28 February 1885|
Ardihannon, County Antrim, Ireland
|Died||14 May 1955
Ballycastle, County Antrim
|Buried at||Billy Parish Churchyard|
|Years of service||1914 - 1926|
|Unit||Royal Irish Rifles|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Robert Quigg VC (28 February 1885 – 14 May 1955) was an Irish 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. He award was made for his service at the Battle of the Somme in the First World War.
Robert Quigg was born on 28 February 1885 in the townland of Ardihannon. Ardihannon is located in the Parish of Billy, near the Giants Causeway, County Antrim. His father, Robert Quigg senior, worked as a boatman and tour guide at the Giants Causeway. Young Quigg attended the Giants Causeway National School. Like most young teenage boys from the rural areas of the time, he left school and sought work on local farms. He worked for a number of years on Forsyth’s farm at Turfahun and also on the MacNaghten Estate at Dunderave. Robert was a prominent member of the local Orange Lodge Aird LOL 1195; he played in the flute band. He was also a member of the Royal Black Institution and the William Johnston Memorial RBP 559.
Ulster Volunteer Force
In 1912, because of calls for home rule, the Ulster crisis deepened. Unionists perceived Ulster’s constitutional position to be under threat. The constitutional position was a response to the growth of Irish Nationalism and the activities of British Liberal Party. It led to the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force. At that time, the Ulster Volunteers were a legal force which had been empowered to carry out drilling and military preparations, with the proviso that it uphold the constitution. It had nine divisions, based on county. The divisions, in turn, were divided into battalions, companies and platoons. Robert Quigg joined the Ulster Volunteer Force in January 1913, shortly after its formation. He became commander of the Bushmills Volunteers. At that time, the UVF membership numbered over 100,000, with an estimated 40,000 bearing arms. As the European crisis, and war between Britain and Germany, became imminent, a halt was called to the Ulster Volunteer Force's preparations in Ulster. Sir Edward Carson, in turn, offered the services of the Ulster Volunteer Force to the British government against Germany. The Ulster Volunteer members, who volunteered to join the British Army, formed the bulk of the 36th (Ulster) Division. Thousands of its members volunteered for active service. One such volunteer was Robert Quigg. In September 1914, he enlisted in the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles (Mid-Antrim Volunteers). His service number was 12/18645. He held the rank of Rifleman. His Platoon Officer was Harry Macnaghten, the heir to the Macnaghten Estate. Sometime earlier, Robert had worked on Dunderave Estate; he had first become familiar with Harry Macnaghten while employed there.
Battle of the Somme and Victoria Cross Award
Robert Quigg was awarded the Victoria Cross for his "Most Conspicuous Bravery" at the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. Prior to the major offensive, his unit had been placed in the French village of Hamel, located on the north bank of the River Ancre. On 1 July, the Mid-Antrim Volunteers were ordered to advanced through the defenses towards the heavily defended German lines. During the advance, they encountered fierce resistance from heavy machine-gun and shell fire. Quigg's platoon made three advances during the day, only to be beaten back on each occasion by German fire. The final evening assault left many hundreds of the 12th Battalion lying dead and wounded in "no man's land". In the early hours of the next morning, it was reported that Lieutenant Harry Macnaughten, the platoon commander was missing; Robert Quigg volunteered to go out into "no man's land" to try and locate him. He went out seven times to search for the missing officer, without success. On each occasion, he came under machine gun fire, but he managed to return with a wounded colleague. It was reported that, on one of his forays, he crawled within yards of the German position in order to rescue a wounded soldier, whom he dragged back on a waterproof groundsheet. After seven hours of trying, exhaustion got the better of him; Robert had to rest from his efforts. The body of Lieutenant Harry Macnaghten was never recovered.
On 8 January 1917, Robert received his Victoria Cross from King George V, at York Cottage, Sandringham. Queen Mary was also in attendance. Upon his return to Bushmills, the people of the town and district turned out in force to welcome him home, including the Macnaghten household. Lady Macnaghten presented him with a gold watch in recognition of his bravery in attempting to find and rescue her son, Lieutenant Harry Macnaghten. Robert reached the rank of sergeant before retiring from the army in 1926 (after he was badly injured in an accident). Later, in 1953, two years before he died, he met the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II. Robert Quigg died on 14 May 1955 at Ballycastle, County Antrim. He was buried in Billy Parish Churchyard, with full military honours. His statue now stands in Bushmills town centre.
The Russians also presented Robert Quigg with the Medal of Order of St. George (Fourth Class), the highest award of the Russian Empire. The First and Second classes were only given on the personal decree of the Emperor. The Third and Fourth classes were only awarded by the approval of the Georgevsky Council, a group of St George Knights. The Third Class was for senior officers, and the Fourth Class was the highest award of the Russian Empire for non-senior officers. His Victoria Cross and Order of St. George (fourth class) are on display at the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum in Belfast.
- The London Gazette: . 9 September 1916. Retrieved 8 November 2009.
Listed in order of publication year
- The Register of the Victoria Cross (1981, 1988 and 1997)
- Clarke, Brian D. H. (1986). "A register of awards to Irish-born officers and men". The Irish Sword XVI (64): 185–287.
- VCs of the First World War - The Somme (Gerald Gliddon, 1994)
- Irelands VCs ISBN 1-899243-00-3 (Dept of Economic Development 1995)
- Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
- Irish Winners of the Victoria Cross (Richard Doherty & David Truesdale, 2000)