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Letters from the front: Frank Gunning
A portrait of Frank Douglas Gunning in the Bank of Ireland WWI memorial book Photo: Private collection

Letters from the front: Frank Gunning

Frank Gunning was born in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh in 1894. After the outbreak of war in August 1914 he enlisted, along with his brother George to the 7th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. After training in the Curragh Camp, they were sent to Gallipoli in May 1915. 

While at Gallipoli Frank contracted dysentery and was shipped back to England to be hospitalised. After a number of weeks in hospital he transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and went on to fight in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 where he was killed at age 22 on the first day of the campaign. His brother, who also contracted dystenery while at Gallipoli was hospitalised until 1917, in 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Air Force. However, by the time he had completed his training the Armistice had been signed.

Below are the last two letters sent home by Frank. On 1 July 1916 the family received a notice from the war office stating that Frank was reported missing, believed to be killed in action on 1st July. 

Read the Gunning Brothers' Gallipoli diary

18th June 1916

Dearest,

Here I am in the best of form. The weather is good, and the place is healthy. The French trains are very slow, and we arrived here after two hours. We were then posted to different places. An old ‘D’ Company chap and myself have a tent of our own in a splendid position, and have a "Cor bly me" [sic] from Wimbledon Common as a servant. I don’t know how long we shall be here. I believe we have plenty of work, but no matter.

You know I used to dread the idea of leaving home again, but I think heaven has been very kind to me, for, honestly it never fizzed on me and I was as happy as can be. As long as I left you without any tears, dear, my heart did not ache. I did feel so proud at Charing Cross to be one of the noble lot going out.

I will write again soon.

30th June 1916

Dearest,

Well, here I am in the thick of it, and talk about Suvla Bay why this is a thousand times worse. The noise would put you astray in the head. Pray for us all, dear, really it is an awful place.

This is the only letter I can write at present. In spite of everything, we don’t grumble, for what’s the use?

Give everybody my love, and, for the sake of us all out there pray for a speedy and victorious peace.

Mizpah.

Frank Douglas memorial portrait and account from the Bank of Ireland memorial book.

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.