BALLYMENA 1914-1918

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1914: Flocking to the colours

The Grim harvest begins ...

August 1914

A Land Fit for Heroes

It is stated that owing to the outbreak of typhoid fever in Ballymena, recruiting for the Army, not alone in the town, but for a radius of five miles outside, has been suspended in the meantime. It is hoped that the cause for these precautions on the part of the military authorities will soon not be necessary. In the meantime the medical officer of health (Dr Currie) advises inhabitants to boil all town water (and milk also) pending the report from the analyst; and also to aid as far as possible in the destruction of flies, which are well known to be carriers of disease.
Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 12th September 1914.

McCONACHY, Charles George, Able Seaman, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Amphion, killed as result of mine explosion on the 6th August 1914. Service No: 234602. Aged 25, he was the son of David and Margaret McConachy, of Strath House, Dungiven, Londonderry. He was a native of Belfast but had attended Ballymena Academy.

The Observer reported:

C.G. McConaghy (sic)  formerly of Ballymena, was killed by a German mine while serving on board HMS Amphion. He was a pupil of Ballymena Academy and his first ship when he joined the service was HMS Queen. He was a great favourite with his school mates at the Academy.

Group of Royal Engineers at Present at the Front.
The figure on the extreme right (sitting) is allegedly Private Robert Bonnar, of Ballymena, who is well-known in football circles.
Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 12 September 1914

TEMPLETON, James, Private, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on the 26 August 1914. Aged 29, he was the son of George and Agnes, Ballymena. He lived in Belfast. He is commemorated on the La Ferte Sous Jouarre Memorial, France.

The 2nd Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were retreating before the tidal was of uncoming German forces when he was killed. The War Diary says that the unit detrained at Bertry at 4.30am on the 25th August. At 4.30 pm they were in Bevillers and 'HQ and two Companies engaged with a small party of Uhlans (cavalry) at 7.45pm'. At 1.00am (26th August) the unit were in Esnes and 'HQ and two Companies engaged with enemy 8.50am till 10.45am & from 2.15pm to 4.30 pm'. At 11.50pm on the 26th August HQs and two Companies were withdrawing via Ronssoy; other elements, also in retreat, were going back via Le Catelet. They all met up again on the 27th August at 5.30pm in Hancourt. They left it, again still retreating, at 11.00pm. Somewhere in the chaos Templeton went missing, his death still unconfirmed in early 1915.

The Ballymena Observer reported - May 21, 1915:

The parents of Private James Templeton, formerly of Ballymena and now of Belfast and the 2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, are anxiously awaiting news concerning their son's fate. He has been at the front since the commencement of the war and no correspondence has been received from him since October last. Private Templeton left Ballymena with Private Leslie Houston, the well-known footballer, who has since been killed in action.

Since the Battle of Mons no trace of Private Templeton has been obtained. He was an employee of Davison's Sirocco Works, Belfast and served through the Boer War. He has two brothers on active service, Private Robert Templeton of the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles and Private George Templeton of the Royal Engineers.

7300 Private David McClintock

McCLINTOCK, David, 7300, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 26th August 1914. Aged 28, born/enlisted Ballymena. He was the son of Pat and Sarah McClintock, Parkhead. He is commemorated on the La Ferte Sous Jouarre Memorial, France.

The Observer reported (May 21 1915) :-

Mrs. McClintock, Parkhead, was notified on Saturday last that her son, Private David McClintock of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles has been killed in action. He was wounded a considerable time ago and no news has been received from him since. The hospital to which he was taken was believed to have been shelled by the Germans and it is surmised that he lost his life in that way. The deceased spent six and half years in India with his regiment and, being a reservist, was called up at the outbreak of the war. His brother Robert McClintock is serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. (see account by Lance Corporal Dan Lorimer below)

The War Diary says: 25th August: 'Battalion acted as rearguard to the Brigade. Retired via Gommegnies-Le Quesnoy ...

26th August: 'Received orders to take up position near Caudry. Battle of Caudry, following casualties occurred ... 60 Other Ranks killed. Fell back in the evening to Beaurevoir'.

September 1914

8490 Rifleman Jack Martin 

MARTIN, Jack, 8490, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 18 September 1914. He was aged 31, and was the son of the late John and Kathleen Martin of Kirkinriola. He enlisted in Ballymena and had formerly been employed in the River Plate Store, Ballymoney Street, though his wife, Margaret and two children later lived at 52 Abercorn Road, Londonderry. He is commemorated on the La Ferte Sous Jouarre Memorial.

The War Diary says the unit was in the 'Valley of Aisne' and makes clear that fighting was intense. On the 17th September the Battalion's 'position [was] shelled on & off all day. Some casualties'. On the 18th September the unit's 'Position [was] shelled intermittently', and on the 19th September shelling was recorded as a 'very heavy & continuous bombardment which lasted till dark'.

ANDERSON, Edward, 5936, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on September 20, 1914. He is commemorated on the La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, France. Aged 31, born Ballymena and enlisted in Belfast. He was the son of the late Adam and Mary Ann Anderson. His wife Janet lived at 7 Duncan Street, Pollockshaws, Glasgow.

The day he died began with a slight bombardment at daylight, but 'about 10.00am a severe attack took place supported by artillery. This attack lasted a little over two hours.' The unit was reinforced three times during this determined assault.

October 1914


Ballymena boys to the rescue: Finner Camp, Ballyshannon

On Sunday, 4 October,1914, while two of the soldiers of the Donegal Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were bathing, one of them took cramp. His companion swam to his rescue and succeeded in reaching him but the drowning man caught hold of him and they would have both been drowned if it had not been for the gallantry of seven Ballymena men who, seeing the peril of the two men, caught hold of each others hands and made a chain, reached the drowning men and brought them safe to shore and rendered first aid.

The rescue party took them to the hospital where they are progressing favourably.

The names of the rescue party are:- Sergeant William Cairns, Privates T. Coulter, Sandy Moody, Bertie Montgomery, W. Lorimer, B. Smith, James Moody.

8223 Pte William Telford, 2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Private William Telford, Tullygarley, of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, is reported wounded and a prisoner of war and a comrade of the same regiment, who has been invalided home, pays a high tribute to his bravery

Both were separated from their Company in a small French town which was surrounded by Germans. Private Telford was wounded and when he saw capture was inevitable he handed his revolver, belt and bandolier to his companion and advised the latter to escape, which he evidently did, though he was shot himself in the attempt. Ballymena Observer

8223 Private William Telford, born at Tullygarley, Ballymena on the 19th February 1885, was the son of Matthew Telford of Creagh, Toomebridge and Mary Ann Kernohan of Ballybeg, Ahoghill. The couple had married in Ahoghill's 1st Presbyterian Church on 3rd June 1872. William was also married. His bride, Sarah Ann Carson, Tullygarley, married him in 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church on the 16th July 1913. The couple's first child, a boy they called William, was born on the 16th October 1914 at Tullygarley. His father was already a soldier, a reservist recalled to the colours.

The German record says Telford became a prisoner at St Quentin, France, (not location of capture) on 1st September 1914 and that he was unwounded (unverw., short for unverwundet or unwounded), though Laz. Clettwitz (Clettwitz Hospital) is mentioned. However, he did spend the war in captivity at Doeberitz POW Camp, as the photograph, courtesy of N Henderson, states in its caption.

The unit diary places 2nd Inniskillings as follows and gives the context for Telford's capture:

3pm, 31st August 1914 - Arrived at Verberie. Took up outpost position, facing NW.

4 am - marched from Verberie. Acting as rear guard. At dawn were attacked by Germans, they did not press the attack. Managed to bring MG on to party of cyclists entering village. All killed. The enemy appeared to withdraw and move off round our left flank.

3.30 pm - reached Barron.

They listed casualties: Capt. Robinson and Lt Braddell wounded. Other ranks: 1 killed, 24 wounded, 25 missing.

Private R. Abernethy of the Royal Irish Rifles, invalided home from the front with a wounded leg, arrived at his parents' residence, 20 Larne Street, Ballymena on Tuesday.

Ballymena Observer, Oct. 9 1914

Escape from Antwerp

SAMUEL M. Gourley, Portglenone, son of Mr. James Gourley, senior Postmaster in Portglenone, was with the Royal Naval Volunteers in the trenches at Antwerp. He returned to Portglenone on a few days furlough on Thursday October 15 and he left Ballymena on Sunday last to report himself at Dublin on Monday morning.

Before going he received a presentation of a beautiful Bible from Miss Young, Portglenone House and a presentation of cigarettes and money from several of his companions in Portglenone. The Naval Marine was one of a party of the defenders (of Antwerp) who, mud-stained, dirty and unshaven, returned to Dover from Ostend.

Only a week previously he had left Dover and with his comrades embarked for a port unknown. They landed and were sent direct to the trenches where they were under fire at once.

Several chaps around him were struck but he escaped. On the retreat he experienced many thrilling adventures. At one time they were almost led into the German lines but through the intervention of a Belgian officer they were put on the right track and the treacherous guide was shot. Most of them got back to England safely after about eight days but some strayed into Holland and were interned there, and a few, alas, were left lifeless in the trenches.

ANTWERP - a vitally important port on the Belgian Coast. As the Germans advanced rapidly, Britain sent Naval units to try and defend the city. Outgunned and outnumbered, the sailors had no chance and the city was abandoned.

HMS Hawke - photograph courtesy of Imperial War Museum - (c) IWM (Q39034)

Stoker Joyce Power

POWER Joyce, Leading Stoker HMS Hawke (above), sunk by U-Boat on the 15th October 1914. Service no. 308879. Aged 33, he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Power, Ahoghill and husband of Maggie Power, Waring Street, Ballymena. He is commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial and in 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church.

The Observer reported:-

A message from the dead

The following is an extract from a letter dated 10th October written by Mr. Power to his minister, Rev. A Watson, Broughshane, and received by him on Tuesday last.

After referring to his wife and children, he says: - 

The more we have lost some ships it is nothing much, if they would only come out until we get at them (he refers to the German High Seas Fleet). We would soon get our own back.

I do not think much of my countrymen in this war for not coming out and showing their loyalty. All the single young men should join now, for this is a just war. Would they like to see their homes ruined and dear ones murdered, while they are content to stop at home? For my part I would not be elsewhere for anything. I cannot tell you anything about what we are doing. Our letters are looked over before they leave and are sent back if we say much.

He was a Raceview man and had been employed as fireman at the Raceview Woollen Mills. Much sympathy is is felt in the neighbourhood with his wife and two young children (twins). Mr. Power was a naval reserve man and was called up at the declaration of war.

MAIRS, Alexander, Stoker 1st Class, Royal Navy, H.M.S. Hawke, died on the 15th October 1914. Service No: SS/101872. Aged 29. He was the son of John and Maggie Mairs, Gracehill, Co. Antrim. Commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial and Kells Presbyterian Church.

McNEILL, 6681 Private James, 1st Royal Scots Fusiliers, was killed in action on the 18th October 1914. He hailed from Ahoghill and is commemorated on Le Touret Memorial and in 2nd Ahoghill Presbyterian Church.

The Observer reported on December 4, 1914:

Much regret is felt in the Ahoghill and Broughshane District over the death of Private James McNeill of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, which sad event took place at the Battle of the Marne. The deceased was a native of Ahoghill and was for the past four years the faithful servant of Mr. John Martin of Roughan, Broughshane. The deceased was held in high esteem by all who knew him.

McLEAN, 6902 Lance Corporal Alexander, 2nd Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action on the 21st October 1914. He was born in Ballymena, enlisted in Coatbridge, and lived in Edinburgh. He is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Warrant Officer Terry McCormick - formerly of Ballymena, presently serving on board HMS Cochrane.
Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 31st October 1914

Lance Corporal Robert Black 

BLACK, 12109 Lance Corporal Robert, 2nd Bn. Highland Light Infantry, was killed in action on October 24, 1914. He is named Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). He was born in Ballymena and enlisted in Paisley, Scotland. His family lived at Ballygarvey, Ballymena.

See death report of his brother, William Black (November 1914 section)

 8068Private Joseph Richardson

RICHARDSON, 8068 Rifleman Joseph, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 24th October 1914. He was born in Ahoghill on the 8th November 1885, the son of shoemaker James and Isabella Richardson, later of 7, Alfred Street, Ballymena. James Richardson and Isabella McDowell, both from Ahoghill, had married in Ahoghill's 3rd Presbyterian Meeting House on the 7th August 1874.

Joseph is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial and in Harryville Presbyterian Church.

The Observer reported (November 20, 1914):-


Private Joe Richardson, Alfred Street, of the 2nd Bn. Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the morning of October 23, 1914. Notice of his death was conveyed in a letter by one of his chums to Mrs. Richardson and on Saturday morning his name appeared in the official list. 

Private Richardson, shortly after he joined the army, was drafted to India with his regiment where he served almost 8 years. When his term of service was finished, he came home and since March, 1914 was an employee at the Island in Belfast, where he remained until he was called up with the reserves last August.  

ROBINSON, 8262 Rifleman Daniel, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 25th October 1914. He is said in some sources to have been born at Ballymena - see Virtual Memorial. He enlisted in Belfast. He is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

WALLACE, James, 1575, Lance Corporal, 1st Irish Guards, was said to be killed in action on the 26 October 1914, though CWGC says 1575 James F Wallace died on the 25th October 1914.  Aged 32, he was the son of John and Isabella, Railway Cottages, Harryville, Ballymena. His wife Clara (CWGC says Mary, 12, Herbert St) lived in in London. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate) and in Wellington Street Presbyterian Church, Ballymena.
The Observer reported (November 27, 1914) -  Mr. John Wallace of Railway Cottages, Ballymena, has been notified by the War Office that his son, Lance Corporal James F. Wallace, 1st Bn. Irish Guards, has been killed in action. Mr. Wallace received a letter from a private in the Irish Guards last week informing him of the death of his son which took place on October 26. Lance Corporal Wallace was well known in Ballymena and was formerly in the employment of Mr. John Ellis, tailor, Salisbury Square. He was called up as a reservist at the outbreak of war, prior to which he had been residing at Herbert Street, Plaistow, London. Much sympathy is felt with his bereaved widow and little daughter, and with his relatives in Ballymena.

Rifleman Robert Getty (Gettis)

GETTY (or Gettis), Robert, 6444., Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles was killed in action on the 27 October 1914.  Aged 24, he enlisted at Ballykinlar, and was the son of Ellen Sinclair Getty, James Street, Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais.

Robert Gettis (sic) was born on either the 11th June 1887 or the 17th July 1888 at Springwell St, Ballymena (There are two records. He is Robert James on the latter.), the son of Robert Gettis and Ellen Sinclair. The couple, Robert from Springwell Street and Ellen from Parkhead, had married in St Patrick's Church on the 7th November 1882; the marriage is recorded as Geddes. The family appear in the 1901 and 1911 census returns, living at Adair Court (off Albert Street?) and Parkhead respectively They are then listed as 'Getty's'.

Robert (Snr) died on the 13th December 1911.

The Observer reported (December 11, 1914):

MRS. Gettis (or Getty), James Street, Harryville, has been notified by the War Office of the death of her son, Lance Corporal Robert Gettis of the Royal Irish Rifles. The message states that he was killed in the desperate fighting at Neuve Chapelle on October 27,1914 and enclosed with the notification was a message of sympathy from the King and Queen.

6168 Private Joseph Bell

BELL, Joseph, 6168, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, a recalled reservist, was killed in action at Neuve Chapelle, October 27, 1914. He is named on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais. He was born in Ballymena and enlisted there.

His baker father lived at Suffolk Street, Ballymena in 1911 with his second wife Annie, nee McClurg, whom he had married on the 21st February 1907. He had married his first wife, Lucinda Elizabeth Craig on 18th July 1872 and Joseph was her son, born 12th June 1878 at Ballymoney Street, Ballymena. Lucinda died in 1905.

Joseph is commemorated in 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church, Ballymena

The Ballymena Observer reported (December 14, 1914):

Mr. William John Bell, Suffolk Street, Ballymena, has been notified by the war office that his son, Private Joseph Bell of the 2nd Bn. Royal Irish Rifles has been killed in action at Neuve Chapelle, France on October 27. Private Bell, a reservist, was called up at the outbreak of war and was a plumber employed by Mr. Alexander Clyde, Ballymena. He was a keen follower of football and took a great interest in Summerfield Club.

Private William Armstrong

ARMSTRONG, William, 9196, Private, 1st Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), was KIA on October 29, 1914. He is named on Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). He was born at Glenwherry, and he enlisted in Edinburgh. He was aged 31, and his wife Agnes lived at 10 Windsor Terrace, Ballymena.

The Observer reported (December 30, 1914): 

 It was officially reported to the parents of Private William Armstrong, Bally, Ballymena, that their son, of the Black Watch, had been killed in action as long ago as October 29, 1914. The deceased, who leaves a wife and two young children residing in Kinhilt Street, worked at his trade as a carpenter to Mr. John Carson, builder and contractor, and prior to rejoining his regiment for active service, he worked on the Queen's Island, Belfast. It may be mentioned that a brother of the deceased, Private Robert Armstrong, was wounded at Mons.

The figure on the left with the crutch is Fusilier Robert Armstrong, Royal Irish Fusiliers (Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers?- See below. 'Recruits Pre-May 1915', says, 'R. Armstrong, Cushendall Road (wounded at Battle of the Marne, unfit for further service).  He had been wounded by a shell splinter that damaged his leg.  He was the brother of  9196 Private William Armstrong, Black Watch (above).
Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 6 February 1915

Miss A. Armstrong of Ballymena has received a letter from her brother, Private R. Armstrong of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was wounded at the battle of Mons. He was wounded in the knee and has been in an American Ambulance Hospital in Paris. He expects to be home for Christmas.

Ballymena Observer, November 29, 1914

LUNDY, Alexander, 8989, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, died on the 27th October 1914. He was born in Ballymena, and he enlisted and lived in Belfast. He is buried in Rue Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleubaix.

Private Leslie Houston

HOUSTON, Leslie, 7378, Private, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died of wounds on 31st October 1914. He was born at Gloonan, Ahoghill, enlisted in Ballymena, and lived Henry Street area of Harryville. He is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery, Nord, France. He is commemorated in 1st Ahoghill and Harryville Presbyterian Churches.

The Observer reported (December 11, 1914): Mrs. L. Houston, Salisbury Square, Harryville, has received a message from the War Office informing her that her husband, Private Leslie Houston of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, has died of wounds in the Second Clearing Hospital on October 31. He leaves behind a wife and four children, with whom much sympathy is felt.  

Private Houston was an employee of H. Lancashire's, Church Street, when he was called up in the reserves last August. He was well known in football circles having played for Linfield Swifts and was for many years connected with South-End Rangers.

Johnny Houston was the brother of Leslie and was a well-known footballer of the period, playing for local team South End Olympic.  He played in top teams from about 1911 onwards: Linfield (1911/12, 1912-13), Everton (1912-13, 1914-15), Linfield (1915-16, 1918-19), and Partick Thistle (1919-20).  During a career fragmented by the war he won 6 full caps for Ireland, 2 Irish League caps, and he won club honours with Linfield in 1911-12 & 1915-16).

He played his first match for Everton at Goodison Park on the 8th February 1913 and saw his team defeated 2-0 by Liverpool.  Houston got his first goal for his team some eight months later; they were defeated 4-1 by Sheffield United. He appeared only once for Everton in his last year there and saw his team defeat Newcastle United 3-0 at home.

His first match at Partick Thistle saw them defeat Clyde in the Glasgow Cup.

He was also a soldier (Service no. 4/7574) during the Great War and saw service with the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, the 7th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles and the 2nd Battalion,  Royal Irish Rifles.  He ended the war as a Company Sergeant Major and had won a Military Medal. Some sources say he was to win a bar to his MM and that he was promoted to Lieutenant in the field.  He was certainly selected for cadet school, but it may be that circumstances overtook rules and that he got his promotion in France.

Lancashire's Chemist: The shop was found at various locations on Church Street during its lifetime. This photograph shows it at the south end of the street near the entrance to Castle Street, but it was also located for some time half way up Church Street at the location now occupied by McKillen's 'Budget Shoes'

November 1914

Missing and wounded ...

Private John Weir, Royal Irish Fusiliers, a former auxiliary postman in Ballymena is reported missing since 28th August.

Private Robert Esler, late of Greenvale Street, of the 9th Lancers has been reported wounded.

Private Dan Lorimer, Royal Irish Rifles, is presently at home in Ballymena on furlough. He has three brothers and a brother in law on active service and his parents are justly proud of this fine record. At the Aisne he got a bullet wound in the left shoulder and lay in the trenches all day and ultimately decided to make a bolt for safety. An army reserve man, Private Lorimer was called up at the outbreak of war, proceeding to the front with the first British Expeditionary Force (BEF). He was through the Battle of Mons and describing his experiences there and on the Aisne, he said:

Private Dan Lorimer

We busily engaged in firing on the enemy when we got the order to fix swords in order to make a bayonet charge. Just then, the word came down from the aeroplanes scouting over the German lines that the enemy had also fixed swords ready to charge and that they outnumbered us by almost ten to one.

We then got the order to remain where we were and when the enemy attacked, Corporal Heggarty, who has since been killed, gave us the order to for three rounds of rapid firing, which we did with good effect and the Germans were checked here and lost heavily.

We subsequently retired on the right flank till we came to a little village on the 26th of the month. We opened out and the word came that the German lancers were in the village. Our artillery opened fire on the village and cleared it as far as possible and then our infantry advanced and unfortunately some considerable damage was done to them by a couple of shells fired by a British gun in the rear.

We got the word to retire again and were lying in a green field when we were directed to return to the road and all the wounded were put on horseback  and removed to a church which had been converted to a temporary hospital.

Private David McClintock (obituary above) of Garfield Place, Ballymena was wounded in this battle, being shot in the back and he was taken to this hospital. The church was afterwards blown up by a German shell and almost all the occupants killed. I looked for Private McClintock afterwards and made inquiries about him but I could find no trace of him, and I am afraid he must be dead.

After the turning movement which led up to the Battle of the Aisne on 14th September we saw some very severe fighting. Across the river a bridge was blown up by the Germans and there was a single plank left across the river resting on a small pontoon boat on which we had to jump to get to the bank.

As soon as 'A' coy of the Rifles got across, rifle fire was opened on us and we had to run for a plantation and later on we got cover of an embankment.

Captain Soutery gave us orders to advance but had not gone 100 yards till he was wounded  and we had to retire. Captain Durant, who was next in command, took charge and we were within 300 yards of the Germans when he was wounded on the thigh and Private Clarke who went to bind his wounds was also wounded.

Captain Durant then gave orders for Colour Sgt. Lynas to take charge and when I was passing along this word I was wounded. The bullet passed through my left shoulder and grazed my lung. I was wounded between three and four o'clock in the morning and lay there till between five and six o'clock at  night.

Captain Durant was also lying wounded and I crawled over to get a drink out of his water bottle. I told Private Clarke that I was going to make a dash for it, but he said I was wrong to remain where I was.

However, I made the attempt and I had only gone about fifty yards when I fell as the result of weakness and loss of blood. I had to lie there for a considerable time as the bullets both from out side and the Germans were passing close. All I was able to do was shout out 'Royal Irish Rifles' and I saw an officer in the British lines who had a Maxim gun, waving on me to come on.

I got up again and the officer, whom I do not know, but who belonged to one of the Irish Regiments and who was a very plucky man, kept the Maxim going till I reached safety.

All I had by this time was my shirt and my trousers and I was in a bad state, but I was soon removed to a hospital on the outskirts of Paris. Private Abernethy of Harryville, who was wounded in the leg, and Private T. McCluggage (formerly of Thomas Street, Ballymena), who had one of his fingers shot off, were with me and looked after me in the train.

The French people were very good to us all along the line and my comrades gave me my share of the good things which were offered to us. I also saw Private Joe Richardson (obituary above) of Harryville in the battle and Private Jack Martin (obituary above) of Ballymena too. I am sorry to say that Private Martin was killed and I fear Private McClintock met the same fate.

Private T. McCluggage, formerly of High Street, who was wounded on the hand at the Aisne is now at home. He is a reservist with the Royal Irish Rifles and he was in the thick of the fighting since the landing of the BEF in France.

Battle of the Aisne -  One of many costly battles fought by Britain's 'Contemptible Little Army', as they had been allegedly labelled by the German Kaiser. From this abusive term, the regulars and reservists derived their proud nickame of 'The Old Contemptibles'.

Ballymena Observer Nov. 6, 1914

Captain T. McCann Phillips (photograph courtesy of Our Heroes, South Dublin Libraries).

PHILLIPS, T. McCann, Captain, Royal Army Medical Corps, born 1st March 1880 at Damascus, Syria (His father, the Reverend John Gillis Phillips, was an Irish Presbyterian Church missionary), attached Major Hayes' Ambulance, died of wounds on the 4th November 1914. He was aged 24 and was formerly of Ahoghill. He was the son of Rev. J. G. and Mrs. Anne Phillips, Mount Charles, Belfast. He is buried in Poperinge Communal Cemetery, Belgium.

The War Office has sent official news to his friends in Belfast of the death of Captain T. McC. Phillips, R.A.M.C., in No. 4 Clearing Hospital, from wounds received in action.

Captain Phillips received his early education in RBAI, Belfast, Trent College, Nottingham, and later in Campbell College, Belfast, where he played in the famous School Cup team of 1897-8. He graduated from Queen's College, Belfast (MB, BAO, & B.Ch) He served as a ship's surgeon on a voyage to India and then took up an appointment in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. He received his commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1907, taking first place in the examination and, attached to the 8th Hussars, he went to India. He was appointed Captain Phillips in 1911.

Captain Phillips was home on leave from India in  August 1914 and was posted for service to Victoria Barracks, Belfast. There he helped to carry out medical assessments of recruits for the New Army. Thereafter he went, at his own request, to the 21st Field Ambulance (Major Hayes, Officer Commanding) and the 7th Division. He was only sent to the front on 3rd October but was continuously in the firing line and saw some very heavy fighting. Captain Phillips was the son of the late Rev. J. G. Phillips, Damascus, and nephew of Mr. John McCann, manufacturer, Adelaide Street, Belfast.

Based on/adapted from The Witness, Friday, 13 November, 1914, additional material from The Bond of Sacrifice, Volume 1


We have already referred in out columns to the death of this officer, which took place on 4th November from wounds received in battle. Since then letters have been received from Major E. C. Hayes, officer commanding 21st Field Ambulance, and Lieut.Colonel J. G. McNaught, officer in charge of No. 4 Clearing Hospital, giving particulars of the sad event. He was attached to Major Hayes' ambulance, and had a dressing station established in a cottage near to the firing line. This cottage came under shell fire on the morning of the 3rd November and Captain Phillips and Lieutenant Richardson, who were in occupation had to leave it, but no sooner had they done so than they were both struck by a shell which killed Richardson and mortally wounded Capt Phillips. In addition the same shell wounded about fifteen other men of the R.A.M.C. Captain Phillips was then brought to an hospital in Ypres and seemed well and cheery considering the nature of his wounds but the next day, as the hospital in Ypres was being shelled, he had to be removed with others to a clearing hospital at Popperinghe, about seven miles away, where he was placed under the care of Colonel McNaught, but at this time he was unconscious and only survived a very short time. His remains were buried in the local cemetery at Popperinghe, and the spot is marked by a wooden cross. Major Hayes, in writing of his death, states that it was a great loss in the unit on account of his reliability and efficiency.

It was thought fitting by a few of Captain Phillips' friends in Belfast that something in memory of him should be sent to the ambulance with which he was connected, and accordingly a box of comforts for the officers and men of the ambulance was recently despatched, for which a letter of grateful acknowledgement, on behalf of himself and brother officers and men, has just been received from Major Hayes.

 from The Witness - Friday, 25 December, 1914

Following the disappearance of the Banner of Ulster in 1870 and the Evening Press in 1871, the Presbyterian community in Ulster was left without a newspaper. The Rev Thomas Hamilton of York Street Church (later the vice chancellor of Queen's University Belfast), and a number of others then launched The Witness, a penny weekly. The first number was dated January 2, 1874. Alexander McMonagle was appointed editor and manager, and held these positions until his death in June 1919.

Captain Arthur E. B. O'Neill MP


O'NEILL, Arthur E. B., Captain, 2nd Life Guards,was KIA on the 6th November 1914. Aged 38 and MP for Mid-Antrim, he was the 2nd son of Baron O'Neill of Shane's Castle. He was the first MP to die in the war. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium.

The Observer reported (November 20, 1914):


The Late Captain O'Neill

Killed in a bayonet charge.

The manner in which Captain the Hon. Arthur O'Neill was killed in action is related in letters received by the family of the late 2nd Lt. W. S. Peterson, 2nd Life Guards, from three of his brother officers. The following are extracts from the letters:

Yesterday afternoon, November 5, we were ordered to support and recapture a village out of which the French had been driven. The whole regiment dismounted and advanced under heavy rifle fire on the village, which was charged at the point of the bayonet by us. Your son - Lt. Peterson - was shot through the heart during this charge. I am most profoundly grieved; he was such a splendid fellow and such a great friend.

We cleared the village at the point of the bayonet killing about 30 Germans and capturing about 20. I was the only officer left after this attack as our commanding officer, Major Dawney, a most gallant man, was killed sitting next to me in the trench by a shrapnel shell. We also lost Captain O'Neill, killed, and Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hobson wounded, during this attack.

Our brigade, the regiment itself, were known to stay in the trenches longer than anyone else. Your brother died with two other officers of the regiment, Major Dawney, commanding, and Captain Arthur O'Neill, in driving the Germans back; they accomplished this work and in so doing actually saved most likely a great defeat of our arms; the fact is recognised by the General. I heard - I do not vouch for the truth of it - your brother (Peterson) killed 16 Germans before he was killed.

As the senior officer left with the regiment, and as I was also the squadron leader,  I write to let you know that he (Peterson) died leading his troops most gallantly as we advanced under enemy fire.

At a special meeting of Ballymena Presbytery, – Rev. W. Ramsay (Moderator) presiding -- the following resolution was adopted, on the motion of Rev. David Cummins,  seconded by Rev. Andrew Patton,  and supported by the Moderator,  and Revs. E. F. Simpson and R. M McC. Gilmour:

'The Presbytery of Ballymena have heard with profound sorrow of the death of the Honourable Arthur O'Neill, M.P. for Mid-Antrim and captain in his Majesty's regiment of Life Guards. Though early death has come to him in the noble discharge of patriotic duty when fighting for his country – and no mere glorious death would have been desired for himself – the Presbytery realise fully the very serious loss there is in his removal to the Army, to the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, and chiefly to Lady Annabel O'Neill and her children, and to his bereaved and sorrowing parents Lord and Lady O'Neill. By his kindly disposition, his gentle and courteous manner,  his readiness to serve others, and his efficiency in service, and by the example of his stainless life, Captain O'Neill commended himself to the constituency he served so faithfully within and without the House of Commons. As members of his constituency the Presbytery of Ballymena mourn the loss in him of an honourable and high-minded representative, whose zeal for the welfare of his constituents was as earnest and sustained as has been his courage in fighting for his country's interests, and meeting death on the battlefield. The Presbytery respectfully tender to Lady Annabel O'Neill and to Lord and Lady O'Neill their cordial sympathy in their hour of bereavement and sorrow, and reverently commend them to the sustaining and comforting grace of the God of all consolations.'

The Witness,  Friday, 13 November, 1914

Our Heroes, South Dublin Libraries entry

Captain the Hon. Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill M.P., 2nd Life Guards, who was killed in action on November 6th, was the elder son of Lord O'Neill, 2nd Baron, and entered the Army in 1897, obtaining his Captaincy five years later. He served in the South African War, 1899-1900, and was present at the relief of Kimberley, and in the operations at Paardeberg and Dreitfontein. He also saw service south of the Orange River and at Colesberg. He received the Queen's Medal with three clasps. In January, 1910, he was elected unopposed Unionist Member for the Mid-Antrim division, and continued to represent that constituency until the time of his death. In 1902 he married Lady Annabel Crewe-Milnes, eldest daughter of the Marquis of Crewe.

Date of Publication: 

Friday, December 4, 1914

Photograph courtesy of David Power, South Dublin Libraries

(He was the father of Terence Marne O'Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Ed.)

In the bag ..

WE have been informed that Corporal W. J. Nesbitt of the Irish Guards, son of Mr.  Nesbitt, Mount Street, has been wounded in the hand and is now in hospital in England.  

Private John Weir has been reported to be a prisoner of war at Senegar, Germany.

Private W. McIlroy of Alfred Street  who was also reported missing has been wounded but has rejoined his regiment, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Mrs. John Watt of Victoria Terrace, Ballymena has been notified that her brother, Lance Corporal R. S. Wilkinson of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers has been wounded and is now a POW at Hanover.

Ballymena Observer November 13, 1914 

MONTGOMERY, Charles, 8608, Guardsman, 1st Scots Guards, was KIA on the 11th November 1914.  He was born in Ballymena and enlisted in Glasgow. He was the son of Robert and Agnes Montgomery of Killymoon Street, Cookstown. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate)

ALLISON, William, 17864, Private, 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers, died at home, November 14, 1914. He was born in Ballymena, enlisted in Belfast, and he lived in Drogheda.

Private William Black

BLACK, William, 11302, Corporal, 2nd Highland Light Infantry, was killed in action on the November 14, 1914. He is named on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate). He was born in Ballymena (brother of Robert Black, above), enlisted in Hamilton, and he lived at Kirkinriola. His kin lived at Ballgarvey.

The Observer reported (April 16, 1915):

Two brothers killed and one wounded  

INFORMATION has been received in Ballymena that Lance Corporal Robert Black, of the 2nd Bn. Highland Light Infantry, who was previously reported wounded and missing, is now reported killed. Lance Corporal Black comes from Ballygarvey, Ballymena, and his brother, Private W. Black of the same regiment, was killed at the front some months ago. Another brother, Private Jerry Black of the Connaught Rangers, was wounded early in the war.

Lance Corporal Robert Black , brother of William

Private Charles Allen

ALLEN, Charles, 1535, Private, 1st Irish Guards, was killed in action on November 18, 1914, and his name is on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He was born in Belfast and enlisted in Ballymena. He was the 29-year-old son of Elizabeth of Alexander Street, Ballymena, and his wife Matilda at Dervock, Co Antrim.

Patrick McAllister, Belfast Weekly Telegraph, October 1914

'Paddy McAllister, of Ballymena, the Irish light-weight boxer, who is now in training at Dublin for his fight with the Germans. He is a very efficient soldier, and although only seven weeks in the Army is now a fully-fledged corporal.'
'Private Patrick McAllister (2929) ‘B’ Company, 7th Leinsters, 16th Division, 47th Brigade, British Expeditionary Force, the well-known boxing champion, who is a native of Ballymena, and whose photograph recently appeared in the ‘Ballymena Weekly Telegraph’ in a letter to the Editor returns thanks for comforts sent him from the girls of Messrs. Wolseley's, Ltd.
Born in Ballymena in 1894, Paddy McAllister holds the lightweight boxing championship of Ireland. He was in Paris when war broke out, but returned to Belfast to fight for King and country. He is now at the front with his regiment, and in a recent contest behind the firing line 'somewhere in France’ he defeated young Saunders in three rounds. He wishes to be remembered to all the people about Duke Street, and hopes Summerfield F.C. are still going strong. Private McAllister's many local friends wish him every future success.'
Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, 26th February 1916.

Patrick McAllister, whose enlistment was first reported upon in 1914, was all that this snippet from the local press of 1916 claims. He was born  at Albert Street,  Ballymena on the 21st February 1894, the son of Con (abbreviation of Constantine) McAllister and Kate McLaughlin. The parent couple, engine driver Con and his bride Kate, both of Bridewell Row, Ballymena, had married in Ballymena’s All Saints Roman Catholic Church on the 26th June 1892. They eventually had three children together – Patrick, Annie Kathleen (born 8th September 1895 at Clarence Street, Ballymena) and Constantine (born 18th September 1897 at Albert Street, Ballymena).
Patrick McAllister did enlist to serve in the Great war and was active from the 17th December 1915, actually 2929 Patrick McAllister, ‘‘B’ Company, 7th Leinsters, 16th Division, 47th Brigade, British Expeditionary Force’, as the piece says. His medal index card indicates, however, that he became 476038 Patrick McAllister, Labour Corps later in the war. He survived the war.
He was also, as stated, a boxer of some note before and after the war, sometimes known as ‘The Irish Terror’. He fought some 205 bouts, records showing he won 88 fights, drew 41 and lost 74.
He was a child who grew up without a father, Con McAllister dying tragically in 1897, actually about one month before his last child was born. He was killed in a railway engine boiler explosion while aboard engine No 58 at Cookstown Junction, just on the Ballymena side of the railway station at Antrim.  One report on the accident reads thus: ‘the 3 p.m. train from Londonderry to Belfast, consisting of tender engine, No. 58, and nine passenger vehicles, was approaching Antrim station at about 5.58 p.m., being due at 5.53 p.m., there was a rush of steam and water on to the footplate, owing to the collapse of one side of the fire-box. The fireman, Cornelius (sic) McAllister, was thrown off the engine at a point 400 yards from the station, and was killed, and, when the train came to a stand, the driver, James Turner, was found dead upon the footplate.’ The local death record says Con was ‘fireman on locomotive No.58, Belfast and Northern Counties Railway’ and that he died from ‘fracture of skull. Killed by explosion on No. 58 engine.’ He was 26 years old. The locomotive driver,  James Turner, Townparks, Antrim, aged 42 and married, is also said to have been ‘frightfully scalded’.
Patrick’s mother remarried, becoming the wife of Scotsman John McGowen and had two more daughters in Scotland. She returned to Belfast after John died but she also died aged only 34 years. She is said to be buried in Ballymena.
One report on the Belfast Forum says Con (jnr) grew up in St Patrick’s Training School, Milltown, Belfast. He was married in St Paul’s RC Church, Belfast on the 1st June 1919. He gave his address as 58, Herbert Street, Belfast; his bride was Ellen (Nellie) McAlinden, Majorca Street, Belfast.

Any news is good news ...

NEWS has been received in Ballymena by the relatives of R. McDonald, Larne Street, of the Royal Garrison Artillery, that he has been wounded in the leg.

H. McNeill, James Street, of 4th Btn. Royal Marines, who has been wounded during the defence of Antwerp was in Ballymena recently.

A letter has been received from Private James Griffen, James Street of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers that he has received a wound in the left arm and is now in the 2nd Western Hospital, Manchester.

Corporal W. J. Nesbitt has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Mr. Joseph Mewhirter, Killycowan has received a card from his son, Private John Mewhirter of the Irish Guards, who was reported missing since 1st September. The card states that he was taken prisoner at Mons and is now in the camp at Erfurt, Germany.


(Mons was the Belgian mining town at which the BEF - Britain's tiny but highly professional army fought their first major engagement. It was at Mons that the Germans first felt the awesome accuracy and firepower of the superbly trained BEF Regulars. Nearly every man was a marksman, because it added to their pay, and soldiers could fire 15 aimed shots in 60 seconds, the infamous 'mad minute.'

Despite a brave stand, the British were soon outflanked as French troops fell back and thus began an epic fighting retreat to escape the German pincer movement. Ed.)

Ballymena Observer November 20, 1914

A family at war ...

MR. Charles McAuley, Moat Road, Ballymena, has three sons serving with the colours. Patrick Joseph McAuley is on HMS Exmouth. Brian McAuley (Left) is a constable in the Hong Kong Police and formerly was a seaman on HMS Monmouth. James McAuley is a private in the Connaught Rangers.

Brian McAuley (above)

Patrick Joseph McAuley, brother of Brian (above)

Seaman Partick Joseph McAuley was serving aboard HMS Exmouth in November 1914. He had previously served aboard HMS Monmouth, HMS Hogue and HMS Pathfinder.

December 1914

Private John Kidd (Left) of William Street was the son-in-law of Mrs Ross, wine and spirit dealer, William Street, Ballymena. He was a reserve man recalled to his unit, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, in 1914. His brother served in the Royal Irish Rifles.  Private John Kidd had arrived in the war zone in time to participate in the Battle of the Aisne and was subsequently wounded in fighting near Ypres.
He survived the Great War.
McIlwaine Family Grave, 1st Broughshane Presbyterian Church

Rifleman Anderson McIlwaine 

McILWAINE, Anderson, 10261, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds received at Ypres on the 2nd December 1914.  Aged 17, lived Dunfane, Ballymena. He is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery, France and commemorated in 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church.

The Observer reported (January 1, 1915): Mr. Robert McIlwaine, Dunfane, Ballymena, has been notified by the War Office that his son, Private Anderson McIlwaine of the 2nd Btn. Royal Irish Rifles, has died from wounds received at the Battle of Ypres on December 2, 1914.  Private McIlwaine, who is only 17 years of age, joined the army in November 1913 and was sent to the front with a draft of the Rifles last month. Mr. McIlwaine has two others sons serving with the colours. Gunner Alexander McIlwaine, HMS Bellerophon and Private James McIlwaine, Royal Irish Rifles, Ulster Division.

James McIlwaine, brother of Anderson 

Gunner Alexander McIlwaine, HMS Bellerophon, brother of Anderson 

Harkness Brothers: Hugh and Alexander

HARKNESS, George?, 8252, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, died on the 3rd December 1914. He was born Ballymena and enlisted in Ballymena. He is buried in Le Mans West Cemetery, Sarthe, France. 

(8252 Harkness died while being treated in No 5 Stationary Hospital, then in Le Mans, for injuries that were a consequence of a military railway accident. There is confusion about his forename: CWGC has him as D. Harkness and elsewhere he is referred to as H. or Hugh Harkness.  A number of brothers served and it seems like that it was Hugh who died; D. Harkness was in the Royal Engineers and probably survived the war; Alexander Harkness, Royal Marine Light Infantry, another brother, died at Gallipoli in the sinking of HMS Goliath, 1915.)

Private Alexander Harkness

SGT T. Kerr, Brookville Terrace, of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) who went to the front with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) has been promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

(Thomas Kerr was born at Tullynewy (sometimes Tullynewey), Dunaghy on the 18th August 1878 and he was the son of farmer John Kerr and his wife Ellen Ross. The couple had married in Ballymena Registrar’s Office on 16th November 1877. John said he was from Tullynewy, Dunaghy and Ellen was from nearby Dungall, Kirkinriola.
By 1901 Ellen was a widow and living in Clonavon, Ballymena; John had died of typhoid fever at Springwell Street, Ballymena on the 24th November 1888. She was 45 years old and listed three children: Lizzie was 21 and had been born at Tullynewy on the 28th February 1880; Sarah Ann was 14 and was born at Hill Street, Ballymena on the 23rd May 1886; and Luie (sic) was 12 and had been born at Springwell Street, Ballymena on the 19th June 1888.
In 1911 the family were at Galgorm Street, Ballymena. Thomas, 32 and a Sergeant in the RAMC, was there and so were all his sisters, Lizzie, Sarah Ann and Louisa.

Brookville Terrace was near Galgorm Street. Brookville House stood on the site now occupied by the PSNI Station.

Sergeant John Montford, North Irish Horse, is the son of Mr Robert Montford, Lisnamurrican, Broughshane

Sure and Steadfast

The Sir George White Memorial Coy. Boys' Brigade, Broughshane, has a roll of honour of members serving with  the colours. Boys' Brigade Lieutenant John Montford, who is a sergeant in the North Irish Horse, is attached to the body-guard of General Smith Dorrien. Staff Sergeant D. J. Mullan has received a clerkship in the Royal Engineers and Rifleman William McClure is serving with the Royal Irish Rifles quartered at Dublin.

Mrs. W. Armstrong, Kinhilt Street, recently forwarded a parcel of cigarettes to her husband, Private W. Armstrong of the Black Watch which has been returned by the War Office, with a notification that Private Armstrong has been wounded and is missing. It is almost seven weeks since Mrs. Armstrong heard from her husband.


It was officially reported to the parents of Pte Wm. Armstrong, Bally, Ballymena, that their son, of the Black Watch, had been killed in action as long ago as October 29, 1914. The deceased, who leaves a wife and two young children residing in Kinhilt Street, worked at his trade as a carpenter to Mr. John Carson, builder and contractor, and prior to rejoining his regiment for active service, he worked on the Queen's Island, Belfast. It may be mentioned that a brother of the deceased, Pte Robert Armstrong, was wounded at Mons.

Ballymena Observer, December 30, 1914

Much regret is felt in the Ahoghill and Broughshane district over the death Private James McNeill of the Royal Irish Fusiliers which sad event took place at the Battle of the Marne. The deceased was a native of Ahoghill and was for the past four years the faithful servant of Mr. John Martin of Roughan, Broughshane.

Mr. William McLean, Galgorm, has four sons and all four are with the colours -

Gunner William McLean, Royal Garrison Artillery; 

Gunner Thomas McLean, Royal Garrison Artillery; 

Rifleman John McLean, Royal Irish Rifles, and 

Rifleman Robert McLean with the 12th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles (Ulster Division).

(The Battle of the Marne was a decisive battle of the war. It stopped the Germans from capturing Paris, forcing them to retreat and eventually led to the horror of a war of attrition in the trenches. Ed)

Ballymena Observer, December 4, 1914

 Longmore's Nursing sisters

MR. and Mrs. Thomas Longmore, Bridge Street, Ballymena, have two daughters who are at present engaged in nursing wounded soldiers in English Hospitals, while their two sons are with the colours. Sergeant (Wilson) Longmore at the front with the Irish Guards and Private George Longmore of the East African Mounted Volunteers, formerly an official with the Indian Police.

Sergeant Wilson Longmore (later KIA)

Mrs. James Kennedy of Alfred Street, has three sons and a son-in-law serving with the colours. Stoker Peter Kennedy is on board HMS Queen Mary and Private William Kennedy (Left) is serving with the Royal Engineers. Her third son, Pte. James Kennedy of Galgorm Street, has joined the Ulster Division. Her son-in-law Private W. McIlroy, Alfred Street, was wounded at the front.

Ballymena Observer, December 10, 1914

NELSON, Samuel, 8180, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was KIA on the 12th December 1914. Aged 30, he was the son of Samuel and Catherine Nelson, formerly of Castle Street, Ballymena. He enlisted in Belfast and lived 8 North Ann Street. He is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.

The Observer reported (December 30, 1914): The War Office has notified Mr. Samuel Nelson, formerly of Castle Street, Ballymena, that his son, Private S. Nelson of the 2nd Btn. Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on 12th December. 

Private Nelson, who has a wife and three children, resided at Little York Street, Belfast.

Medics and Ministers

THE following promotions have taken place in connection with the Ballymena recruits 12th  Royal Irish Rifles (Central Antrims): 

Sergeants J. H. Wright and Norman Henry;  

Lance Sergeants Robert Baird and Samuel McGarry;  

Corp. Samuel Cumming; 

Lance Corporals Wm. Grant, George Montgomery, James Watson, Thos. Nesbitt, Robert Barr, Alex. Greer.

Lance Corporal Hamilton, Clonavon Place, 6th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles, rejoins his regiment on January 4. He is a son of the late Mr. James Hamilton.

Three more Ballymena Academy Old Boys have recently received commissions in the RAMC:

Dr. J. Clarke son of Mr. Wm. Clarke, High Street;

Dr. J. Spence son of Mr. R. Spence, Ahoghill, and

Dr. H. W. Wier, son of Mr. J. Wier  JP, Liscoom, Ballymena.

Rev. D. R. Mitchell of First Broughshane has been posted to the 108th Infantry Brigade as a Presbyterian Chaplain. (108th Brigade was a component of the 36th (Ulster) Division.)

Ballymena Observer, December 17, 1914

Captain Robert C. Orr

ORR, Robert Clifford, Captain,  3rd Bn. Somerset Light Infantry, was killed in action on the 19 December 1914. Aged 34 and of Masoe, Ballymena, he was the son of Robert Harrison Orr and Cassandra Marchaise Orr, of 1, Lombard St., Belfast.  He was Adjutant of the North Antrim UVF. He is buried in Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery, Belgium. His memorial plaque was held in Morrow's Museum and is now in the Braid Centre Museum.

The Observer reported (January 1915):  The sad tidings of the death of Captain Robert C. Orr, solicitor, Ballymena was received on Wednesday morning, last, by his partner, Mr. Travers W. King, solicitor.

The deceased was gazetted to the 3rd Somerset Light Infantry about four years ago and was reported missing as from the 19th inst (December 1914). He was appointed captain of his regiment on the 3rd November after he had proceeded to the front.

He was the son of the late Mr. Robert Orr, solicitor who carried on an extensive practice in Lombard Street, Belfast and who in 1892 was joint secretary of the great Ulster Unionist  Convention and was at one time service partner in the firm of Robert and Hugh Orr Solicitors, Ballymena.

The late Captain Orr was educated at Rugby and was admitted as a solicitor in 1903 when he became attached to office of R. & H. Orr, High Street, Ballymena.

The late Captain Orr was appointed adjutant of the 'Irish Battalion North Antrim Regiment of the Ulster Volunteers and since the inception of this movement he was most prominently identified with it, as indeed he was with everything pertaining to the cause of Unionism in this district.

He was also a very prominent figure at Larne Harbour on the historic occasion of the gun-running and distribution of the rifles to the loyalist volunteers of the county. The deceased was a devoted member of St. Patrick's Church of Ireland, Ballymena. His mother resides at Rockside, Newcastle, Co. Down and his brother is practising as a solicitor in Lombard Street, Belfast.

Orr's grave as pictured in early 1915

The recovery of Orr's body (along with those of his brother officers) was a contributory factor in the famous 1914 Christmas Truce in the Ploegsteert Wood sector near Ypres.

Orr's grave 2007 - picture courtesy of Michelle Young Western Front Association

'Lines to the memory of the late Capt. R.C. Orr, 3rd Bn. Somerset Light Infantry' 

by  A. Lewis, Bryan Street, Ballymena.

He was one of our gallant townsmen,

Who gave his life to save

His country's honour from the hun

Who'd make each one a slave.

Though far away in Belgium

His heart was always here

He thought on Loyal Ulster

He was still a Volunteer.

For in the muddy trenches

Two days before he fell

He penned a message to his lads

To guard old Ulster well.

He was our gallant captain

His commands we did regard;

We'll never have his like again

To drill us round the yard.

He's answered roll call up above

His work on earth is done;

He nobly died a soldier's death,

Fighting the German Hun.

But the day is surely coming

That his blood will be avenged;

By the noble 12th Battalion

His death will be revenged.

He's gone from us forever

But his spirit will live in

The gallant lads who go to sweep

The Germans to Berlin.

Then buckle on your armour

The call comes near and far;

To go and help our brothers

To end this bloody war.

Published in the Ballymena Observer in 1915

Knees up for Willie ...

Well known Ballymena footballer Willie Moore who was at the front with his old regiment, the Inniskillings, has been invalided home and is now in an English hospital as the result of frostbite suffered in the trenches. Whilst in the hospital, the injury to his knee sustained at football is being attended to and he is expected to leave the institution better than ever.

(Frostbite was a common occurrence in the bitter winter of 1914/15. 'Trench Foot' also took its toll as soldiers had to stand in waterlogged trenches for hours and often days without a chance to dry their feet or change socks or boots. Ed.) 

Ballymena Observer December 24, 1914

GRAHAM, William, Fireman, Merchant Marine, SS Gem of Glasgow, died on the 25th December 1914. He was the son of late Francis and Mary Graham, and husband of Sarah Graham, Springhill, Glenarm. He was born in Ballymena, and he is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial.