Carlisle, 6984668 Lance Corporal Alexander, 70th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died a ‘boy soldier’ on the 16 April 1941 and is remembered on Panel 11. Column 2 of the Brookwood Memorial.
He died alongside twelve other soldiers from the 70th Battalion, young soldiers, too young for active service, who acted as guards at Newtownards Airfield. All were on duty when the Luftwaffe attacked RAF 231 Squadron on Easter Tuesday 1941.
It was a light raid at Newtownards, many of the incendiary bombs and a few high explosive bombs that were probably meant for Belfast, which was heavily bombed, falling on Scrabo Hill and on Green Road and Comber Road. Regrettably, one bomb did all the damage, as the War Diary of the 70th (YS) Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers makes clear. It says, ‘One H.E. bomb fell in the hutments of ‘A’ Company Headquarters. Casualties were 10 killed and 15 wounded.’ Some of the wounded died later. Carlisle was among the 13 dead. To add to the disaster, Flight Lieutenant Wilfred Mark Hamilton Brookes, one of the Commanders of 231 Squadron Royal Air Force based at Newtownards, was on the night of the bombing in Belfast and was killed in the bombing there.
Cathcart, 7018987 Rifleman William, Royal Ulster Rifles was serving with the 2nd Bn. London Irish Rifles, when he died in Sicily on the 5 August 1943. He is buried in Catania War Cemetery. He was the son of late William (died 1935) and Margaret Stewart Cathcart, nee McIlwaine, of Tannybrake, Kells, Co Antrim. The couple, both of farming stock, had married in 2nd Antrim Presbyterian Church on the 15 February 1917. His brother David (born 1 December 1917), was employed, as was William, in Templemoyle Dye Works, Kells prior to the war, also served in the Royal Irish Rifles. Their sister was a nurse.
The family headstone is in Kirkhill Cemetery, Connor and reads as follows: ‘1935, Cathcart, erected in memory of William Cathcart, died 22nd July 1935. Also his wife Margaret S. Cathcart, died 13th October 1981. His son William Hugh, killed in enemy action 5th Aug 1943, aged 22, interred in Catania War Cemetery, Sicily. And his daughter Mary (Molly) died 15th June 1949.’
The 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles, were part of the 38 (Irish) Brigade, and they took part in August 1943 assaults on the stout German defence to the west of Mt Etna. They were acting in support of the 78th Infantry Division, which had planned to cut road contact with Catania.
The 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles was allocated the capture of three strategic hills just to the west of German strong points in Centuripe. Their attack was timed in advance of the direct assaults of the rest of the Irish Brigade, with 6th Inniskilling Fusiliers, and 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers fighting up precipitous cliffs into the village. It was successfully done, a famous achievement, and Churchill referred to it the next day in Parliament.
For the next three days 2nd London Irish and 1st Irish Fusiliers, followed the Germans north, crossing the shallow Salso River and the much more dangerous Simeto River despite strong enemy resistance. Significant levels of casualties were suffered by the battalion during these two successful river crossings, and it was around this time that Cathcart was killed.
The men rested for five days thereafter and then continued their advance, attacking Maletto. 2nd London Irish advanced on the right flank of the attack, their objective being Mt Speina and Mt Maletto. The 1st Irish Fusiliers targeted Mt Capella, and the village of Maletto. This attack on Mt Capella was the last action for the 2nd London Irish battalion in Sicily and they subsequently enjoyed well-earned rest on the north coast of the island.
Cochrane, 6975323 Gunner Robert, 1st Maritime Regiment, Royal Artillery, died aged 37 on the 2 March 1945. His parents were James and Elizabeth Cochrane, Antrim.
Robert Cochrane died when he fell into the harbour from a ship he was boarding on 2nd March 1945 in Seaham, County Durham, England.
He is buried in Ballymena New Cemetery, Cushendall Road, Ballymena.
Coleman, 87490 Lieutenant Robin Benjamin Bunch, 9th A.A. Regiment, Royal Artillery was aged 33 died the 5th March 1943. At the time he was a prisoner of war and he has no known grave. He was born on the 11 March 1916, the son of timber merchant James Coleman and his wife Doris Bunch, of Ballymena, Co. Antrim. He is remembered on the Singapore Memorial, Kranji, Singapore.
Coleman attended Ballymena Academy and Campbell College, and he was a member of the Officer Training Corps at the latter school in Belfast. Prior to the war, Lieutenant Coleman resided at ‘Greystone’, Galgorm Road, Ballymena, and he was a member of West Presbyterian Church in the town.