Major General Sir Oliver Nugent
The man who led the Ulster Division
A 10 panel portable exhibition summarizing the life and military career of the County Cavan man who took command of Ulster’s finest.
About this project
Working with the Ulster Historical Foundation, PRONI, Belfast City Council and Cavan County Museum, this exhibition brings together rarely-seen photographs from Nugent’s own archives.
Of Anglo-Irish ancestry, he was very much a County Cavan man, even going so far as to name his local branch of the Ulster Volunteer Force as the Cavan Volunteer Force, which he said had been founded “for defence and not for aggression”. Nugent appointed his neighbor and friend Lord Farnham as his aide-de-camp. Farnham survived an assassination attempt in 1914.
On the eve of the Battle of the Somme, Nugent flew over the battlefield to survey the German lines. On the 2 July he wrote these words to his wife:
“My dearest, the Ulster Division has been too superb for words. The whole army is talking of the incomparable gallantry of officers and men. … The Ulster Division has proved itself and it has indeed borne itself like men. … I did not believe men were made who could do such gallant work under the conditions of modern war. … I am very sad
when I think of our terrible losses”
In May 1918 Nugent was replaced as GOC of the 36th Ulster Division. Such was Nugent’s discipline during the Great War that he was awarded a silver medal by the Pope, having ordered his men to respect and protect Catholic churches in France. He was knighted in 1922.
He unveiled the war memorials in Lisburn in 1923 and in Ballymena in 1924. He died in 1926 and was buried at Mountnugent Church, with a memorial service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.