The Somme offensive in 1916 was one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the First World War. With well over one million casualties and 300,000 fatalities, the five-month battle finally came to an end on the 18th November, 1916.
Although casualties were high on all sides, the battle is most prominently remembered in Britain, Ireland, and across the Commonwealth, as an example of the ultimate sacrifice made by the men who served throughout the First World War.
On the opening day of the offensive, 1st July 1916, the British Army suffered 57,000 casualties. Those first 24 hours of the Battle of the Somme were the darkest in it’s history. No other day came anywhere close to that infamous day.
On 1st July 1916, nearly one in ten of the 57,000 casualties were from the North of Ireland. In comparison to the rest of Britain, Ulster had a relatively small population, so these losses had a particularly devastating impact on local communities.
Virtually no town or village was left unscathed.
Michael MacDonagh, in his 1917 book, “The Irish on the Somme” refers to the aftermath of this 1st July slaughter.
For five minutes, following the hour of noon, all work and movement, business and household, were entirely suspended. In the flax mills, the linen factories, the shipyards, the munition workshops, men and women paused in their labours. All machinery was stopped, and the huge hammers became silent. In shop and office business ceased; at home the housewife interrupted her round of duties; in the streets traffic was brought to a halt, on the local railways the running trains pulled up. The whole population stood still, and in deep silence, with bowed heads but with uplifted hearts, turned their thoughts to the valleys and slopes of Picardy, where on July 1 the young men of Ulster, the pride and flower of the province, gave their lives
For five minutes, following the hour of noon, all work and movement, business and household, were entirely suspended.
In the flax mills, the linen factories, the shipyards, the munition workshops, men and women paused in their labours. All machinery was stopped, and the huge hammers became silent. In shop and office business ceased; at home the housewife interrupted her round of duties; in the streets traffic was brought to a halt, on the local railways the running trains pulled up.
The whole population stood still, and in deep silence, with bowed heads but with uplifted hearts, turned their thoughts to the valleys and slopes of Picardy, where on July 1 the young men of Ulster, the pride and flower of the province, gave their lives
The author went on to reference the heavy cost, paid locally, on that opening day of July.
So blinds were drawn in business and private houses; flags were flown at half-mast; and bells were mournfully tolling for Ulster’s irremediable losses when, at the stroke of twelve o’clock, traffic came instantaneously to a stand-still, and for five minutes the citizens solemnly stood with bared heads, in the teeming rain, thinking of the gallant dead, the darkened homes, and the inconsolable mothers and wives.
So blinds were drawn in business and private houses; flags were flown at half-mast; and bells were mournfully tolling for Ulster’s irremediable losses when, at the stroke of twelve o’clock, traffic came instantaneously to a stand-still, and for five minutes the citizens solemnly stood with bared heads, in the teeming rain, thinking of the gallant dead, the darkened homes, and the inconsolable mothers and wives.
In my local graveyard, at Innisrush, Robert McDonald of Tyanee is referenced on his widow’s gravestone. Robert was killed at the Somme on the 1st July 1916. A mile or so away, William Brown, from near Portglenone, also lost his life that day. He was killed while bravely trying to save the life of a wounded colleague. Why was his heroism never referenced in a local school curriculum?
A few miles further, at Kilrea and Cullybackey, there were more local victims of that opening day at the Somme. Beyond Kilrea, a fatally wounded Samuel McElfatrick lay down in a shell-hole to die. An explosion had blown off both his legs. The courageous man, originally from Tamlaght (not far from our house), sized up his plight, got his pipe out, lit it, and prepared to die.
Another local soldier, Bobby Letters from Cullybackey, in a letter home from the front, recalled the heavy fighting leading up to the 1st July:
When I was going across with them a German machine gun opened fire on us and a bullet from it struck my rifle and smashed it. I have the bullet as a souvenir and also a German cap and pipe and a small book which one of the prisoners gave to me. I will try and send them home soon as a memento of the 1st July. I have to mourn for a few of my comrades.
When I was going across with them a German machine gun opened fire on us and a bullet from it struck my rifle and smashed it. I have the bullet as a souvenir and also a German cap and pipe and a small book which one of the prisoners gave to me. I will try and send them home soon as a memento of the 1st July.
I have to mourn for a few of my comrades.
Source: Ballymena Observer
Andrew Millar, also from Cullybackey, had just joined up, when he was wounded on the 1st July 1916.
Rifleman Robert Connaughty from Garvaghy, near Portglenone, served with the 11th Royal Irish Rifles, and was almost buried alive when a German shell exploded that day. The shell killed several of his colleagues. By the 5th July, some four days later, he was diagnosed as suffering from shell-shock. He was wounded, a gunshot wound to face, in 1918, but survived the war.
In order to make navigation easier, please find below, links to all 73 soldiers on this page.
Robert Alexander McDonald was was born on 25th April 1888 in Tyanee, about a mile from Portglenone, the son of Robert and Mary McDonald nee McGall.
Bob, as he was known locally, lived during his early years, with his aunt and uncle (the McGalls) in house 15 in Tyanee.
He married Ellen Wallace on 2nd October 1908, and they lived in house 30 in Tyanee.
Bob was a farm labourer, his wife Ellen was an embroiderer. They had a son Robert William, who was born on the 29th October 1908. They had two other young children.
At the start of the war, Bob enlisted in Donegal, and was subsequently assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, Saturday 1st July 1916.
Bob has no known grave. He is referred to on the headstone of his widow, Ellen, in Innisrush graveyard.
He is also remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
It appears that Ellen, his young widow, did not remarry. She was only 29 years old, when her husband was killed. She brought up their three young children on her own. One can only imagine the heartache and how difficult their circumstances were.
Robert Connaughty, Portglenone
Rifleman Robert Connaughty was from Garvaghy, just outside Portglenone. He was born at 9am on the 2nd July 1888. His brother, John, was born three hours earlier, at 6am. His father, James, was a weaver and his mother, Sarah Connaughty, was originally Surgenor.
Robert voluntered to join the army in November 1915, and was posted to the 18th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles for his initial trainin.
He was subsequently assigned to ‘A’ company of the 11th Royal Irish Rifles (the South Antrims).
On the first day of the Somme, Saturday 1st July 1916, an exploding shell nearly buried Robert alive. Several of his colleagues died in the blast. The Garvaghy man, though wounded, escaped with his life. Four days later, on the 5th July, a doctor declared that he was suffering from shell shock.
Robert was again wounded in 1918. On this occasion he was shot in the face, but somehow managed to survive.
After witnessing so much human carnage, and coping with his own injuries, one can only imagine the subsequent mental turmoil that he suffered after returning home from the war.
William Brown, Portglenone
William Brown was born in Portglenone. He was the only son of William Brown, from the New Ferry near Portglenone, and had emigrated to America sometime around 1911.
But he returned home to Ireland, at Christmas time, in 1914. He, along with his wife and young daughter, were living at Culnafay, Toomebridge. A few months later, in early 1915, he enlisted at Ballymena, to join the army.
On the 1st July 1916, at the Somme, William was serving with the 16th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, when he was killed by a German sniper, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He is buried in Hamel Military Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel.
His bravery needs far greater recognition. He sacrificed his own life, in trying to save a wounded colleague. The local newspaper reported his bravery as follows:
Mid Ulster Mail,
5th August 1916
The Ballymena Observer, by the end of July, was reporting William’s death:
Rifleman William Brown, Pioneer Battalion, RIR., whose wife and young daughter reside at Culnafay, New Ferry, Toomebridge, was killed in action on the 1st July. He was the only son of Mr and Mrs William Brown, New Ferry. He emigrated to America three years ago, and returned at Christmas 1914. He joined the army in the early spring, and went to the front with the Ulster Division. Second-Lieutenant H.M. Baillie, writing to Mrs Brown says:
We were in the trenches holding part of the line after the big advance, and your husband either saw or heard a wounded man out in front of the wire. Without a moment’s hesitation, he climbed on to the parapet and gallantly went to the rescue of the poor chap. He succeeded in carrying him to our trench and was just getting in himself when he fell, the victim of a German sniper. Death was instantaneous.
We all mourn such a loss of such a hero. I always regarded your husband, as one of the best in my platoon. His good nature and cheerful disposition made him a general favourite. It is my earnest prayer that you may be comforted and strengthened in your sad loss. You will always have the consolation that your husband not only died doing s duty, but that he fell whilst performing an act of great gallantry.
Several of his comrades carried his remains from the battlefield to a quiet little military cemetery, where he was given a soldier’s burial, the chaplain being present. I had several small articles found in his possession, made into a parcel and sent to you, which I hope you have received. If there is any information or help I can give you, please let me know.
Friday 28th July 1916
Robert Gilmore of Hervey Hill, Kilrea
Robert Gilmore was from Drumane, Hervey Hill, Kilrea (not far from Tamlaght O’Crilly’s church rectory). He was the son of John and Sarah Gilmore and was born around 1886. His father worked repairing the local roads, while Robert was a farm labourer.
Private Robert Gilmore was killed on the opening day of the Somme, while serving with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Initially he had been declared as missing/killed. The family did not receive final confirmation of his death, until some two months later, during September. At that point they were told that his body had been discovered and that it was buried in France.
Robert was 30 years old.
Lance Corporal Albert Murphy, Kilrea
Albert Edward Murphy was born in Kilrea on 8th March 1897. He was the youngest son (of eleven children) of James and Martha Jane Murphy nee Heaney. They lived at house 33 in Kilrea. The family moved in the early 1900’s to Knockantern, which is near Mountsandel, on the edge of Coleraine. Albert’s father worked as a gardener and also at times, as a domestic servant.
Lance Corporal Albert Murphy enlisted in Donegal, and was assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on Saturday 1st July 1916. The last report of Albert Murphy was that he was seen lying wounded in the centre of the 3rd line of trenches near the front. He was only 19 years old.
It was over a year later, when the War Office wrote to the family, to finally confirm that Albert was most likely killed on that initial day of the battle.
Robert John Coleman, Ballymaconnelly
Robert John Coleman was the son of John and Mary Coleman. They lived at Ballymaconnelly, which is about a mile outside Kilrea (not far from my cousin). He belonged to Ballymaconnelly L.O.L. 360.
Robert enlisted on the 12th October 1914 in Belfast. He was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman Robert John Coleman was killed at the Somme on 1st July 1916. He was 21 years old.
Robert has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as at Finvoy Presbyterian Church.
Robert McIlhatton, Rasharkin
Robert McIlhatton was the son of the late William John and Margaret McIlhatton of Rasharkin. He subsequently lived at Kingarve, near Stranocum.
After enlisting in Ballymoney and completing his training, he was assigned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman Robert McIlhatton was killed on the 1st July 1916.
He does not have a grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, and at Bushvale Presbyterian Church.
John McMullan of Dunloy
John McMullan was born on 10th January 1891 near the County Antrim village of Dunloy. He was the son of Hugh and Catherine McMullan (nee McFarland). He had seven other siblings – three brothers and four sisters. John was the fourth oldest, with two of his older siblings having been born in America.
His father, Hugh, worked locally, both as a labourer and also fixing the roads.
One army record shows John as living at Drumagarner, near Kilrea. John McMullan eventually moved to Swatragh, where he worked as a tailor.
When the war came along, John enlisted in Coatbridge, Scotland, and was later assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. In 1915, he took part in the awful carnage in Gallipoli.
His unit arrived in France during March 1916. John was only 25 years old, when he was killed at Beaumont Hamel, on Saturday 1st July.
The machine-gun fire from Beaucourt Ridge cut his unit down, after they unsuccessfully tried to advance from their trenches, at around 8am.
Lieutenant Thomas Greenwood Haughton, Cullybackey
Thomas was the son of Thomas Wilfred and Catherine Isabel Haughton, of Hillmount, Cullybackey. He served with the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. He was 25 years old.
Robert McCartney, Cullybackey
Robert McCartney was born while his parents were in the USA. They subsequently lived at Hillmount, Craigs, Cullybackey.
He signed up in Ballymena to join the war effort and was assigned to the 12th Royal Irish Rifles.
Robert was killed at the Somme, on the 1st July 1916.
He is remembered on a plaque in Cuningham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cullybackey, and on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Andrew Millar, Cullybackey
Andrew Millar of Dunminning, near Cullybackey, had just joined up when he was wounded on the 1st July 1916. He was the eldest child of Alexander Millar and Mary Jane Millar (nee McKee) and was born on the 27th February 1895. Andrew had at least four other siblings, two brothers and two sisters. He helped his father run their small farm.
Rifleman Robert James Kennedy of the Royal Irish Rifles, was the son of James and Jane Kennedy, of Hillmount, in Cullybackey.
He was killed on Saturday 1st July 1916. He was 28 years old.
Rifleman William Wylie of the Royal Irish Rifles, was the son of William Wylie and the late Ellen Wylie, of Tullygrawley, Glarryford.
William was killed on Saturday 1 July 1916.
Andrew Davison, from Gracehill, Ballymena
Andrew Davison was born on the 5th December 1897, at house 3 in Galgorm Parks, at Gracehill, near Ballymena.
His parents were Samuel and Elizabeth Davison (nee Nicholl). His father was a labourer. By 1911, they had nine children, five boys and four girls. Andrew was the fourth oldest.
I see two newspaper references, listing him as being assigned to the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, but another reference to him being with the 108th Machine Gun Company 36th Ulster Division.
Andrew was killed on 1st July 1916.
Samuel Ellis, Castledawson
Samuel Ellis was the son of Jane Ellis (nee Ewart). He was born in Mossend, Scotland, around 1884. No details are available regarding his father.
In the late 1880’s, his mother, Jane, married Thomas Taylor in Belfast. She had a further four children.
The family were involved in farming, and in 1901 lived in house 137 at Creagh, Castledawson, County Londonderry.
By 1911, the family had moved to house 114 in Creagh.
When the war broke out, Samuel Ellis was living in Toomebridge. He enlisted for service in nearby Antrim and was assigned to the 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles,
Samuel was 32 years old when he was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. He is remembered on a local plaque, as well as at the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Frederick Houston, Castledawson
Frederick Houston was born on 14th June 1890, the son of John and Martha Houston, in the townland of Tamniarn, Castledawson.
It was a big family, Frederick had 10 siblings. His father, John, was a millwright i.e. a person who designs or builds corn mills or who maintains mill machinery.
Frederick Houston enlisted to join the army in Scotland, and was assigned to the 9th Battalion of Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers).
Private Frederick Houston was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916.
Robert Irwin, Castledawson
Robert Irwin was the son of Annie Irwin and born in Castledawson.
He had signed up for the army around 1908, in Cookstown, and was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He had served in several regions before the first world war came around.
Robert was wounded on two occasions in the Dardanelles. One bullet, in an incident during the summer of 1915, was lodged so close to his spine that the doctors decided to not try to extract it.
In Gallipoli, Private Irwin helped save a wounded officer who was stuck between the lines, and received the Military Medal for his bravery.
Private Robert Irwin M.M. during the first day of the Battle of the Somme on Saturday 1st July 1916.
Leslie Ellis Mann, Castledawson
Leslie Ellis Mann was the son of the late Henry Church Mann, Drumlamph, Castledawson, and Mrs Mann of Portstewart.
Ballymoney Free Press & Northern Counties Advertiser, 1st November 1917, referenced Leslie’s death and a letter received by his loved ones.
“Information has been received of the death in action in France, of Private Lesslie Ellis Mann, Australian Infantry, son of the late Mr Henry C. Mann of Drumlamph, Castledawson, and Mrs Mann of Portstewart.
Deceased was aged about 30 years and an “old boy” of Macosquin Intermediate School.
About 2 years ago he immigrated to New South Wales, where he enlisted in answer to the call of the Motherland. He had been in France about 6 months. A letter received from 5 comrades states that Private Mann was killed while the Australians were consolidating a captured position. Deceased was a brother of Mrs D. H. Christie, Mountpleasant, Coleraine,
Much sympathy is entertained for Mrs Mann and the members of her family in the loss of a gallant son and brother.”
Henry Leacock, Tobermore
Henry Leacock was born close to Tobermore, and prior to the war was working in Belfast, as a motorman on the trams.
He enlisted in the city and was assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, as a rifleman.
Henry was killed on the first of July, at the Somme. He was buried at Mill Road Cemetery and is remembered at Thiepval, as well as at Belfast City Hall, on the Belfast City Corporation War Memorial Plaque.
Major Thomas Joyce Atkinson, Portadown
Thomas Joyce Atkinson was the son of the Wolsey and Alice Atkinson, from Bachelors Walk in Portadown. Born on the 30th January 1878, Thomas was their eldest child and was a barrister at law, practicing in his home town. Thomas’s uncle was also a solicitor. The barrister had three siblings – Charlotte, Isabel, and Georgiana.
In the early stages of the war, Thomas was a Temporary Major in the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, before ultimately becoming a Major with the Major Royal Irish Fusiliers.
He was killed on the 1st July 1916, at the Somme.
James Watters, Tobermore
James Watters was born on the 9th September 1886, to David and Sarah Watters (nee Gregg). They had several daughters. He was their only son.
The family lived in the village of Tobermore. His mother was a seamstress. James and his father helped around local farms.
At the outbreak of the first world war, James and his sweetheart, Sarah Meharg, decided to get married.
Their marriage took place at nearby Kilcronaghan church (Church of Ireland) on the 25th September 1914.
James and Sarah quickly started a family and had two daughters, Ethel Watters, who was born on the 8th September 1915, and Tilly Watters.
But the war was calling. On the 1st July, while serving with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, James was wounded. He was taken to a field hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries. He was 29 years old.
Samuel John McElfatrick, Garvagh
Samuel John McElfatrick was born about 1881, in Tamlaght, some five miles from Kilrea. He was the son of James and Mary McElfatrick.
In the 1901 census, Samuel is listed as working as a servant on a local farm.
The following year, 20th May 1902, he married Hessie Docherty. They went on to have five children – Samuel James McElfatrick (1903), Thomas McElfatrick (1907), Annie McElfatrick (1910), Robert McElfatrick (1911), and Hessie McElfatrick (1914). During these years, the family are living rurally, between Kilrea and Garvagh, in a townland known as Caulhame. Samuel is still working as a labourer on local farms.
When the war came along, Samuel enlisted in Garvagh. He was assigned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Private Samuel McElfatrick was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, Saturday 1st July 1916.
An exploding shell blew off both of Samuel’s legs. One of his comrades who witnessed the awful scene, wrote that Samuel sized up his desperate situation, by getting his pipe out, lighting it, and then waiting in his shell-hole to die.
He has no grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
His widow, Hessie, composed a poem in memory of her late husband. She submitted it to the local newspaper, every year, on the anniversary of his death.
My noble husband lies in his blood soaked garments through
In a nameless grave unknown lies the heart that beat so true
He sank, faint and weary, among the famous brave
And they laid him sad and lonely all in his lowly grave
No dear one was near him to mark his soft replies
No loving one was near him to close his soft dark eyes
No stone marks the grave where my husband lies so lone
In a nameless grave unknown with his blood soaked garments through
No more bugle will call our darling one
Rest, noble soldier, all in your grave unknown
But we will know you, we will find you among the good and true
Then you will wear a robe of white for your blood soaked garments through
Daddy, dear daddy, good night, good night
Samuel Campbell, Dungiven
Samuel Campbell was born in Dungiven, on the 16th October 1882, the son of Robert M. Campbell.
Samuel was killed on the 1st July 1916. He was 33 years old.
He is buried in Beaumont Hamel Cemetery, and is commemorated on the Roll of Honour at the Northern Bank in Donegal Square West, Belfast.
William Barr, Aghadowey
William Barr was born on the 25th June 1897, the son of William and Hannah Barr (nee McGoogan). The family lived in Ballydevitt near Aghadowey.
On enlisting, he was assigned to ‘D’ Company of the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Private William Barr was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He was only 19 years old.
William’s grave can be found in Connaught Cemetery, and he is remembered on the Roll of Honour at Cullycapple School.
The small rural Aghadowey community also lost Thomas Doores that opening day of the Somme, and (what appears to be his sibling) John Doores was wounded.
Alexander Kirkpatrick, Ballymoney
Alexander Kirkpatrick was born 10th February 1892, in Polentamney near Ballymoney, the son of George and Jane Kirkpatrick (nee Adams). His father, George, was a farmer.
Alexander enlisted in Belfast and was assigned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
He was killed on the 1st July 1916. Alexander was 24 years old.
David McClelland, Ballymoney
David McClelland was the son of of David and Margaret McClelland of Ballymoney.
On enlisting in Ballymoney, David was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman David McClelland was killed at the Somme on Saturday 1st July 1916. He left a widow and two young children behind. They lived in Tullaghgore.
David has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Samuel McClelland, Ballymoney
Samuel McClelland was born on the 1st October 1895, the son of Thomas and Ellen McClelland, of Balnamore near Ballymoney. His father was a shoemaker.
Samuel enlisted in Ballymoney and was assigned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Private Samuel McClelland was killed on the 1st July 1916. He was 20 years old.
His grave can be found in Mill Road Cemetery, Somme, France. Samuel is remembered at Drumreagh Presbyterian Church.
Malcolm McFadden, Ballymoney
Malcolm McFadden was the son of Jane McFadden. They lived in the townland known as Grange of Drumhillagh, near Dervock.
On enlisting in Ballymoney, Malcolm was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman Malcolm McFadden was killed on the 1st July 1916. He was 23 years old.
Malcolm has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, and in Mosside Presbyterian Church.
John Murphy, Ballymoney
John Murphy was the son of James and Jeannie Murphy, from Greenville near Ballymoney.
He enlisted in his town to join the war effort and was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman John Murphy was killed on the opening day at the Somme, on the 1st July 1916. His grave is in Knightsbridge British Cemetery, at Mesnil-Martinsart. John is also commemorated in St. James’s Presbyterian Church.
Johnston Murphy, Ballymoney
Johnston Murphy was born on the 24th September 1891, the son of Clarke and Elizabeth Murphy (nee Laverty). The family lived on Main Street in Ballymoney.
On enlisting to join the war effort, Johnston was assigned to the 6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Lieutenant Johnston Murphy was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. His family, like in many instances surrounding that awful day, could not get definitive information about Johnston’s fate for several months.
He does not have a grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, and in St. James’s Presbyterian Church.
“To the Editor of “Ireland’s Saturday Night”
As your paper is one that is largely in circulation and in demand amongst our soldiers at the front, I would esteem it as a favour if you would have this letter published for the purpose of gaining me some information regarding my son Lieutenant Johnston Murphy, of Ballymoney, County Antrim.
He enlisted formerly in the 6th Royal Irish Rifles, having got a commission, and put in “his bit” at the Dardanelles, where he was wounded. Upon his recovery he was transferred to the Royal Irish Rifles.
He took part in the celebrated advance on the 1st July last. On the 10th July I received a telegram from the War Office that he was wounded, which was followed by one on the 27th July, stating “previously reported wounded, now reported missing.” From that to this, although I have made inquiries from his commanding and brother officers, I can get no definitive information as to whether he is a prisoner or not, or if he is alive or dead.
In order to give your soldier readers a chance of identifying him, and of giving me some information, I may state that he was about 24 years of age, dark, about 5 feet 8 inches in height, and well and strongly built. He was not unknown in rugby circles, as he completed his education in Trinity College, and played for Wanderers’ Rugby Football Club in Dublin and Belfast.
Anyone who can give me some satisfactory information concerning his whereabouts and state of health will relieve me very much, and will be thankfully received.
28th August 1916″
Ireland’s Saturday Night,
2nd September 1916
John Reid, Ballymoney
John Reid was born in the townland of Knockans, near Finvoy, not far from Ballymoney. After enlisting in Ballymoney, to join the war effort, he was assigned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He had also previously fought in the Boer war.
Private John Reid was killed on the 1st July 1916. He was 36 years old.
He has no grave, but is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial, and also in Finvoy Parish Church.
James McKeeman, Dervock
James McKeeman was born on the 29th March 1896 at Benvarden, Dervock, near Ballymoney, in County Antrim. His mother Nancy was a servant girl. There is no name given on the birth records as to the father’s name. In the 1911 census, James is living along with his mother Nancy, at house 4 in Lisnisk, Benvarden. There is nobody else in the house, just the two of them. They both work, in 1911, as farm labourers. James enlisted in Coleraine and was assigned to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. James was only 25 years old. One can only imagine the devastation felt by his mother when the news arrived home of her son’s death.
Frank Kennedy, Armoy
Frank Kennedy was the son of of Ruth and William Kennedy of Armoy.
On enlisting in Ballycastle, he was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman Frank Kennedy was killed on the 1st July 1916. He was 33 years old.
Frank has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as at Armoy Parish Church.
Daniel McKay, Armoy
Daniel McKay, born on the 22nd December 1885, was the eldest child of Sarah McKay. His mother subsequently married a Mr Smiley and the entire family lived at Mill Five Acres, Armoy. Daniel had two full brothers, as well as two half-brothers and a half-sister.
The Armoy man signed up, in Ballymoney, at the start of the war in September 1914. He was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman Daniel McKay was killed on the 1st July 1916. There is no known grave. He was 30 years old and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Isaac Black, Cookstown
Isaac Black was the son of William Black and Elizabeth Black (nee Vance), born in late September 1894, at Sandholes, Cookstown. He had four brothers and four sisters. He was the oldest boy.
Isaac signed up to join the war effort at Finner Camp, Ballyshannon, County Donegal, in 1914.
He subsequently trained at Shane’s Park Camp at Randalstown. It was during this training that local army personnel recognised Isaac’s abilities and promoted him to Corporal. He was assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Inniskillings.
By September 1915 his regiment had been moved to Bordon Camp in England. The following month they were sent to France.
Corporal Isaac Black died, while crossing no man’s land with several colleagues, on 1st July 1916.
He was 21 years old.
Francis Cheevers, Cookstown
Francis Cheevers was the eldest son of John and Sarah Cheevers, of Cookstown. He was born on 27th April 1895 and was one of seven children.
By the time of the 1901 census, the family had moved to Downpatrick. It was there that Francis enlisted to join the war effort.
He was assigned to the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. Training took place at Clandeboye and Seaford. His unit were shipped to Boulogne, France, in October 1915.
Rifleman Francis Cheevers was killed while trying to cross no-man’s land on the morning of 1st July 1916.
The 21 year old soldier has no known grave. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
William McGookin, Cookstown
William McGookin was the son of William (a farm labourer) and Rachel McGookin (nee Doole).
The 1901 census shows the family as living at house 2 in Lisalbanagh, just outside Magherafelt. By 1912 the family had moved to Cross Glebe, The Sandholes, Cookstown, in County Tyrone.
William was born on the 3rd June 1896. He had an older brother, John, as well as two younger siblings, namely, Margretta and Robert John.
William belonged to Tullyhogue Company of Ulster Volunteers and was also a member of Derryraghan L.O.L. 131.
The war was only a few months old, when William enlisted at the Cookstown office in November 1914.
He fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, after being shot. He had just turned 20 years old a few weeks earlier.
His family in Cookstown later received a letter, in which two of his colleagues said that they had witnessed William being struck by a bullet. They added that his death had been instantaneous.
Hugh Taylor, Cookstown
Hugh Taylor, born on 4th June 1895, was the son of James and Elizabeth Taylor (nee Neill), house 30 Gortalowry, Cookstown. His parents had married in July 1887 and went on to have ten children. Nine survived.
Hugh’s siblings were: Hetty, Emma, Mabel, Margaret, Thomas, Samuel, Oliver and William.
His father, James, was a skilled labourer, who was possibly originally from Scotland.
Hugh Taylor worked at Gunning’s Factory, at Millburn, in Cookstown. He is referenced (like his two older sisters) on the 1911 census, as a mill worker.
When the war broke out, Hugh signed up locally in Cookstown and was assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Hugh Taylor was killed on the opening day of the Somme and, unlike the vast majority of those who fell that awful day, does have a known grave.
His older brother Thomas was wounded in the leg around the same time (he did survive the war). In mid July, a local newspaper refers to a letter that Thomas has written home. Thomas is writing from his hospital bed, but is “getting on all right.” The cost of the advance on that opening day of July was devastating and he held out little hope that his brother Hugh had survived it.
Hugh’s sister, Miss Annie Taylor, wrote to the army, asking for any further details that they may have regarding her missing brother. By mid August, she had a reply from Major Peacock of the 9th Inniskillings. He advised her that Hugh was most likely dead.
William Thom, Cookstown
William Nathaniel Thom was born in the late 1880s, the youngest son of William and Margaret Thom. There were two other siblings, John and Richard. His father farmed locally and his mother taught in the National School.
In the 1901 census, the family were living in the townand of Tirmacshane, which is adjacent to the Orritor Road, just over three miles west of Cookstown. Drum Manor Forest Park was only about a mile from their house.
William, or ‘Nat’ as he was known to his friends, also taught in the local National School for a while.
By the time of the 1911 census, Nat has moved into digs and is staying with the Mills family on Oldtown Street in Cookstown. He was in his early 20s and had served his time at Gunning’s Factory in the town and was now Linen Factory Manager.
On signing up for the army, he was assigned to the 9th Battalion. His intelligence and leadership abilities were noted, and he was soon promoted to Lance Corporal. But Nat didn’t want to leave his friends, so he declined a commission that would have meant him moving to another regiment. He stayed with his friends.
On the 1st July 1916, as his 9th Battalion reached the crest of a hill, they were exposed to heavy German machine gun fire. There was a devastating loss of life.
Another Cookstown soldier, Private Thomas Taylor, knew Nat and mentioned his death in a letter home, a few days later:
“Nat Thom was killed too, shot through the head and never spoke.”
The Mid Ulster Mail, on Saturday 5th August 1916, published the following article on the fallen soldier.
Corporal William Nathaniel Thom, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed in action in France, 1st July 1916, known among his many sorrowing friends as Nat Thom, served his time to the linen trade in Gunning’s factory, Cookstown, when shortly after being promoted to an under management, the war broke out, when he promptly responded to the call of his King and country, joining the above regiment as a Private, soon gaining the ranks of lance corporal and corporal, preferring to gain his honours among his pals although a commission was within his reach in another regiment. Truly he laid down his life for his friends, and let us hope that he has now heard, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’, from the greatest Captain of all.
Lieutenant E. W. Crawford, 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, writing to his mother says:-
“It is with the greatest regret that I have to inform you that your son, Corporal W N Thom, fell in the attack we made on 1st July. It was a terrible day for the battalion, for we lost our best, both officers and men.
I knew your son well and we were proud to have him in the battalion. He was a fine soldier, and what is more a fine man. I know that any words of sympathy are of little worth in your great sorrow, but you may have pride and consolation that he had a fine and manly end; a fitting end to a fine life. The commanding officer is so worn out with the stress of the past week, and as I knew your son so well and had such an admiration for him, I asked to be allowed to personally write you.
If I can do anything further, if you will let me know, I shall be only too pleased to do it.”
Mr W Leeper, J.P., from Gunning’s Factory, also writing to his mother says:-
“He was a straight honourable fellow, kind hearted and sympathetic with the workers here, liked by them and by everyone with whom he came in contact in the course of his duties , these he carried out quickly, efficiently and conscientiously and was most reliable. I liked him very much and missed him greatly when he left. Now I deplore his loss and extend to you, his mother, my deepest sympathy in your great sorrow. He was a good and brave man who has nobly done his duty.”
Jacob Wilkinson, Cookstown
Jacob Wilkinson was the third child of Henry and Isabella Wilkinson of Blackhill, Cookstown. He was born on 25th May 1885 and had nine siblings.
Jacob worked at Adair’s Mill, Greenvale, Cookstown. His older brother had served overseas in India and China between 1904-1906.
Jacob enlisted at Finner Camp (Ballyshannon in County Donegal), and was assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He trained locally in Ulster at Randalstown, County Antrim, before being sent to France.
In the summer of 1916, Jacob was promoted to Corporal. On the first of July 1916, Jacob lost his life at the Somme. He was 31 years old.
A belatedly forwarded postcard from Jacob, saying that he was doing okay, was received by his father on the 16th July. Jacob is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Samuel Donnelly, Stewartstown
Samuel Donelly was the son of Joseph and Sarah Jane Donnelly from Linnyglass, Ballyclog, near Stewartstown, in County Tyrone.
He was born on the 11th June 1891 and had five siblings (another died very young).
Samuel and his father worked on the land. The young man had a keen interest in guns and was a member of Stewartstown Shooting Club.
When he signed up to help in the war, Samuel was assigned to the 15th Battalion, Royal Scots.
Samuel Donelly was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. He was only 25 years old.
Private Donald Garden, from Aberdeen, a colleague and friend of Samuel, wrote to the deceased’s parents.
We were in a big open bit of country between the British and German lines when Sam was hit. It was between Albert and La Boisselle, and the Germans were firing very heavily.
I was along with Sam all the way across and our men were falling around us. I spoke to him and the sergeant also, but he was dead, we had no doubt about it. That sergeant was also badly wounded and so was I soon afterwards.Private Donald Garden, Aberdeen
Six years later, Samuel was posthumously awarded two medals for his service in the war. They were sent to his sister, Caroline.
William Robert Gardiner Kennedy, Coleraine
William Kennedy was born on the 12th July 1897. He was the son of William Robert Kennedy. The family lived at Ardbana House in Coleraine.
He enlisted at Finner Camp, and on the completion of his training, William was assigned to the 109th Company Machine Gun Corps.
Lance Corporal William Robert Gardiner Kennedy was only 19 years old when he was killed on the 1st July 1916.
William is commemorated on a plaque in the Irish Society School in Coleraine.
Samuel Mulholland, Coleraine
Samuel Mulholland’s family were originally from the Limavady area. Young Samuel was born after they later moved to Coleraine. They eventually resided in Revallagh, on the Priestland Road, out towards Bushmills.
Samuel enlisted in Belfast and was assigned to ‘D’ Company in the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Lance Corporal Samuel Mulholland was killed on the 1st July 1916. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
William Pelly, Coleraine
Captain William Francis Henry Pelly was the son of Catherine Pelly (nee Harvey), and the Reverend Charles H. Pelly, M.A., who was the former rector of Killybegs in County Donegal, and a retired chaplain, Madras Ecclesiastical Establishment, who had subsequently moved to Canada.
Charles was a grandson of Reverend Richard Dobbs, of Bay Lodge, County Antrim, and a brother of Mrs. J. Ffolliott Young from Dungiven in County Londonderry.
William married Sarah Hastings, in Downpatrick, on the 28th December 1909.
Captain William Pelly was serving with the Royal Fusiliers (County Tyrone Volunteers), when he was killed in action, on Saturday 1st July 1916. He was 42 years old. William’s remains were never identified, but he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
John Simpson, Coleraine
John Simpson married Annie Tweed in 1914. They had one child and lived in Coleraine.
On signing up in Donegal, he was assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Private John Simpson was killed on Saturday 1st July 1916.
John has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as in St. Patrick’s Parish Church. His name also appears on a plaque in the Irish Society School, in Coleraine.
“Simpson, Private John Simpson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Chapel Square, Coleraine, officially reported killed on Ist July.”
Belfast News Letter
25th November 1916
John Russell, Portrush
John Russell was the son of Robert and Mary Russell (nee McKane) of 42 Causeway Street, Portrush.
He enlisted in Belfast to join the war effort.
John was killed on the 1st July 1916. Initially declared as missing, there was no known grave.
He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. A pulpit in his church (Portrush Methodist Church) was dedicated to him, and his name appears on a Roll of Honour in the church hall.
Captain Samuel Willis, Portrush
Samuel Willis was a son of Mr. Jacob W. Willis, Mountcharles, County Donegal.
He taught in Coleraine Academical Institution, and lived at Lynncrest, Coleraine Road, Portrush, with his wife, Mary Christina Willis. Another newspaper cites them as living at Adelaide Avenue in Coleraine.
When the first world war came along, Samuel enlisted and was assigned as a captain with the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Captain Willis was reported missing, at Thiepval on 1st July 1916, at the start of the Battle of the Somme.
There was a report from a colleague, in late 1916, that Samuel had been taken prisoner by the Germans.
But by 1917, any lingering hope was gone. Samuel had not survived the opening exchanges on that first day of July.
He was 43 years old. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
His widow, Mary Christina Willis, died suddenly at her house in Dunavon, Portrush, on May 9th 1942.
Samuel Carson, Bushmills
Samuel was born on the 30th November 1894, the eldest son of Thomas and Martha Carson of Park West, Beardiville, which is just over four miles from Bushmills.
He had four siblings (two brothers and two sisters). By the time he was in his mid-teens he was working as a servant for the Chestnutt family, who also lived in Beardiville.
He enlisted, along with his younger brother Robert, in Ballymoney, to join the war effort.
Samuel was killed on the 1st July 1916, at the Somme, and buried at Ancre Valley British Cemetery, Beaumont Hamel, France. He was 21 years old.
Samuel Carson is remembered in Dunluce Presbyterian Church.
George Cochrane, Bushmills
George Cochrane was born in Bushmills, on the 19th January 1897, the son of Charles and Maria Cochrane. He had two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother.
On enlisting in Ballymoney, to serve in the war, he was assigned to ‘D’ Company in the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman George Cochrane was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He was 19 years old. He lies in Ancre British Cemetery, at Beaumont Hamel.
George is commemorated in Dunluce Presbyterian Church.
John Cochrane, Bushmills
John Cochrane, the son of Miss Martha McAllister, was born in Aird near Bushmills. He was raised by his granny, Mary Ann McAllister.
On enlisting in Ballymoney, he was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman John Cochrane died on the 1st July 1916. He was only 26 years old and is remembered in Billy Parish Church, as well as on the Thiepval Memorial.
Sergeant Isaac Dean, Bushmills
Isaac Dean was born on the 26th April 1890, the son of Samuel and Margaret Dean. The family lived in Upper Main Street, Bushmills.
On enlisting for service in Ballymoney, Isaac was assigned to “D” Company of the 12th Battalion of the Irish Rifles.
Sergeant Isaac Dean was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He was 26 years old.
William McCurdy, Bushmills
William McCurdy was born on the 23rd July 1896, the son of Mrs Mary McKeown (formerly McCurdy), of Castlecatt, near Bushmills. His mother later married John Martin McKeown of Ballyness.
William enlisted in Clandeboye and was assigned to the 11th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman William McCurdy was only 19 years old, when he was killed on the 1st July 1916.
William John Morrow, Bushmills
William John Morrow was born in Bushmills, the son of Robert and Elizabeth Morrow. He had four siblings, two brothers and two sisters.
William enlisted in Belfast and was assigned to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman William John Morrow was killed on the 1st July 1916. He was 20 years old. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial and is remembered in Bushmills Presbyterian Church.
William’s sister, Sarah Ann, also died in 1916. Terrible times for the family.
Robert Taggart, Bushmills
Robert Taggart was born on the 12th February 1897, in Ballyclough, near Bushmills, the son of Daniel and Agnes Taggart (nee Kane). His parents had got married in Dunluce Parish Church on 3rd September 1896. Robert’s father, Daniel, died on the 20th October 1915. On signing up in Coleraine, Robert was assigned to the 10th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was only 19 years old when he was killed on the 1st July 1916, at the Somme. Robert is remembered in Dunluce Parish Church, as well as on the Thiepval Memorial.
John Stewart-Moore Gage, Ballycastle
John Stewart-Moore Gage was born 10th June 1893, at Riverside, in Antrim. He was the son of Francis Turnley Gage, M.D., and Katherine Gage. The family lived at Moyarget, near Ballycastle.
After enlisting, John was assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Second Lieutenant John Stewart-Moore Gage was killed on Saturday 1st July 1916.
John has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
“Second-Lieutenant John S. M. Gage, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (County Tyrone Volunteers), missing, is a son of the late Dr. Francis Gage, and grandson the late General Ezekiel Gage, of Rathlin Island. His mother was formerly Miss Stewart-Moore, daughter of Captain, Stewart-Moore, late of Moyargot, Ballycastle. He was wounded in the head on the 25th April, and had rejoined his battalion before the great offensive began”
8th July 1916
Joseph Gillen, Ballycastle
Joseph Gillen was born on the 14th June 1897, the son of Patrick and Isabella Gillen. The family lived on Castle Street, in Ballycastle.
After completing his military training, Joseph was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
Private Joseph Gillen was killed on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. He was only 19 years old. His grave can be found in Sucrerie Military Cemetery in Colincamps.
“News has reached Ballycastle that Private Joe Gillen, let Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed in action in the great “push” of 1st July. He had not attained his 20th year, was a member of the Ballycastle Company of National Volunteers, and volunteered for active service shortly after the outbreak of war. He had been previously wounded and gassed. Deceased was very popular with the members of the company and all who knew him in Ballycastle. Much sympathy is extended to his mother and other relatives in their sad bereavement”
Ballymoney Free Press & Northern Counties Advertiser
3rd August 1916
John McLean, Ballycastle
Rifleman John McLean, a member of the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, was killed at the Somme on the 1st July 1916.
He was 21 years old. John has no grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
William David Girvin, Belfast
Private William Girvin lived with his wife and four children at 5 Arlington Street in Belfast.
On enlisting to serve in the war, he was assigned to the 15th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman William David Girvin was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme.
The Belfast News Letter, 20th October 1916, added that William was the “son of Mr. D. W. Girvin, 4, Glenarm Terrace, Shore Road, and a brother of Sergeant Samuel Girvin, who was recently awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.”
Second Lieutenant Robert Hamilton, Belfast
Robert Victor Hamilton was the son of James and Matilda Hamilton, of Charnwood Avenue in Belfast.
He was educated at the Royal Academic Institution in Belfast. In the early stages of the war, Robert worked in the Treasury Department in Dublin Castle.
On enlisting, in March 1915, Robert was initially assigned cadet status. On the completion of his training, he was subsequently assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. In March of 1916, he was sent to the front.
Second Lieutenant Robert Victor Hamilton was killed on the 1st July 1916.
He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
“Second-Lieutenant Robert Victor Hamilton, Royal Irish Rifles (West Belfast Battalion), killed in action, was a son Mr. James Hamilton, 2, Glendarra, Charnwood Avenue, Belfast, and was 24 years of age. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and qualified for the Civil Service, receiving appointment in the Treasury Department, Dublin Castle. He obtained a commission in the (Reserve) Battalion Royal Irish Rifles on August, 1915, and went the front March last.”
Belfast News Letter, 8th July 1916
Henry Holden, Belfast
Rifleman Henry Holden was from Dundee Street in Belfast. He served with the 9th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Henry died on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He had initially been declared as ‘missing in action’.
He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Joseph Craig McCullough, Belfast
Joseph Craig McCullough, was from Bessbrook, in West Belfast. He was a married man and worked in the local spinning mill.
Joseph was a rifleman with the 9th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles. The young soldier was killed by a fatal head-shot on the 1st July 1916.
His wife heard the sad details via a letter home from a relative.
Mrs McCullough, Bessbrook, has received news that her husband, Corporal McCullough, Royal Irish Rifles, has been missing since the 1st July. Private Robert Seaton, brother-in-law of Corporal McCullough, in a letter to his mother, Mrs Seaton, Bessbrook, states that Corporal McCullough was shot through the head on the 1st inst., and died in a moment. The deceased prior to enlistmentwas employed by the Bessbrook Spinning Company.
– Northern Whig, 2nd August 1916
Alexander McNeice, Belfast
Alexander McNeice was the son of James McNiece, from Glenavy in County Antrim.
Alexander was the husband of Clarance McNiece. They lived at 24, Haldane Street in Belfast.
He served as a rifleman in the 10th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Alexander was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He is remembered on the Thiepval memorial.
Arthur Morrow, Belfast
Arthur Galway Morrow, from Belfast, was serving with the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles when he was killed on Saturday 1st July 1916 at the Somme.
William James Tipping, Belfast
William Tipping was from the Donegall Road in Belfast. He was initially declared missing on the 1st July 1916, but by early September his status had been officially changed to deceased.
“Bugler William Tipping, Royal Irish Rifles, reported missing since 1st July. He resided with his sister, Miss E. Tipping, 71 Donegall Road, Belfast, and has been unofficially reported killed. The adjutant, in a letter to his sister says: He was orderly to the commanding office for a number of months, and had always carried out his work to the satisfaction of all. He was held high respect by all who knew him.”
Larne Times, 9th September 1916
“Bugler William J. Tipping, Royal Irish Rifles, has been officially returned as killed on July 1st. Deceased was 23 years of age, had six years’ service, and was stationed in Aden when war broke out. He was a brother of Miss Edith Tipping, 71, Donegall Road, Belfast.”
Northern Whig, 12th September 1916
Lance Corporal Ronald Waterman, Belfast
Ronald Waterman was a son of Samuel and Elsie Waterman of 8 Glencollyer Street, Duncairn, North Belfast.
He enlisted to join the war effort in 1915 and was assigned to the 12th Royal Irish Rifles, 36th Ulster Division.
During his local training at Clandeboye Camp, Ronald’s leadership abilities were noted and the teenager was made a Lance Corporal. He subsequently was promoted to Corporal.
Lance Corporal Ronald Waterman was only 19 years old, when he was killed on the 1st July 1916, at the Somme. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Robert Beverland, Holywood
Robert Beverland was the eldest child of David and Rebecca Beverland (nee Carlisle).
He was born on the 1st July 1895 in Holywood, County Down. Robert had five siblings, two brothers and three sisters.
His father, David, was a boot manufacturer, with factory on the Newtownards Road in Belfast. Indeed the wider family was also into footwear, with David’s cousin, Robert, a boot merchant. At one time, Robert had three shops in Belfast.
Between 1901 and 1911, he was a student at Belfast Municipal Technical College. On leaving college, he worked for John Riddel & Sons Ltd., who were iron merchants on Ann Street in Belfast.
The young man was also a keen hockey player and was a member of Holywood Hockey Club.
Robert enlisted in Holywood to to join the war effort, and was assigned to the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. His leadership abilities were quickly recognised and he was made a Sergeant.
Sergeant Robert Beverland was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. It was his 21st birthday.
He is buried in France and is remembered on the Holywood and District War Memorial, and also in Holywood Parish Church of Ireland Church.
John Pollock, Holywood
Lieutenant John Pollock, from Ardeen near Holywood, was a member of the 13th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
Initially he was declared missing, before being finally delared dead. John was only 23 years old, when he was killed on the 1st July 1916. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
“Lieutenant John Pollock, missing, is the youngest son of Mr. John Pollock, The Priory. Marine. County Down. He was educated at Coleraine Academical Institution and Armagh Royal School, and was in business with his father in the firm of Lytle and Pollock, Duncrue Street, Belfast. He was a member of the 1st Battalion North Down Regiment U.V.F. and had received a commission in the 1st County Down Volunteers. One of the best golfers in the province, he played for Holywood Club, while he is also a promising cricketer, playing regularly for N.I.C.C.. The official wire states that although missing, it must not be presumed he is killed or wounded.”
Belfast Weekly Telegraph, 15th July 1916
James Davidson, Bangor
James Samuel Davidson was the only son of Samuel Cleland Davidson and Clara Mary Davidson (nee Coleman). He was born on the 9th March 1877 and had four siblings. The family lived at Seacourt, on the Princetown Road, in Bangor.
His paternal grandfather was a merchant and his father, Samuel, was an engineer by trade and in 1881 set up Davidson and Co, also known as the Sirocco Engineering Works, in Belfast.
On finishing his education, initially at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and ultimately at Campbell College in Belfast, James was appointed as General Manager of his father’s company. He subsequently became a director of the firm.
The family were very weathy and James enjoyed trips to the Mediterranean and the Black sea in 1898. He travelled with his father to the 1904 World Fair in St Louis in America, to promote their firm. James enjoyed tennis, fancy cars and owned a yacht. During 1910 and 1911, he went on a world tip to promote the family firm.
On the outbreak of the war, he applied for a commission and was made a Second Lieutenant with the 13th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, subsequently being promoted to the rank of Captain.
The initial assault by his men on the 1st July began at 730am. James and his men were sent out at 8am. By 10am, he had been wounded in the knee. He had been sending ever more desperate messages back to his superiors. They badly needed more support. Two hours after joining the offensive all hope was lost. James wrote:
“We cannot hold much longer. We are being pressed
on all sides and ammunition almost finished.”
Two of his men were helping the wounded Captain James Samuel Davidson back across no-mans-land, when he was killed by a German sniper. One of his helpers said it was open ground, and the sniper had a clear view of any movement between the German and British front lines. The bullet hit him in the head. He died instantly.
Captain James Samuel Davidson was 39 years old.
He is buried in Serre Road Cemetery Number 2, in France.
Isaac Walker, Loughgall
Isaac Walker was born on 4th August 1890, near Loughgall in County Armagh. His parents, James and Catherine Walker of Summerisland, had a large family. Isaac had nine siblings (he was the oldest male).
He worked in the local mill, namely Messrs A Cowdy and Sons, Greenhall Mills in Loughgall, and when the war came along, was one of the first in the area to enlist. Isaac was assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Sergeant Isaac Walker was very badly injured on the 1st July 1916, at the Battle of the Somme. He was hit by eleven bullets and lay incapicated in a shell-hole for three days and nights. He was still alive when colleagues managed to come to his aid.
Isaac was transferred to Bethnal Green Military Hospital in London, but sadly succumb to his injuries on the 16th November 1916.
Sergeant Walker’s coffin was shipped over to Belfast and then on to the graveyard in Loughgall.
William McFadzean, Lurgan
William McFadzean was the son of William and Annie McFadzean, from Lurgan in County Armagh. His father, a linen yarn salesman, was originally from Dundalk, and his mother from County Down. William was born on the 9th of October 1895.
In 1901, the family was living in Jocelyn Gardens, which is just off the Woodstock Road, in Belfast.
William McFadzean after leaving Mountpottinger School, in 1908, went on to become an apprentice at Spence Bryson & Co Ltd, on Great Victoria Street in Belfast. He was a keen rugby player, and played for the Collegians RFC.
He enlisted when the war broke out, and was assigned to the 14th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles.
William was only 20 years old, when he lost his life on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He sacrificed his own life, in order to save others, when a box of live grenades accidentally fell into a trench of soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. Three other Victoria Crosses were awarded to men of the 36th Ulster Division for their bravery on the 1st July 1916.
William’s citation read as follows:
Private William Frederick McFadzean, late Royal Irish Rifles. For most conspicuous bravery. While in a concentration trench and opening a box of bombs for distribution prior to an attack, the box slipped down into the trench, which was crowded with men, and two of the safety pins fell out. Private McFadzean, instantly realising the danger to his comrades, with heroic courage threw himself on the top of the bombs. The bombs exploded blowing him to pieces, but only one other man was injured. He well knew his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment’s hesitation he gave his life for his comrades.
— London Gazette, 8 September 1916
Private William McFadzean is remembered on the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, at Thiepval, in France.
Robert Nesbitt, Richhill
Robert Nesbitt was the son of Adam and Mary Ann Nesbitt, of Richhill, Portadown, in County Armagh.
On signing up to join the army, he was assigned to the 9th Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
Robert died on the 1st July 1916. He was only 24 years old.
He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Arthur Eyre Coote, Armagh
Arthur Eyre Coote was the son of Albert A E Coote and Mary Emilie Coote. His parents were both originally from County Monaghan. Arthur was born in Armagh around 1897. The family lived at a house in Victoria Street, Armagh. Arthur had nine siblings, seven girls and two boys – Beatrice, Charles, Olive, Emilie, Thomas, Clair, Ruby, Grace and Sylvia.
Arthur was in only his nineteenth year, when he killed on the first day of the Somme.
Eric Norman Frankland Bell, Enniskillen
Eric Norman Frankland Bell was the son of Edward and Dora Bell (née Crowder). He was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, on the 28th August 1895. Eric had three siblings.
At the time of Eric’s birth, his father was serving in Burma, as an officer, with the British Army’s Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
The battalion later returned to England and was posted to Cheshire, in the North West. The Bell family lived near by, in Warrington, where young Eric went to school. They subsequently moved to Liverpool, where Eric finished his schooling. He later went to Liverpool University to study architecture.
At the start of the first world war, in August 1914, Eric Bell volunteered to join the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. This was the same regiment that his father was serving in. Both of Eric’s brothers, who had emigrated to the USA, also enlisted to join the regiment. Eric Bell was made a second lieutenant, just a month after enlisting, in September 1914. He was initially with the regiment’s 6th Battalion, before a transfer to the 8th Battalion, and ultimately to the 9th Battalion.
Captain Eric Norman Frankland Bell was only 20 years old, when he was killed at Thiepval, on the 1st July 1916. His bravery that day, resulted in the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. Only nine other such medals were awarded that day.
A London newspaper referenced Eric’s bravey and supreme sacrifice that awful day.
Second Lieutenant Eric Maurice Wilson, Newtownbutler
Eric Maurice Wilson was the son of the Reverend William and Mrs Rosalie Wilson. They lived at L’Abri, Newtownbutler, in County Fermanagh.
He was assigned to the 17th (Reserve) Battalion from the Queen’s Univerity O.T.C., and was attached to the South Belfast Volunteers.
Second Lieutenant Eric Maurice Wilson was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He was 20 years old.
There was at least one witness to the moment of Eric’s death, during the chaos of the fighting, but sadly no remains were ever subsequently found. Eric is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, and his name appears on the Queen’s University ‘Roll of Honour.’ He had studied in Belfast, at the university’s Faculty of Arts from 1914 until 1915.
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