle, Liza F Lyttle, Isabella Lyttle (born about 1882), Susan Lyttle (born 10th November 1886), Lizzie Lyttle (born 28th January 1888), William Lyttle (born 9th September 1889), Robert Lyttle (born 30th September 1891), Alice Kate Lyttle (born 2nd June 1893), Samuel Lyttle (born 4th June 1896), Mary Lyttle (born about 1899), Sarah Lyttle (born about 1901).
William Little enlisted at Finner Camp, Ballyshannon, County Donegal, when he was just 16, about 1905.
The 1911 census does not list William as living with the family at house 13 in Killymoon Demesne, Cookstown Rural, Tyrone. His mother had been widowed. Most of the family was working in local factories and mills.
Private Little served with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for 8 years in China and Trimulgherry, India, where he served with Robert Falls and William Nixon, two of his childhood friends.
In early December 1914 the Battalion returned to England, arriving at Avonmouth on 10th January 1915. They were based at Rugby with the 87th Brigade of the 29th Division until they sailed for the Mediterranean in March 1915 arriving at Mudros on the island of Limnos in the Aegean Sea in April.
They landed at X Beach just inside the Gulf of Saros on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25th April 1915, where they suffered very heavy casualties. The open terrain often left the men exposed to enemy fire.
On 13th May 1915 the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were attached to the Indian Brigade, which also included the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers and battalions of the Ghurkas and Sikhs. Their objective was to hold the line between Ghurka Bluff and Big Nullah on the Gallipoli Penninsula, Turkey.
During this action on 17th May, William George Little was wounded and died from his wounds a few hours later. He was 27 years old.
Between April 1915 and January 1916 the battalion lost 436 men in this campaign.
“I buried Private William Little, No.9584, Inniskilling Fusiliers who died of wounds yesterday on a hill just above ‘Y’ beach, next to one or two of his comrades, at about 8.30pm last night and concealed his grave. He lies among the hills over looking the sea. Everything had been done that was possible for him by the R.A.M.C., but his wound was fatal.”
William’s mother received a letter from his friend, Private Espie who told her that he and William were treated at the same hospital and he had only lived for 6 hours after being wounded. Subsequently the whereabouts of the marked grave was lost.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 24th July 1915:
LITTLE – 17th May from wounds received at Y Beach, Gallipoli Peninsula, Private William Little, 1st Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers, of Coolkeeghan, Cookstown, aged 24 years.
'He sleeps upon a foreign shore,
But when his mortal life is o’er
May we reunite in Heaven
Clasp him again the one we love
Rest evermore in Heaven above.'
Deeply regretted by his mother, sisters and brothers.
In a letter to William’s mother, the Reverend O. Creighton, Church of England Chaplain with Mediterranean Forces at Gallipoli (89th Field Ambulance, M.E.F. May 18th 1915) stated:
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 24th July 1915: Private William Little
Mrs Little, Coolkeeghan, Cookstown, has received the following letter from Rev O Creighton, Church of England Chaplain with the Mediterranean Forces at Gallipoli:-
‘89th Field Ambulance, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, 13th May 1915. I buried Private William Little, No.9584, Inniskilling Fusiliers who died of wounds yesterday on a hill just above Y Beach, next to one or two of his comrades about 8.30pm last night, and concealed his grave. He lies among the hills overlooking the sea. Everything had been done that was possible by the R.A.M.C. for him, but his wound was fatal.’
Information was received in a letter from Private Espey, a chum of his, that Little was wounded and lived only six hours. Espey was in the same hospital at the time. The deceased enlisted when he was sixteen years of age, and has served eight years, five of which he was in India and China with the 1st Inniskillings. He was brought up with Robert Falls (a chum of his in India) and William Nixon at the Blue Doors, Cookstown, and both these soldiers have already fallen in Flanders. He has one brother with the Ulster Division.
Last Will and Testament of Private William George Little dated 23rd March 1915:
In the event of my death of my death, I give the whole of my effects and property to Miss Sarah Little, Coolkeighan, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, Ireland. 9584 Private W Little. 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. C Company. 23 March 1915.
William is commemorated on Special Memorial, C-188 at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Turkey.
At the time of William’s death his brother Robert was serving with the the 9th Battalion of the Inniskillings Fusiliers. On Sunday 8th May 1916, almost exactly one year later, Private Robert Little was severely wounded and he died of his wounds.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 27th May 1916: Private R J Little Coolkeehan
Mrs E J Little, Coolkeehan, Cookstown, has received official intimation that her son, Private R J little, 9th Inniskillings (Ulster Division),has died of wounds received in action on 8th May. Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo, in a letter sending sympathy, said the battalion made a successful raid on the enemy’s trenches on Sunday 8th May and inflicted serious loss. They were subjected to a heavy bombardment for 2˝ hours, and had considerable casualties, which included Private Little, who was fatally wounded. He was a gallant soldier and a good comrade and they mourned his loss. In consequence of their conduct on the occasion, the Battalion had been thanked on parade by the Army Corps Commander for the gallantry shown by all ranks.
Captain Cruikshanks, his Battalion Commander, writes in the same strain. They had lost a fine soldier and a true comrade, who fell gallantly in an action that had won renown for the Battalion. They all respected the deceased, who was ever ready to fulfil his duties, however dangerous. He adds his own and the Battalion’s condolence.
The Church of Ireland Chaplain also writes on date 10th May, that he had conducted the service at the funeral of the deceased, who had been buried from the 108th Field Ambulance, an officer and a party of comrades attending at the grave. He adds that the present sorrow is overshadowed by the love and mercy of God, and that this life is but the beginning, and that we would understand later.
Private Little, who was only in his 23rd year, was a member of Strifehill L.O.L. No. 628, and an enthusiastic member of the U.V.F., and was much respected. Additional sadness attaches to his death, as another brother, William J., of the 1st Inniskillings, was killed in action almost a year previous on the 18th May 1915. The greatest sympathy is felt with the mother, who is a widow, and with his sisters and other relatives.
William Little is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and St. Luran’s Church of Ireland Roll of Honour, Derryloran, Cookstown (as William Lyttle).