Spain, Patrick Thomas (Patrick)
No. 25947, 10th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Killed in action on Monday 13 November 1916 (aged 32)
No known grave
Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 16C)
Newry Book of Honour – Newry’s War Dead
Patrick Thomas Spain was born on 14 December 1883 in Meelick, County Galway and he was a son of John and Eliza Spain (nee O’Rourke). John Spain was a Constable in the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Patrick Spain also served in the Royal Irish Constabulary and he was stationed in Newtownards between periods of duty in Newry.
Sergeant Patrick Spain’s death was reported in the Newtownards Chronicle under the headline Former Newtownards Policeman Killed in Action and, in the report, readers were reminded of his nickname when he was stationed in Newtownards – The Smiler – because of his genial disposition. His death was also reported in the 2 January 1917 edition of the Newry Reporter under the headline Well-Known Newry Boxer Killed.
Patrick Spain was renowned as an all-round athlete, boxer and wrestler. He was a Reservist and at the outbreak of the Great War he went to France with the Irish Guards. He wrote a letter on 29 August 1914 from 4th Guards’ Brigade and in it he said that they had been involved in three engagements. He described how they had arrived very tired at a small town ‘about as big as Newry’ with the intention of resting up. They were billeted in various houses in the town when word came through that the German Army was approaching. The people of the town began to flee with as many of their possessions as they could carry.
Field Artillery and Coldstream Guards went out to delay the advance of the enemy and, amidst ‘showers of shrapnel’, Patrick Spain and his comrades tore up the square setts from the streets and built barricades at the ends of streets to keep back the foe. It was a dark evening and the attack was repulsed at the cost of many lives. Patrick went on, ‘We retired in good order leaving behind us nothing but a scene of desolation in that once beautiful town, and of course our fallen comrades’.
Patrick Spain was wounded at the Battle of the Marne and after treatment in hospital he returned to the Front and served through the first winter of the Great War. Like so many others he suffered from the effects of frostbite. His spell of duty ended and he took his discharge from the Army. When he returned to Newry it was remarked that his jet-black hair had turned almost grey.
Patrick Spain re-joined the Royal Irish Constabulary and was stationed in Banbridge. It was there that he enlisted in response to the call for more recruits.
Patrick Spain served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He returned to France and was killed in action on 13 November 1916 in the Battle of The Ancre.
Sergeant Patrick Spain has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France and in the Newry Book of Honour – Newry’s War Dead (Pages 80 and 182).