Doran Brothers’ heroism

The film ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was loosely based on the ‘The Fighting Sullivan’s,’ the true story of five Irish-American brothers killed whilst serving on board the USS Juneau during World War II in November 1942.

No such film was made about Irish brothers who died during World War I fighting for the British Army. The Doran’s from Newry were one such ‘Band of Brothers’. There were four of them, James, Francis, Hugh and Felix. James was the only one to survive the war. Francis, Hugh and Felix were among the fallen.

They were the sons of James and Maria Doran. James was a carter who had to work wherever he could find it and wherever he went, his wife Maria went with him. James, Francis and Felix were born in Mayo and Hugh, the youngest, was born in Crossan, Co Down. However, all the family were registered in Warrenpoint.

The family moved to Newry in 1914 and lodged in 16 Chapel Street but no sooner were they in the house than tragedy struck. On the 14 May of that year, James Senior was killed on the Rathfriland Road when he accidentally fell from a cart.

On the 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and before the year had ended James, Francis and Felix had enlisted. James joined the Leinster Regiment, Francis joined 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, and Felix joined 2nd Battalion RIR. After about six weeks basic training they were sent to the front. The year was 1915.

In early March of that year the Town Clerk of Newry, Mr W.M. Cronin decided to have the names of all those men who had joined up, since the outbreak of hostilities, from the Newry area placed in a ‘Roll of Honour.’ 725 Newrymen’s names were on the list and among them were the three Doran brothers. But little did those who had put the names together know that the mother of Francis had received a letter from the War Office informing her that her son was missing in action. He was reported missing presumed dead on 10/03/1915. He was 26 years of age. He was at the front barely two months.

The war continued and Felix, the last of the brothers, enlisted.

In August 1916 Mrs Doran received another letter informing her that her son Hugh had been wounded in action. He died on the 5th August 1916 aged 19.

Another year passes and yet another dreaded letter arrives from the War Office. This time it stated that her son, Felix, aged 23 had succumbed to wounds and had died in Belgium on 7th August 1917.

The Newry Reporter reported his death as follows:

‘The War Office yesterday notified Mrs. Doran, Chapel Street, Newry, that her third son, Rifleman Felix Doran, 6667, Royal Irish Fusiliers, died on the 7 Aug at the Casualty Clearing Station from wounds received in action. This is the third son of Mrs. Doran to make the supreme sacrifice in the present war, Hugh and Francis having already been killed. James, her fourth son is serving with the Leinster regiment in Salonika.’

Francis Doran has no known grave but his name is engraved on the Le Touret Memorial, France on Panel 42 and 43. (Newry’s War Dead, page 21).

Hugh is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, France, grave number V.H. 22. (Newry’s War Dead, page 21)

Felix is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium, grave number XXVII. D. 13A. (Newry’s War Dead, page 21).

James, Francis and Hugh were awarded the Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-1915 Star Medal.

Felix was awarded the Victory and the British War Medals.

 … Doran Brothers: addendum …

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