"The leading battalions (of the 36th (Ulster) Division) had been ordered out from the wood just before 7.30am and laid down near the German trenches ... At zero hour the British barrage lifted. Bugles blew the "Advance". Up sprang the Ulstermen and, without forming up in the waves adopted by other divisions, they rushed the German front line ..... By a combination of sensible tactics and Ulster dash, the prize that eluded so many, the capture of a long section of the German front line, had been accomplished."
Captain Wilfred Spender of the Ulster Division's HQ staff after the Battle of the Somme was quoted in the press as saying;
"I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st. July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world."
The final sentences of Captain Wilfred Spender's account furthered his viewpoint;
"The Ulster Division has lost more than half the men who attacked and, in doing so, has sacrificed itself for the Empire which has treated them none too well. The much derided Ulster Volunteer Force has won a name which equals any in history. Their devotion, which no doubt has helped the advance elsewhere, deserved the gratitude of the British Empire. It is due to the memory of these brave fellows that their beloved Province [sic] shall be fairly treated."
After the war had ended, King George V. paid the following tribute to the 36th Division saying;
"Throughout the long years of struggle ... the men of Ulster have proved how nobly they fight and die ..."
On Saturday 19 November, 1921, in dedication to the contributions of the 36th Ulster Division during WWI, the Ulster Memorial Tower, was unveiled by Field-Marshall Sir Henry Wilson in Thiepval, France.
The Ulster Memorial Tower marks the site of the Schwaben redoubt, against which the Ulster Division advanced on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The tower itself is a replica of Helen's Tower which is situated at Clandeboye, County Down. It was at Helen's Tower that the men of the then newly formed Ulster Division drilled and trained on the outbreak of World War I.
For many of the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division the distinctive sight of Helen's Tower rising above the surrounding countryside was one of their last abiding memories of home before their departure for England, and subsequently, the Western Front.
The tower (plus a small cafe and souvenir shop) is staffed by members of the Somme Association, which is based at the Somme Heritage Centre, 233, Bangor Road, Newtownards, BT23 7PH, Northern Ireland.
Other memorials in the grounds
At the entrance to the tower is a plaque commemorating the names of the nine men of the Division who won the Victoria Cross during the Somme. There is also a memorial here commemorating the part played by members of the Orange Order during the battle. The inscription on this memorial reads:
"This Memorial is Dedicated to the Men and Women of the Orange Institution Worldwide, who at the call of King and country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of man by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in Freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten."
Memorial Thiepval Wood
The Harbour Somme Association in 2004 decided that it would erect a memorial to the 36th Ulster Division in Thiepval Wood as it was from here that the our forefathers were based before they launched their attack across the Sunken Road on the 1st July 1916. In 2004 they brought over three metal crosses and dedicated them in a short memorial service. They were inspired by the actions one of many Ulster heroes Private William "Billy" McFadzean, whose family are known to the founder of the Harbour Somme Asssociation.
In 2006 the Association decided to add to the memorial and brought a wooden cross made by one of their members over from Belfast. In conjunction with the Regimental Band of the Ulster Volunteer Force, East Belfast they held a moving service, dedicated the cross and laid wreaths in memory of the fallen.
Since then they have held a short service every year and will continue to do so in the future. All are welcome to visit the site and pay their respects.