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From the Hindenburg Line to Rineen: Peter Vaughan, Toor, Lahinch, Co.Clare
by Michael MacMahon

Peter Vaughan was born at Toor, parish of Moy (Kilfarboy) in 1891, the eldest son of James VaughanPeter Vaughan and Bridget Finucane. He emigrated to the USA in June 1915 settling in Providence, Rhode Island. Following President Wilson’s decision in April 1917 to take the United States into World War I, Peter Vaughan was recruited into the New York Home Guard and transferred to America’s premier mobilization centre – Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina. He was attached to the 106th Infantry Regiment, 53rd Infantry Brigade, 27th US Division. He was granted American citizenship while in training at Camp Wadsworth in Sept., 1917. Peter Vaughan sailed to France with the 27th Division in May 1918 on board the SS President Lincoln. The 106th infantry regiment was at the very centre of the first assault by the Americans on the outworks of the notorious Hindenburg Line in Sept. 1918. The following extract is from page 294 of The Story of the 27th Division by Major General John F. O’Ryan (Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford; New York, 1921).

“The 106th Infantry and the support battalion of the 105th Infantry made a record in this battle for gallantry and determination of which they may well be proud. It is a record which reflects honour upon the manhood of the state of New York, for it is to be remembered that until the active operations were concluded, the personnel of the entire division were almost wholly from the state of New York. These men had gone into battle against the strongest position ever constructed in the field by any army. They had undertaken their mission with a knowledge of the previous failures and losses which had fallen to the lot of the British divisions of the III Corps to bear. They did so with confidence in their ability to win and with keenness for the test of their worth, although they must have believed that their numbers were hardly equal to the demand. The survivors came out of the battle but a remnant of the fine regiment that had so gallantly entered it a short time before. They came out grieved by their losses, fatigued almost beyond description by lack of sleep and nervous strain, many of them suffering slight wounds which they had not thought of sufficient consequence to call for medical attention.
The attack on the outworks of the Hindenburg Line, while not a clean-cut and decisive success for the reasons that have been mentioned, nevertheless constituted a most effective contribution to the great task of breaking through the Hindenburg Line. The enemy's defensive organization of the outworks system was badly shattered. Their communications were largely destroyed. Heavy losses had been inflicted upon them, particularly in and about The Knoll. On the right half of the regimental sector, the ground was quite generally cleared of enemy troops, except for the isolated machine-gun posts in the ruins of Guillemont and Quennemont Farms and at odd places between these two strong points. The brigade had given a magnificent demonstration of valour and determination on a field which will become memorable in history as the place where one of the fiercest and most important battles of all times was fought.”

[During its service in World War I, the 106th sustained 1,955 casualties including 1,496 wounded, 376 killed, and 83 who later died of their wounds. At the commencement of active fighting, the regiment had a total effective strength of 3,003 officers and men.]

Though the war ended with the German surrender in November, 1918 the 27th division did not return to the United States until the end of February 1919. The 106th sailed from Brest on 27th February bound for New York on board the Leviathan.

September 1920: Ireland
Peter Vaughan paid a visit to his family in Moy sometime before September 1920. The five years since he had left home were probably the most momentous in all of Ireland’s history. The Irish War of Independence – a guerrilla campaign mounted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the British Forces in Ireland – was well under way. It had begun in January 1919 following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence and by late 1920 it was being waged with intensity.

While at home in Toor Peter learned that the Ennistymon battalion of the Mid-Clare Brigade IRA planned to attack a Crossly tender of constabulary (RIC) and Black-and-Tans that patrolled between Ennistymon and Miltown each week. He decided to lend a hand and enlisted in his local (Moy) company of the 4th Battalion, Mid-Clare Brigade. The other members of the Moy Company were Steve Gallagher, Seamus Hennessy, Joe Nagle, Michael (“Micklo”) Curtin and Tim O’Connell.

At Rineen Peter Vaughan was in the front line of attack and was the person charged with the grenade assault. Following the sudden and unexpected arrival of British reinforcements his battle experience stood him and his comrades in good stead in the new and dangerous situation that then developed. This was acknowledged in the course of a radio talk on the Rineen Ambush by Ernie O’ Malley in the 1950s and he repeats it in his chapter on Rineen in his book: “Raids and Rallies” (Anvil Books, 1982, p. 75):

“Seamus Hennessy and some of his shotgun men were making for a gap in a bank when Vaughan shouted at them: ‘don’t go out that gap for they’re likely to set the gun on it. Roll over the bank when I shout’. Sure enough, the gunner had his sights trained on the gap, and when the men simultaneously leaped up and tumbled over the brow, the gun, in a long roll of fire, cut the edges of the gap and the top of the bank on either side of it.”

Peter Vaughan returned to New York in December 1920. He joined the New York police but died tragically in a street accident in June 1924, aged only 32. He rests with the veteran dead in plot No. 9191 in Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Vaughan Family (c. 1925)
Vaughan Family (c. 1925)
Left-right: Back row: Peter's sister Lena, his sister-in-law Nell (nee McMahon),
his mother Bridget (nee Finucane), his sister Mary Nagle (nee Vaughan).
Front row: Peter’s brothers Seán & Mike; his father James.
Kneeling at front: Peter’s nephew Seán Leyden.

Two of Peter’s sisters are missing from the picture - Bridget (Delia) McMahon (nee Vaughan) Cahaska, Corofin, and Nora Leyden (nee Vaughan), Loughnagown, Maurice’s Mills. Peter’s younger brother, Seán, served 21 days on hunger strike as a Republican prisoner during the Civil War. His sister Delia was an active member of the local Cumann Na mBan.

Peter Vaughan
This picture of Peter Vaughan appears at page 73 of
A Short History and Illustrated Roster of the 106th Infantry United States
by Colonel Frank Norton (Philadelphia Press, c. 1918).

The Vaughan homestead at Toor, Lahinch
The Vaughan homestead at Toor, Lahinch, today. Apart from the addition of a
slated roof and skylights, the house is substantially unchanged since
Peter left home for the last time in December 1920.