Northern Ireland

Memorial to Fermanagh's VC soldiers unveiled in Enniskillen

The campaign to permanently recognise their heroism was organised by Oliver Breen, who thought it was "a piece of lost history"
Image caption The campaign to permanently recognise their heroism was organised by Oliver Breen, who thought it was "a piece of lost history"

A publicly funded memorial to 10 men from County Fermanagh who received Britain's highest military honour has been unveiled in Enniskillen.

Relatives of some of the men were at the service of dedication at Enniskillen Castle.

The event was also attended by the First Minister Arlene Foster.

The Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery, was introduced in 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts during the Crimean War.

Each medal is made from the bronze of Russian guns captured at the siege of Sevastopol.

Image caption The Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery, was introduced in 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts during the Crimean War

The 10 men from County Fermanagh received the award for their bravery in British military campaigns, including the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Abyssinia Expedition, the Boer War and the First World War.

A commemorative centenary paving stone was also unveiled to Captain Eric Bell as part of a nationwide campaign by the government to honour those who received the Victoria Cross during the First World War.

Eric Bell was born in Enniskillen and was killed at the Somme in July 1916 as he attempted to organise a counter attack at Thiepval.

Image caption First Minister Arlene Foster attended the service of dedication at Enniskillen Castle

The campaign to permanently recognise their heroism was organised by Oliver Breen, who thought it was "a piece of lost history".

He has spent the past 10 years working to have the memorial erected and said the monument was built with the support of all sections of the community in Fermanagh.

"The men who won the VC's here, they're from both sides of the community," he said.

Image caption Relatives of Private Charles Irwin said the unveiling of the memorial was a very special occasion

"It's a shared history and let's hope they will give us a shared future.

"I feel very proud that the lost history of Fermanagh, which most people don't know about, has now been resurrected."

Marie Flanagan, great-great-granddaughter of Corporal Michael Slevin, said she was "very proud" to honour his memory.

"Just remembering the dead and remembering why they died, I think that's very important. They died so that we could have a country to live in."

Image caption Eric Bell was born in Enniskillen and was killed at the Somme in July 1916 as he attempted to organise a counter attack at Thiepval

James Irwin's ancestor Charles Irwin fought in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.

"He was wounded in the shoulder and he stormed into a house to rescue some colleagues, despite being severely injured.

"As a result, his colleagues put him forward for a VC, which is a great honour to receive."

He said he and his family only became aware of the story about 15 years ago and described the unveiling of the memorial as "a very special occasion".

"It is very very important that we do remember the sacrifices they made," said Mr Irwin.