Corporal JOHN CUNNINGHAM
Service No: 8916
Regiment/Service: 4th Coy. 2nd Leinster Regiment
Awards: V C
Cemetery: BARLIN COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION I. A. 39.
The second son lost to a widowed mother in the war.
An extract taken from The London Gazette, dated 8th June, 1917 records the following: “For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in command of a Lewis Gun section on the most exposed flank of the attack. His section came under heavy enfilade fire and suffered severly. Although wounded he succeeded almost alone in reaching his objective with his gun, which he got into action in spite of much oppositon. When counter-attacked by a party of twenty of the enermy he exhausted his ammuntion against them, then, standing in full view, he commenced throwing bombs. He was wounded again, and fell, but picked himself up and continued to fight single-handed with the enemy until his bombs were exhausted. He then made his way back to our lines with a fractured arm and other wounds. There is little doubt that the superb courage of this N.C.O. cleared up a most critical situation on the left flank of the attack. Corporal Cunningham died in hospital from the effects of his wounds.”
On the 12th April 1917 the Prince of Wales’ Leinster Regiment were to make an assault, their objective being the Bois-en-Hache to the north-east of Souchez and the strongpoint known as Pimple, on the northern edge of Vimy Ridge. At 5.00 a.m. the attack began and three companies moved off in two waves accompanied by a British barrage. Landmarks were quickly concealed by the snow and the ground, comprising mainly of shell holes and craters, quickly became slushy.
The Leinsters continued their advance in these very poor conditions and the enemy opened a heavy rifle and machine-gun fire on them. After beating the Germans back from their first line, the leading men moved downhill towards the wooded slope and the German second line. Meanwhile, hostile enfilade fire from across the Souchez Valley continued and took its toll. Cunningham was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his work on this day.
John Cunningham died of his wounds in hospital four days later