To the bitter end .. the last deadly days of World War One

Dessie Blackadder


Dessie Blackadder

With hindsight we can look back on the events of November 1918 and wonder why just so many people had to die as World War One finally petered out after four years of unimaginable bloodshed and misery.

But for the troops ‘on the ground’ there was no such certain knowledge. They knew that the once mighty German army was crumbling but they had no real inkling of just when the war would end.

Most soldiers expected they would have to fight all the way to Berlin.

We see November 1918 as an end game - to the people of that era it was just another month in a long, terrible nightmarish year.

McGALL, DCM, James, 3/10823, Private, Durham Light Infantry, died on the 1st November 1918. Aged 35, he was the son of Johnston and Lizzie McGall, Portglenone. He enlisted in Gateshead and he is buried in Heworth Churchyard, Durham. His wife Sarah Jane McGall lived at Portglenone.

Private McGall was one of a party which, when going to occupy a listening post, met with heavy rifle and grenade fire at close range. The suddenness of the attack caused confusion but he at once crawled forward with his grenades and threw them into the listening post, whence the fire proceeded, causing the enemy to retire.

This week's recruiting:-

RAF - Robert Marks, Craignageeragh, Ahoghill; H. D. Kyle, Omerbane, Cloughmills; James Gregg, Omerbane, Cloughmills; M. F. Gordon, Glenleslie, Clough; Andrew McCleery, Glenleslie, Clough; Robert Beattie, Gracehill; James McClintock, Clarence Street; G. R. Thompson, High Street; Archie Wylie, Mount Street.

Mr. Archibald Beattie, Galgorm Street, Ballymena, has received intimation that his son, Rifleman Archie Beattie, King's Royal Rifles, has been wounded. Rifleman Beattie joined up at the commencement of hostilities and was previously wounded while serving with the Royal Irish Rifles.

Rev. W. H. Hutchinson, Army Chaplain's Dept. wounded on October 20th, was Presbyterian Minister at Cullybackey before enlisting in the ranks. After two year's service as a despatch rider he was appointed to a chaplaincy on 2nd February 1917 and has latterly been attached to a Royal Irish Rifles battalion. He was gassed a few weeks ago and on recovery paid a visit home when he preached in the Cuningham pulpit. (Rev. Hutchinson was later awarded the Military Cross)

Second Lieutenant S. R. Millar, Royal Irish Rifles, wounded (gunshot wound left thigh and right ankle) is a son of Mr. Robert Millar, Ballymoney Street, Ballymena. Before enlisting with the YCV with whom he was wounded at Thiepval on 1st July 1916, he was in business with a seed merchants in Belfast. On 31st July 1918 he was promoted to a commission and had returned to the front from leave a week before he was wounded. He is an old boy of Ballymena Academy.

Mrs. Montgomery, Greenmount Terrace, Ballymena, has been notified that her son, Private Samuel Montgomery, North Irish Horse, attached Royal Irish Fusiliers, has been wounded in action. Before enlisting two years ago, Private Montgomery was employed as a clerk with Messrs. J. K. Currie and Son, Solicitors, Ballymena. This is the second occasion on which he has been wounded.

The London Gazette announces that Mr. Norman Henry, son of Mr. Samuel Henry, Bridge Street, Ballymena, has received a commission in the Royal Irish Rifles. Second Lieutenant Henry, an old UVF man joined in the first batch of recruits from Ballymena and commenced his training at the temporary camp at Cleggan. He was a quartermaster sergeant at the front with the local battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles with whom he went to France in 1915. His brother, Sergeant Samuel Henry, Royal Irish Rifles is at present stationed in England.

Private Bobbie Armstrong, son of Mr. R. Armstrong, Kilgad, Kells, Ballymena, has rejoined the colours recently. Formerly a private in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, he went to France in August 1914 with the original BEF, styled by the Kaiser as the 'contemptible little army' and took part in the retreat from Mons, being later wounded in the advance on the Marne, where he sustained a fractured knee. After partial recovery he was discharged and was lately in a munitions works across the channel and a few weeks ago joined the Royal Air Force. His brother, Private W. Armstrong, Black Watch, also went to France with Lord French's army and was reported by the war office as missing since 29th October 1914.

Rifleman Lockart Millar, Royal Irish Rifles son of Mr. Alex. Millar, Larne Street, has arrived home on leave from the front. He went to the front with the Ulster Division and has seen much fighting.

Ballymena Observer, November 1, 1918

SURGENOR, Ernest Glover, 177850, Private, 81st Machine Gun Company, died on the 4th November 1918. He was born at Ballymena, son of John and Catherine Surgenor of Glasgow. He is buried in Kirechkoi Hortakoi Cemetery, Greece.

GASTON, MC, James, Captain, RAMC attached Suffolk Regiment, was wounded on the 3rd September 1916 and died from those wounds on 5th November 1918. Aged 36, he was the son of Andrew and Marianne, Carnbeg, Cloughmills. He is buried in Arras Road Cemetery, Roclincourt, Pas de Calais and commemorated in Killymurris Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, November 15, 1918 - Captain James Gaston MC, RAMC, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs, Andrew Gaston of Carnbeg, Cloughmills, Co. Antrim, has died of wounds received in action on 3rd November 1917.

Captain Gaston joined the army in December 1914 and went to France in March 1915. He was wounded in September 1916 and after recovering went to France again in January 1917, gaining the Military Cross in April of that year for conspicuous gallantry in the field.

Before the outbreak of war he had an extensive practice in Durham. He was educated at the Ballymena Academy and Queen's College, Belfast, taking his degree at the Royal University in 1906.

His brother, Captain Andrew Gaston, RAMC, is also a holder of the Military Cross and a younger brother, Dr. John Gaston is practising in Chester.

CARSON, John, Private, 315th Infantry Regiment US Army, died of wounds on the 5th/6th November, 1918. He was killed at Sedan, France and is buried in Meuse Argonne Cemetery. He lived in Philadelphia and was the third son of John and Margaret Carson, Craigs, Cullybackey. He is commemorated in Cuningham Memorial Presbyterian Church, Cullybackey and in Pound Cemetery in the village.

This week's recruiting:-

Royal Air Force - Alex. Winington Harryville;

North Irish Horse - John Cathcart, Moat Road.

Mr. William Barr, 138, Queen Street, Ballymena, has received a letter from his son, Private R. Barr, Tank Corps, stating that he is a prisoner in Germany and is well. Private Barr who has been 'missing' since 2nd September, enlisted in June 1915 and served for some time with the Royal Irish Rifles, being wounded in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. Before enlisting he was a fitter in Mr. David Christie's Foundry and a member of the Harryville Company of the UVF.

Private William Grant, Canadian Infantry, native of Ballymena, has been admitted to hospital suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck. His wife, also from Ballymena, resides at 47 Chester Avenue, Toronto. Private Grant is a son of Mr. William Grant of 12 Prospect Place, Ballymena.

Ballymena Observer, November 8, 1918

REID, Alexander, M/344918, Private, Motor Transport Depot, Army Service Corps, died on the 12th November 1918 of illness contracted on active service. He was the son of John and Maggie Reid, 27 Springwell Street, Ballymena. He is buried in Ballymena New Cemetery.

Second Lieutenant John Wylie, Royal Irish Rifles, attached Royal Irish Regiment, was admitted to the 18th General Hospital, Rouen on November 6th suffering from a gunshot wound on the right leg and thigh (slight). This officer is married to Miss Lily Gray, eldest daughter of Mr. Robt. M. Gray, the well known auctioneer, Belfast. He served in France, in Salonika and Palestine and was drafted to France again in April 1918. he is a native of Ballymena and was, prior to enlisting, managing clerk in the office of Mr. Robert Boal, Solicitor, Ballymena.

Sergeant John McNabney, Royal Engineers, Signal Company, is awarded the DCM. He is a son of Mrs. McNabney, 9, Larne Street, Harryville, Ballymena and prior to joining the colours was prominent in local football circles, playing for South End Rangers and Cliftonville FC. He was awarded the Military medal in 1917 for gallantry in the field and subsequently a bar to the Medal, while he also holds the Ulster Division parchment certificate. His brother Private Samuel McNabney is serving with the Engineers.

57836, Sgt J. McNabney , M.M., 36th Division Signal Company, R.E. (Ballymena): In the Dadizeele sector, during the fighting from 28th September to 5th October 1918, this n.c.o. was constantly out repairing lines under heavy shell fire and it was chiefly due to his courage and fearlessness that communication was maintained. On 2nd October he went out accompanied by another n.c.o. and remained out during a very heavy barrage, maintaining communication during the enemy counter attack.

Second Lieutenant S. R. Millar, Royal Irish Rifles, son of Mr. Robert Millar, Ballymoney Street has arrived home after treatment received for a recent gunshot wound to the thigh.

The half-yearly fare for the hiring of male and female servants was held in Ballymena on Saturday last. The attendance of servants was not so large as on former occasions but this is probably accounted for by the fact that many of them are remaining in their old situations whilst a great many have joined the colours and are fighting for their King and Country.

The demand for servants was very keen and consequently prices ruled accordingly. Good ploughmen obtained from £26 to £30 in the half year with board and lodging. Servant boys suitable for agriculture £18 to £24. Young lads up to 18 and 20 years of age, £13 to £20. Servant girls £11 to £16 and maids for house work £12 to £15.

Ballymena Observer, November 15, 1918

Continued next week.

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