Captain Lancelot Joseph Moore Studholme (1884-1916)
Behind Ballyegan House, on the side of a windswept hill stands an old oak cross. The tarnished bronze plaque commemorates the name of a brave Birr born Officer, Captain Lancelot Joseph Moore Studholme of the 7th Battalion, Leinster Regiment who was killed in action on 9 September 1916, 101 years ago. This is his story.
Born on 21 September 1884 at Ballyegan, Lancelot was the only son of Joseph Studholme and Mary Hastings Studholme (née Davis). He was educated at Banstead Hall, Surrey, and Uppingham, then at Christ Church, Oxford, the latter being where he obtained his degree. From childhood, he had a life long interest in gardening for which he won many prizes. After the death of his father in 1904, Lancelot took over his estate and became a Justice of the Peace for King’s County. He later filled the office of High Sheriff in 1909. On the outbreak of the Great War, Lancelot joined the Leinster Regiment as a Private, and was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Further promotions soon followed.
Oak Cross at Ballyegan
A poem appeared in the King’s County Chronicle in December 1914 about Lancelot, written by a Miss M. Brown of 10 Newbridge Street, Birr, some verses of which are reproduced here:
All honour your hero heart
Young soldier of the line;
A man alone couldn’t act your part;
Then bear the grand ensign…
While blood of Dylan Thomas flows,
From your maternal side;
‘Tis meet your hearts high courage shows,
‘Twas fed from that rich side
The same undying, undauntless nerve,
Long live such noble deed,
Who left your rose strewn home to serve
Your country in her need.
A private in the Leinster corps,
There proudly take your stand,
No truer heart nor had e’er born,
A sword for native land…
Then go! – God’s speed you on your way;
The shield of strength devine,
May nerve and guard you day by day,
Young soldier of the line’
In letters written by Captain Max Stainforth, 7th Battalion, Leinster Regiment, he described the other officers of his company, Lancelot being mentioned
‘Then we come to the platoon commanders. No. 9 is run by Studholme, 2nd Lt. I think probably you’d like him almost best. He’s an old house man, aged 29, dark, and very quiet – almost timid. Very shy, but very-thoroughbred and very fine-natured. I believe he owns half the town of Birr, and his hobbies are daffodils and kittens. Yes, certainly you’d like him.’
In January 1915 Studholme was able to return home for a brief period where he visited the school at Ballyegan giving the children there sweets and gifts. He had been noted for his kindness and generosity.
The 7th (Service) Battalion, Leinster Regiment formed in Fermoy, County Cork in October 1914. It was part of the new armies raised by Lord Kitchener which added new service battalions onto the already existing regiments of the British Army. This was done instead of creating new regiments. The Leinster Regiment had two service battalions (6th and 7th Battalions) for the duration for the Great War. The 7th Leinsters were part of the 47th Brigade which was part of the 16th Irish Division. In December 1915 the 16th Irish moved to France where it would spend the duration of the war fighting on the Western Front
The 16th Division entered into the Battle of the Somme in September 1916, taking part in the assault on the German held towns of Gulliemont (3-6) and Ginchy (9). During the assault on Ginchy Captain Studholme was leading his men over open ground when his batman, a man named Harte, who had previously worked for him on his estate at Ballyegan was wounded by a bullet, Lancelot stopped to assist him, but in doing so was killed himself by machine gun fire.
The King’s County Chronicle mentions this brave act:
‘The manner of his death too, was one that should never be forgotten, revealing as it did a self- sacrificing devotion to a fellow human being’.
Also a private in the battalion was to have remarked:
‘He was a grand officer, and a brave man; we cried when we buried him.’
Lancelot’s will saw a significant contribution of money left to charity with the following donations being made:
To the Select Vestry of the United Parishes of Ettagh and Kilcolman…….. £100
The City of Dublin Hospital…………………………………………………£200
King’s County Protestant Orphan Society…………………………………..£50
Birr Jubilee Nurse’s Fund…………………………………………………..£100
Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme
Lancelot has no known grave, his name is commemorated on the Thievpal Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, along with the names of 72,245 other British and South African soldiers who have no known grave, many still buried where they fell. The cross behind Ballyegan was presumably erected in the years following his death. It was said up until recent years that every spring the cross could be surrounded with countless daffodils. A brass tablet memorial was also erected in Kilcolman Church of Ireland Church in 1921 in his memory, which was paid for by a number of local contributors. In later years this memorial along with several others were moved to St Brendan’s Church in Birr, after the church at Kilcolman (Cree) was deconsecrated.
Memorials to Captain Studholme
Today 101 years later after his death, the oak cross which commemorates Captain Studholme remains, a hidden and somewhat forgotten tribute to a brave officer.