BALLYMENA 1914-1918

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Second World War Names - Panel 8

Panel 8
Smylie, 7019584 Lance Corporal Jack William John (Jack) – CWGC record him as John William Smillie, his mother as McGowan), 2nd Btn. London Irish Rifles, formerly Royal Ulster Rifles, died on the 4th December 1943 and aged 33 years. He was the son of William John and Mary Smylie of Dunclug, Ballymena.  The couple, William John Smiley (sic) and Mary Magowan (sic) had married in 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church on the 14th September 1904. William John indicated that he lived at Ballyreagh, Clough.
Following the Battle of the Sangro Line in November 1943 and at the start of December 1943, the two battalions of the London Irish Rifles were in action on both the western and eastern sides of Italy. The 1st Battalion joined the 5th Army’s assault on Monte Camino and the 2nd Battalion, Smylie’s battalion, continued their drive along the Adriatic coast as the 8th Army gradually moved northwards towards the Moro River. On the 1st December, and after their successful capture of Fossacesia, 2nd London Irish occupied positions in and forward of Rocca where, as night fell, two enemy companies were occupying the Treglio ridge. The 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers probed forward in the direction of the small coastal town of San Vito.
This all contributed to the breaking of the German Winter Line, and soon the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles, after a few lively skirmishes, continued their advance with the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Faughs) towards the Moro River, which they were able to reach on 4th December. The whole 38th (Irish) Brigade was then relieved by the 1st Canadian Division.
Smylie must have died right at the conclusion of this campaign and just as the men were withdrawn for rest and recovery. The War Diary suggests that most of the action was actually over, and the 4th December was a day of patrolling, mopping up and being harassed by MGs and shelling. There is no mention of significant fighting or large numbers of casualties.
He is buried in the Sangro River Cemetery, Italy.

Smyth, D/JX 419433 Able Seaman Robert, Royal Navy, HMS Black Prince, died of illness on the 25th March 1944 and aged 31 years.  He was the son of labourer Samuel and Mary Smyth, nee Torrens. He came from Dunminning, Cullybackey and his wife from Lisnagarron, Portglenone. Their first two children were born at Dunminning, the remainder at the Craigs, in reality the same place. He is buried in St. Colmanell's Church of Ireland Churchyard, Ahoghill.
"Black Prince" was a cruiser of modified Dido design, and it had only four 5.25-inch gun mounts instead of five, though anti-aircraft armament was much improved. She was built by Harland & Wolff of Belfast. Her keel was laid down on 2 November 1939, she was launched on 27 August 1942, and she was commissioned on 30 November 1943. After commissioning, Black Prince served on Arctic convoys and then came south in preparation for the invasion of Europe. Smyth died before his new ship showed her worth off Normandy on D Day or in the waters of SE Asia and Japan.
Smyth, 993020 Flight Sergeant (Air Bomber) Robert, 207 Squadron, RAFVR, died on the 12 September 1944 and aged 26 years. His wife Joyce and son lived at Bawtry, Yorkshire. He was the son of Mr. Tom Smyth of the People's Park, Ballymena.
Smyth’s 207 Squadron was after 1 November 1940 part of Bomber Command's No. 5 Group. It was based RAF Waddington for a time, later moved to RAF Bottesford, then to RAF Langar, and finally in October 1943, to the newly opened RAF Spilsby bomber station.
His Lancaster Mark I, serial number PD267 with squadron code EM-G, left RAF Spilsby to bomb a target in Stuttgart at 1911 hrs on 12 September 1944. It was believed at the time to have been shot down by anti-aircraft fire but the facts were not confirmed until later. It had crashed within the target area at 2300hrs, hitting the ground at Birkenstrasse 22, Stuttgart.
Six of the crew were killed but Sergeant Bernard Stoner parachuted to the ground and became a Prisoner of War Stalag Luft VII. On release he told what had happened that night:
“we were over Stuttgart; we had dropped our bomb load and were waiting for the photograph to be taken when we were hit. I checked the rear gunner (Stan Mackey) but he was dead. We were told to put on our parachutes, I remember getting one arm into mine when there was a huge white flash and the next I remember I was outside of the Lancaster, flying through the air .......... later I was taken by the Germans to identify the bodies of my fellow crew”
993020 Flight Sergeant (Air Bomber) Robert Smyth is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany.

Steele, 1021148 Warrant Officer George, RAFVR, died age 25 on the 2 July 1946. His wife was Margaret Wylie Steele. Kilmarnock, Scotland.  His parents were George and Elizabeth Steele (nee Boyle), living at 85 Princes Street, Ballymena at the time of his death. The couple, George from Harryville and Elizabeth from Ballymena had married in Kells Presbyterian Church on the 1st June 1920.

He was killed whilst flying in Anson I, serial number MG437 of No 5 ANS, which crashed into the Irish Sea. The crew was completing a reconnaissance flight, actually a search for Wellington LP764 which had disappeared the previous day. While flying at a very low altitude, the twin-engine aircraft hit the mast of a fishing boat and crashed into the sea. It sank rapidly and was lost. All five crew members were killed. They were 3040690 John Thomas Marcham Crow, 180028 Flight Lieutenant John Murray Looker, 3022108 George Barry McClymont (Buried Kilbarchan Cemetery, Renfrewshire), 2796109 Petrus Adrianus Cornelius Michielsen, Netherlands Air Force (Buried Jurby (St Patrick) Churchyard, Isle of Man), and 1021148 Warrant Officer George Steele.

George Steele is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial at Egham Surrey. His name also appears in the list for High Kirk Presbyterian Church on the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Roll of Honour, 1939-1945.

Stevenson, 1450401 Bombardier Joseph K, 81st Heavy AA Battery, Royal Artillery, died on the 1 July 1944 and aged 29 years. He was the son of Mr. William Stevenson, 28 Railway Street, Ballymena. Carter William Stevenson, Cromkill, Ballymena married Maggie Mitchell, Railway Street, Harryville, Ballymena in St Patrick’s Parish Church on the 8th January 1912. Joseph, their third child, was born at Railway Street on the 4 April 1915; his father is then recorded as being a soldier.

His father, William Stevenson (left) was reported wounded and missing on the first day of the Somme Offensive, 1st July 1916.  He was later to confirm in a postcard sent to his wife that he was a POW, a patient in Lazarette Hospital Germany. He indicated that his wounds were healing well.

Joseph Kitchner (sic) Stevenson is interred in Salerno War Cemetery, Italy.

3854813 Corporal James Stewart, 1st Bn. The Herefordshire Regiment

Stewart, 3854813 Corporal James, 1st Bn. The Herefordshire Regiment, formerly King's Shropshire Light Infantry, died age 32 on the 1st March 1945, killed in action just a few weeks before the end of the war. He had achieved notoriety earlier in the war when he had escaped from Singapore in an open boat and made his way to Sumatra. He was the holder of the Military Medal, though we do not currently know if it award was related to that incident.  He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Stewart, of Slatt, Ballymena.
William Stewart had married 18-year-old Sarah Houston of Whappstown, Connor in Kells Presbyterian Church on the 26 June 1902.
James Stewart was part of the 11th Armoured Division, an armoured division which was created in March 1941. Indeed, the 11th Armoured Division was part of an experiment with New Model Divisions (or Mixed Divisions) of one tank brigade and two infantry brigades.
Stewart’s 159th (Welsh Border) Infantry Brigade, assigned initially to the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, was composed of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Monmouthshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion, Herefordshire Regiment. However, in mid-1942, the 159th Infantry Brigade was transferred to be the motorised infantry element of the 11th Armoured Division.
The 11th were responsible for several major victories in the Battle of Normandy from in the summer of 1944 and it participated in the rapid advance across France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and, later and relevant here, the Rhine crossing in March 1945 and the subsequent invasion of Germany.
The 159th Brigade had been recalled to the front on 17 February 1945, to reinforce XXX Corps fighting in Operation Veritable, part of the follow-up to the crossing of the Rhine. The fighting, which is often just called the Battle of the Reichswald Forest, was much more difficult than expected. The infantry of the 11th Armoured later received orders to seize Gochfortzberg, south of Üdem, then to break the Schlieffen line and capture Sonsbeck, in order to support the II Canadian Corps which progressed towards Hochwald from the north, Operation Blockbuster. The brigade attack started on 26 February. Under challenging conditions, Gochfortzberg was seized on 28 February, Sonsbeck on 3 March. The date of his death would suggest that Stewart was killed in the fighting that captured the latter.
He is buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Stinson, D/JX 153410 Leading signalman Frederick, Royal Navy, HMS Galatea, died on the 15th December 1941 and aged 20 years. His parents were Samuel Robert and Daisy Kathleen Stinson of Clonavon Place North, Ballymena, though they later lived in Hammersmith, London. HMS
Galatea, built by Scott’s Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. of Greenock, Scotland and commissioned 14 August 1935, was an Arethusa-class light cruiser. Galatea joined the Mediterranean Fleet on commissioning was largely based in Malta. Pre-war the ship was active in joint patrols to enforce the non-intervention policy in the Spanish Civil War and vessel was later deployed to Alexandria because of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia.
After the outbreak of Second World War she returned to the UK, and between February and March 1940, she took part in the operations to intercept Axis merchant shipping. The ship was one of those deployed in April 1940 during the Norwegian Campaign. She thereafter remained with the Home Fleet (refitted October 1940 to January 1941) until May 1941, and was then involved in hunting the German battleship Bismarck. In July 1941 Galatea returned to the Mediterranean Fleet via the Red Sea, and was based at Malta with Force "K", one of the group of ships operating against the Axis supply convoys to North Africa.
On 14 December 1941 before midnight Galatea was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-557 off Alexandria, Egypt; she may even have been damaged in an attack by an Italian submarine just prior to the U-557 attack. Captain Sim, 22 of his officers and 447 of his ratings were killed. Some 100 survivors were picked up by the destroyers Griffin and Hotspur.
Less than 48 hours later, U-557 was incorrectly identified rammed by the Italian torpedo boat Orione and sunk with all hands.
He is remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial.
Surgeoner, FX/110964 Leading Air Mechanic (1st Class) William John, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Malagas, died by drowning aged 20 on the 4 March 1945. He was the John and Jeanie Surgeoner of 3, Mount Street, Ballymena.
He is buried in Simonstown (Dido Valley) Cemetery, South Africa.
Thompson, 1076295 Flight Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) Victor Arnold, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died aged 21 on the 6th April 1945.
Flight Sergeant Victor Arnold Thompson, RAFVR, was the second son of Robert Thompson and Kathleen Thompson of Elsinore, 36 Doury Road, Ballymena, Co. Antrim. He was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner on board Vickers Wellington HE928 with No. 26 Operational Training Unit, RAF.
The Mark X bomber collided in mid-air and on a cloudy day with Vickers Wellington LN540 from the same OTU while taking part in a training exercise designed to improve high altitude bombing accuracy.
Flight Sergeant Thompson had served for 4 ½ years with the Royal Air Force. He enlisted had enlisted when aged 17 and later flew missions in the Middle East where he received injuries. He returned to flying with Bomber Command after his recovery and completed his number of raids over Germany. He had been offered a role as an instructor, but he chose to remain with his bombing squadron.
His brother Trooper Hugh Thompson served with the North Irish Horse and saw action in Italy.
His funeral took place in Ballymena New Cemetery, Cushendall Road at 4 o’clock on 11th April 1945.
He was the son of Robert and Kathleen Thompson, of Elsinore, Doury Road, Ballymena.  He is buried in Ballymena New Cemetery, Cushendall Road.
Thompson, 1067997 William, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died age 20 on the 16th January 1943. His Blenheim Mk IV, serial number Z7313 and of 5 AOS (Air Observers School), flew into Laggan Hill, some 3 miles from Caulkerbush, Kirkcudbright, Scotland in bad weather and blew up.
The full crew were 119880 Flying Officer (Pilot) Thomas Durham Robertson, RAFVR; 49889 Pilot Officer (Navigator-Observer) Albert Edward Usher, RAF; and 1067997 Sergeant (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner) William Thompson, RAFVR. The plane also carried three passengers. They were 114620 Flight Lieutenant Evan Vivian Stanley-Jones (HQ 29 Group), RAFVR; 384 Flying Officer Pamela Lanthe Lawrence, WAAF (HQ 29 Group); and Mr Thomas Edward Perks (Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough). All aboard the aircraft were killed. The last is remembered on the County of Kirkcudbright 'Civilian Roll of Honour Section'.
He was the son of Henry and Rachel Thompson of Ballylesson, Ballymena, and he is buried in Kells and Connor New Presbyterian Cemetery.
Widower and farmer Henry Thompson (40) married Rachel Cairns (20) in 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church on the 14th February 1900, a date of marriage that corresponds with information given on the 1901 and 1911 census returns. The bride’s surname, however, appears to have been incorrectly entered on the marriage certificate. Her birth record indicates her name was Carey, and she and her new husband are shown living in the Carey household on the 1901 census.
Wallace, 1504000 Corporal John, 241 Squadron RAF Volunteer Reserve died age 47 on the 23 August 1946. His wife was Jean Wallace, his parents William and Elizabeth Wallace. He is interred in Randalstown Presbyterian Old Congregation Churchyard.
Warren, 14217509 Rifleman William James, 2nd Bn. The London Irish Rifles, Royal Ulster Rifles, died age 21 on the 30th October 1943.
In early 1942 the 38th (Irish) Brigade was formed: it included the 6th Inniskillings, 1st Irish Fusiliers and 2nd London Irish. It was in autumn 1943 in Italy and had just taken the River Trigno in mid-October. Beyond it was the next target, the small town of San Salvo, which stood atop a hill. The London Irish and the Irish Fusiliers were ordered forward, while the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers were to tackle the railway station by the side of the hill.
The night attacks were made after a preliminary bombardment, but heavy rain made the conditions appalling. Dense minefields protected the Germans as they fired into the narrow bridgehead. F Company’s commander and most of his men were lost. The Irish Fusiliers were having a bad time too, and were suffering even heavier casualties.
The attack was repulsed and both battalions, badly mauled, recoiled to the bridgehead. All that very wet day, October 28, 1943, the battalion remained on the defensive, frequently shelled by an enemy with abundant artillery. It seems likely that this was when Warren was killed, for no further attack was made on San Salvo until the night of November 2-3. On that occasion the enemy, faltering under a withering bombardment, lost ground and San Salvo fell to the Allies.
Rifleman William James Warren was the son of Alfred and Hessie Warren, of Ballymena. The couple, Alfred, a labourer from Lower Broughshane, had married Hessie Kyle (19) of Caugherty, Broughshane, in Randalstown (OC) Presbyterian Church on the 13th July 1914.
William James Warren is buried in Minturno War Cemetery.

Watt, 2719513 Guardsman Robert James, 3rd Bn Irish Guards, died age 25 on the 11 August 1944. He was the son of Samuel and Matilda Watt, of Moorfields, Co. Antrim. Samuel Watt, farmer of Crosshill, had married 18-year-old Matilda McIlwaine in West Church, Ballymena on the 29th March 1911.
The Ballymena Observer recorded that "Guardsman Robert J Watt, killed in action in Normandy, was the third son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Watt, Cross, Moorfields” and that "He joined up in November 1939 and subsequently served with the Commandos for a period of sixteen months before transferring back to his old regiment”. It said that prior to joining up he was in the employment of Mr. George Allen, grocer, Bridge Street, Ballymena.
He is buried in Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery.
Weir, 7042868 Lance Corporal Samuel, Corps of Military Police died age 36 on the 29th March 1942. His wife Elizabeth Weir, lived at Larne Road, Ballymena. His parents, Hugh and Mary Weir, lived at Straid, Ahoghill. He is buried in St. Colmanell's Church of Ireland Churchyard, Ahoghill.
Wylie, 1670532 Sergeant (Wireless Operator) William John Crozier, 103 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, died on the 29th July 1944. His mother was Mrs. Margaret Wylie of Belfast.
William John Crozier Wylie was lost on a raid on Stuttgart on the 28/29th July 1944, a day referred to in 103 Squadron and elsewhere as ‘Black Friday’, a truly horrible night for the Lincolnshire Elsham Wolds Squadrons.
It was the last of three big attacks in quick succession on Stuttgart, an important German industrial and rail communication centre, the others being on the 24/25th July (West and his crew flew on this raid) and the 25/26th July. It was home to the Bosch, Daimler-Benz, and the SKF ball bearings factories. The city had always proved a difficult place to target since it was in southern Germany, located along the River Neckar, and was tucked away in the hills and valleys of the Wurttemberg region.
494 Lancasters and 2 Mosquitoes of 1, 3, 5 and 8 Groups took part in the raid. 103 Squadron tasked 16 crews for this operation and 576 Squadron a further 18. German fighters intercepted the bomber stream while over France on the outward flight. There was a bright moon and 39 Lancasters were lost. In total 8 Elsham Wolds crews failed to return, 4 from each Squadron. This was the highest RAF Elsham Wolds loss of the war on one night by some distance.
RAF Elsham Wolds 103 Squadron crews lost were those of Flying Officer A West, Flying Officer R Armstrong, Flight Lieutenant E Broadbent and Flight Lieutenant J B Moss.
Wylie was flying aboard Lancaster III, serial number LM538. The crew were Flying Officer (Pilot) Arthur West, RAF; Sergeant (Flight Engineer) Ralph Goodacre,  RAFVR; Flying Officer (Air Bomber) James Maher, RAFVR; Flight Sergeant (Navigator) Frederick Albert Charles Varrall,  RAFVR; Sergeant (Wireless Operator) William John Crozier Wylie, RAFVR; Sergeant (Air Gunner) Timothy Collins, RAFVR; and Sergeant (Air Gunner) George Henry Nairn, RAFVR. Their aircraft, this its twelfth mission,  crashed near Bad Rippoldsau, Germany.
All of the crew of Lancaster III, LM53, are buried in Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany.