William McFadzean VC

East Belfast winner of the Victoria Cross.

William Frederick McFadzean was born in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in October 1895, but moved to the Cregagh Road in east Belfast in his early years. He enlisted in the Ballynafeigh and Newtownbreda Young Citizen Volunteers on September 22, 1914. He was posted to the 14th Royal Irish Rifles, and sailed with the 36th Ulster Division for France in October 1915.
Not yet 21, Private McFadzean, trained as a bomber. On the morning of July 1, 1916, he was in a trench in Thiepval Wood awaiting orders to attack German positions opposite in what would become known as the Battle of the Somme. A box of hand grenades was dropped, removing the safety pin from at least one of the grenades, and McFadzean threw himself onto the box to protect his comrades. His commanding officer called this ‘a magnificent deed of the highest courage’. McFadzean was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Photograph of interior of RUR Museum, BelfastLittle remained of Private McFadzean’s body and he has no known grave, although memorials were erected at Thiepval, in Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, First Lurgan Presbyterian Church and elsewhere. His Victoria Cross is on display at the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum on Belfast’s Waring Street.
Further Reading
Celebrated Citizens of Belfast (2002) by J Bradbury; Irish Winners of the Victoria Cross (2000) by R Doherty and D Truesdale.