BALLYMENA 1914-1918

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Bits & Pieces

Recent additions

1820 Sergeant Robert Smyth (or Smythe)

Http:// records another Ballymena man.  He was the son of George Rock Smyth and Elizabeth Smyth.   At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 11, Cullybackey Road Ballymena; they had moved to 16, Cullybackey Road by  the time of the 1911 census. 

Robert Smyth volunteered and enlisted in 1916 into the 1st Bn. Welsh Guards. His service number was 1820. He would have been 40 at this time. He served in France from 26th September 1916 until April 1919 as a Corporal, Lance Sergeant and then a Sergeant. Following his demobilisation, he applied for an Army Pension and in Section 7 of the application document, he records his employer before joining the army as being the Northern Banking Company Limited, Belfast.

Death of a Ballymena Sailor

Eighteen year old merchant seaman Robert Andrews, Wireless Operator on the SS Vienna, a 4,170 grt merchant steamer, died on the 11th September 1917 when his ship was torpedoed by the U49 some 340 miles from Ushant; the ship was en route between Brest and New York.  Though the vessel belonged to Gow, Harrison and Co., Glasgow and he is listed as the son of Hugh and Agnes Andrews, Kennishead Road, Thornliebank, Renfrew, the family were from the Ballymena area.  They had moved to Scotland some considerable time before the outbreak of the World War One.  They are not mentioned in the 1911 Irish census but appear in that for 1901.  Two year old Robert is there listed as living with his father, a general labourer, and his mother, 47 and 45 respectively, and his brothers and sisters, Maggie (aged 12), Agnes (aged 10), Minnie (aged 8) and brother John (aged 5).  Another daughter, Bella Magowan, a 26 year old dressmaker, and her 1 year old son John are also listed as living in the family home.

Robert Andrews is named on the Tower Hill Memorial. 

(Thanks to Wesley Wright & friends for their help.)

Bonnie Woodgreen

Down by the green bushes of Bonnie Woodgreen

Where me and my true love so oftimes have been

As the days they rolled onward so happy were we 

Ah, but never she thought that a soldier I'd be. 

It was early one morning as the lambs they did play

'Twas off to Kells Barracks, I there made my way 

To enlist in the army and fight for my King

And I bid my farewell to Bonnie Woodgreen. 

Our ship at Larne Harbour sat ready to sail 

And mothers were weeping and sisters looked pale

There was singing and dancing all happy and gay 

Ah, but little they thought of the lads far away.

It was 'way out in Flanders at the back of the line

They were talking of sweethearts they all left behind 

When one Irish soldier says, "I have a queen, 

And she works in John Ross' of Bonnie Woodgreen." 

It was early one morning while facing the foe 

A shot from the enemy this young lad laid low 

He called for his comrades, it was a sad scene,

"Say good-bye to my Nellie and Bonnie Woodgreen." 

So if ever to Ulster you chance for to stray

There's a neat little fact'ry near Ballymacvea 

Where there's weavers and winders all rosy and clean 

And they all wear white aprons in Bonnie Woodgreen. 

(John Ross had a linen weaving factory in Kells, Co Antrim, a few miles south of Ballymena.  Ballymacvea is a local townland.)

Samuel Mawhinney, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds received on the Somme

Above: Thomas McMeekin (born Ballymena, enlisted Belfast) KIA 9th May, 1915 at the Battle of Aubers Ridge. Included on the 'virtual memorial' - the picture was recently forwarded to this site.

Another face for the gallery - the man above is Rifleman Robert Connaughty from Garvaghy, Portglenone. He joined the army as a volunteer in November 1915, being posted to the 18th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles for training before being assigned to the 11th Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrims). He served with 'A' coy. of  that battalion on the first day of the Somme when he was almost buried alive by an exploding shell which killed several of his comrades. His army service records confirm he was amongst the wounded of 1st July and was diagnosed with 'shell shock' on 5th July 1916. He was again wounded in 1918.

Rifleman Robert Connaghty

Rifleman Hugh Connaghty

My thanks to Mr. John Luke of Ballymena who gave me this scan of Mr. W. J. McNiece (sitting) , who lived at Queen Street, Ballymena. He is shown in his wartime uniform as a signaller with the 36th (Ulster) Divisional Signals Company (Royal Engineers). He was the recipient of the Belgian Croix De Guerre and after the war became a leading member of the Old Comrades Association. He is mentioned on several occasions on the website 'weekly war' sections.
Another for the Memorial - 

Thanks to Marika Pirie of Canada, we are able to add another name to the long list of the Ballymena fallen. 

She found Samuel Caulfield during her ongoing research into Canadian forces 1914-18. Marika has confirmed that Samuel's birthplace was Ballymena.

Caulfield Samuel James

Initials: S J

Nationality: Canadian

Rank: Lance Sergeant

Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment)

Unit Text: 116th Bn.

Age: 27

Date of Death: 20/12/1917

Service No: 678241

Additional information:

Son of Samuel and Annie Caulfield, of 12, Luttrell Avenue, Toronto, Ontario. Native of Co. Antrim, Ireland.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:III. B. 10.


James McGall, DCM from Portglenone. Picture kindly passed on by John Burrell, a member of the Great War Forum.

See 'Virtual Memorial' for more details and Weekly War for newspaper items.

Rifleman David Wright 

Rifleman David Wright of Laymore, Ballymena, killed in action at the Battle of Cambrai.

Thanks to Allie Wright for this excellent picture of his ancestor. 

He seems to be 12th Royal Irish Rifles Transport Column - note bandolier and spurs.

Rifleman Samuel Herbison of Ballymoney Street, Ballymena.

He was wounded in action 1st July 1916. 

Thanks to Dr. Herbison for these pictures.

And his brother, John, also of Ballymoney Street

Rifleman John Herbison

Andrew Davison (seated right) of Gracehill, 108th Machine Gun Coy. 36th Ulster Division, killed in action on 1st July 1916. 

Any information about the other two soldiers greatly appreciated.

John Alexander McNiece, Otago Regiment, NZEF, formerly of Duneane, Randalstown, near Ballymena, died of wounds on October 15, 1917.  He was a policeman in New Zealand.

Thanks to the McNiece family in Ballymena for this photograph.

Rifleman Ronald Waterman, was originally from Cullybackey. Waterman, seen here with his sisters, like many young men of the time had moved to Belfast to seek work. He was killed on July 1, 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland Roll of Honour, 1914-19 wrongly says he came from Ballywater, Moy, Co Tyrone.  He was from Ballywatermoy, Craigs, Co Antrim.

The family grave that records his name is in Craigs Parish Churchyard.

John Gillen, 
Army Service  Corps, from Donegal, was the driver of the Ballymena Observer Ambulance.

Joseph (in Royal Irish Rifles uniform) and James McAuley

These men are believed to be brothers, perhaps from the Alfred Street area of Ballymena.

Military Cross Awards

T/Captain Edwin Arthur Telford, 15th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, Clinty, Ballymena. 

Entry from The London Gazette, 29 July 1919, Supplement Issue 31480, page 9778

T/Lt John Taylor, 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Galgorm Parks, Ballymena.

Entry from The London Gazette, 29 July 1919, Supplement Issue 31480, page 9778

Reverend William Holmes Hutchison, Cuningham Memorial.

Entry from The London Gazette, 29 July 1919, Supplement Issue 31480, page 9742