The forgotten Battle - August 1917

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

OUR recent series on the Battle of the Somme struck a chord with many readers so we’ve decided to follow up with this feature on what might well be described as ‘the forgotten battlefield’.

While most people locally will be familiar at some level with the losses of the Somme campaign, far fewer will be aware of the terrible casualties sustained in the period from August 1 to August 16 and beyond by the Ulster Division.

In this article we set ethe scene for the battle and explain how it got bogged down, quite lliterally, into an obscene struggle for a shell devastated, marshy landscape which has become the definitive image of World War One.

By 1917, much of the bravado and jingoism which had dominated the earlier years of the war had been swept away.

It was to be a year of mixed fortunes on the Western Front. At Messines in June, the British army used mines to blast away the German strongpoints and secured a relatively easy victory.

Because of their performance in front of Thiepval, the Division was looked upon as a premier assault formation.

At Messines Ridge, the 36th had been ‘paired up’ with their southern ‘Irish Volunteer’ counterparts of the equally illustrious 16th (Irish Division).

Fighting together, the two Irish formations had played a vital role in securing the high ground which had been held by the German army besieging the Belgian town of Ypres since 1914. The attack on Messines, preceded by the explosion of massive underground mines, was a triumph. Casualties in the attack were kept to a minimum - by Western Front standards - and at the end of the day, the 36th and 16th had captured their prime objective at Wyteschaete.

The two formations were to fight side by side again, but August, 1917 was to be a bloody period in their histories.

By August 1917, the 36th (Ulster Division) was a drastically changed formation.

The heavy casualties of the Somme had been bad enough, but the daily grind of the Western Front had further eroded the ‘Ulster Volunteer’ character of this formation which had once been sarcastically labelled ‘Carson’s Army’ by some other troops in the BEF.

The ranks had been replenished from the reserve battalions in the immediate aftermath of 1st July but more than one year later, the Division found itself reinforced with drafts of conscripts and the wholesale transfer - much to their chagrin - of ‘regular’ battalions of the Irish Regiments.

However, it was still largely populated by men from the north of Ireland. By this stage of the war, many of the soldiers had been wounded twice and even three times yet they returned to their units after a period in hospital only to find that even more of their chums from the old ‘volunteer’ days were gone forever.

Two weeks in hell

THE men of the Ulster Division went to heaven before they went through hell.

Following their relatively easy victory at Messine, the troops were stationed in the area of Merris for about 12 days of training and rest. many of the men remembered this short break as their most pleasant ever spent in France.

Summer sunshine beamed down and the men swam, fished for trout, played a lot of football and generally relaxed away from the toil of the trenches. But all too soon the Ulstermen were going ‘back up the line’ and by July 30th 1917 they were in position as support troops for the Lancashire units of the 55th Division who were among the units waiting to go over the top on the first day of Haig’s hoped-for breakthrough.

Being ‘in support’ was far from a cushy billet. It meant the drudgery of road making, carrying supplies and the rather more traumatic task of casualty clearing.

At first, it seemed that the advance would go according to plan - but then the rains came. Torrential downpours and the churning effects of thousands upon thousands of shells turned the battlefield into a morass.

For the next two weeks, the Ulster Division performed the twin duties of holding the British front line and acting as labourers. Throughout this period, German artillery observers kept their positions under a steady, deadly bombardment, constantly whittling away at the Division’s strength.

This shelling, coupled with living in the most miserable conditions imaginable were hardly the ideal preparations for a unit ear-marked for the next major advance in the chronology of the battle - the assault on the German lines at Langemarck.

However, the Ulster Division was not alone in its suffering. Passchendaele was to become synonymous with slaughter and with the perceived lack of compassion of the man who had ordered the onslaught, Field Marshal Haig.

Battle of Langemarck, 16 August

Serious military historians have provided detailed accounts of what happened to the Ulster Division on August 16.

The action on August 16 can be summed up in a few neat phrases which, while they may not do justice to the bravery of the men involved, are sufficient for the casual reader.

As the men prepared to attack, crammed into assembly trenches, the German artillery saturated the area with high explosive. Many soldiers never had a chance to go over the top, they were blown to pieces before the shrill whistles of the officers signalled the advance.

Those who did get a chance to go forward were met with heavy machine gun fire from German strong-points which had largely survived the British barrage.

They trudged forward into a bog which sucked at their feet. With each step the clods of mud sticking to their boots got heavier and heavier.

“The state of the ground, even had little opposition been met with, prevented the infantry keeping up with the attack barrage.”

Once again, the enemy wire had not been cut properly and just as on the Somme a year earlier, the Ulstermen fell victim to cleverly sited German machine gun posts. They fell in droves.

German concrete ‘pill boxes’ at locations such as ‘Pond Farm’ and ‘Border House’ poured fire on the troops wading towards them.

It was a disaster. What ground was gained, and there was precious little, had to be abandoned.

At Thiepval, the Division had suffered terribly but had the satisfaction of knowing they had captured all their objectives. Much to the embarrassment of its senior officers and many of the rank and file, the 36th had been lauded for their ‘gallantry’ by a jingoistic press.

By 9am on August 16, the Division had been stopped in its tracks. Langemarck may have had Somme style casualties for the Division. There was no glory.

After the battle, General Oliver Nugent poured his heart out to his wife in an honest letter.

He wrote: “It has been a truly terrible day. Worse than 1st July, I am afraid. The whole division has been driven back with terrible losses. Our failure has involved the failure of the divisions on both sides of us and that is so bitter a pill.

“In July last year, we did our work but failed because the divisions on either flank failed us. This time it is our Ulster Division which has failed the army ... I am heartbroken over it.”

Later Nugent’s sense of shame lessened when he he learned that the overall 'push' had been halted. Some Divisions, such as the 20th, had taken their objectives but had been forced back by ferocious German counter-attacks.

Writing after the war, the correspondent Philip Gibbs who had watched the Ulster and Irish Divisions in action on that day, had this to say:

“The two Irish Divisions were broken to bits and their brigadiers called it murder. They were violent in their denunciation of the 5th Army for having put their men into the attack after 13 days of heavy shelling.”

Casualties for the Ulster Division between August 2 and 15 (killed wounded and missing) were 70 officers and 1500 other ranks; On 16-18 August the figures were 74 officers and 1941 other ranks. In little over two weeks the total casualties were 3,585.

This section of the article contains the names of men from the Ballymena area, serving with a variety of units, who fell during the period discussed in the article opposite.

While most were attached to the locally raised Divisions and regiments, quite a number were from non-Irish and colonial units.

WILSON, George, S/18523, Private, 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action on the 1st August 1917. He was the son of John Wilson, Laymore, Ballymena. He is buried Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ypres.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917 - Mr. John Wilson, Laymore, has been notified that his son Private George Wilson has been killed in action.

The sad intelligence comes from his commanding officer, who states:

I have the painful duty to inform you that your son 18523 Private George Wilson, No.9 Platoon, C Coy. 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action on the night of 1st August.

He was leaving the front line at the time and coming back for a rest after having fought in the advance, when he was hit by a shell and killed outright.

Private Wilson was one of my best men, always very quiet and steady under the heaviest of fire.

A man esteemed by officers and men alike. We all mourn with you in his loss and send our sincere sympathy to you in your sad bereavement

Previous to being called up, Private Wilson, who was a tailor to trade, was employed by a firm of merchant tailors in Renfrew. Private Wilson leaves a wife and two infant children.

TAGGART, Thomas, 1636, Rifleman, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, aged 37 years, died on the 3rd August 1917. He was the son of William John and Hanna Taggart, Queen Street, Ballymena and husband of Martha Taggart 31, Alfred Street, Ballymena. He is remembered on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium.

Ballymena Observer, August 17, 1917 - Information has been received by Mrs. Taggart, who resides at Alfred Street, Ballymena, that her husband, Royal Irish Rifleman Thomas Taggart (14th Royal Irish Rifles) has been killed in action.

He enlisted in September last year and was at the front about nine months. Before enlisting he was employed by Mr. John Carson, builder and contractor, Clonavon. He leaves a wife and two children.

WHITESIDE, William, 1638, Rifleman, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 3rd August 1917. He was the son of John Whiteside of Eglish, Ballymena and he lived at Glenleslie, Clough. He is buried Vlamertinghe Cemetery, Ypres and commemorated in Cloughwater Presbyterian Church.

FISHER, David, 12258, Rifleman, 8th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 5th August 1917. He was born Ballymena and enlisted in Belfast. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate).

McMASTER, William, 939, Rifleman, 9th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 7th August 1917. Aged 20, he was born in Portglenone and enlisted Ballymena. He was the youngest son of William and Mary Jane McMaster, Cullybackey. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate) and in Cullybackey UF Church.

GORDON, William, 13447, Acting Corporal, 7th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on the 8th August 1917 by shellfire. He was born in Broughshane and enlisted in Belfast. He was the son of David and Matilda Gordon, Ottawa Street, Belfast. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate).

HILL, Matthew John, 9877, Rifleman, 7th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 8th August 1917. Aged 21, he was the son of Matthew and Lizzie Hill of Broughshane. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate) and in 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - Mr. Matthew Hill, Broughshane, has been notified that his son, Rifleman Matthew Hill, Royal Irish Rifles (7th Bn) has been killed in action on 8th August 1917. Deceased joined the army last winter and shortly afterwards went to the front.

CULL, Daniel, 8923, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 10th August 1917. He was born in Kirkinriola and enlisted in Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium.

GREER, William, 17770, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, died on the 10th August, 1917. He came from Corbally, Gracehill. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium.

GREER, William, 2429, Rifleman, 'C' Coy. 12th Royal Irish Rifles, aged 32, died on the 12 August 1917. He was the son of James and Margaret Greer of New Row Ahoghill. He is buried at New Irish Farm Cemetery and commemorated in 1st Ahoghill Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917 - Notification has been received by his relatives who reside at Ahoghill, Ballymena, of the death in action of Rifleman William Greer of the Machine Gun Section, Royal Irish Rifles.

Prior to joining the colours in 1914 Rifleman Greer was employed in the Lisnafillan or Lisnafillon) Works, Galgorm, and was a well known football player. He had been at the front for a year and 10 months. He lived at New Row, Ahoghill.

FLYNN, William George Acheson, 18981, Rifleman, Royal Irish Rifles. died on the 11th August 1917. Aged 22, he was born in Co. Down, had lived in Londonderry, and his father was manager of Lisnafillan Bleaching Works, Galgorm. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium and in Ahoghill Church of Ireland.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - Notification has been received from Mr. J. Flynn, formerly manager of Lisnafillan Bleaching Works, and now of Upperlands, Co Londonderry, that his son, Rifleman William Flynn, has been killed in action.

Rifleman Flynn was a member of the UVF and was the first man to enlist from the Galgorm Company.

He went to the front with the Ulster Division and prior to enlisting was employed in the Lisnafillan Works.

CRAIG, Adam, 4934, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the August 15, 1917. Aged 35, he was born in Ahoghill and enlisted in Ballymena.

He was the son of Adam and Elizabeth Craig, and his wife Jane and family of five lived at Bridgend, Galgorm. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium and in Cullybackey UF Church.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - Mrs. Craig, who resides at Bridge End, Galgorm, has been informed that her husband, Rifleman Adam Craig, Royal Irish Rifles, has been killed in action.

Rifleman Craig was a son of the late Mr. Adam Craig and joined the colours shortly after the outbreak of hostilities. He was employed in the Lisnafillan Bleaching Works and leaves a wife and five children.

McCARTNEY, Andrew, 19092, Lance Corporal, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds on the 15th August 1917. Aged 23, he was the son of Sam McCartney, Henry Street, Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - Information has been received by Mr. Samuel McCartney, hairdresser, Henry Street, that his only son, Lance Corporal Andrew McCartney, Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds received in action in the recent heavy fighting in which the Ulster Division took part.

Unofficial information received last week by Mr. McCartney stated that his son had been severely wounded, having lost a leg.

Prior to enlisting in 1914, Lance Corporal McCartney was a fitter in Messrs. Kane Brothers, Harryville.

He was a member of the Rechabite Order, also a member of Ballee LOL and of the RBP.

AYRE, Samuel, 1281, Rifleman, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on August 16, 1917. He is named on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. Aged 28, he was born in Kirkinriola, Ballymena. He was the son of James Ayre, Glenavy, and his wife Rachel lived at Hill Street, Crumlin.

BAMBER (also spelled Bammer), Robert, 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed in action on August 16, 1917. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He was born in Ahoghill and enlisted in Ballymena. He was the son of Susan Bamber, Springwell Street, Ballymena.

Ballymena Observer, September 14, 1917 - Private Robert Bamber, Royal Irish Fusiliers (Trench Mortar Battery), killed on action on August 16th, was a son of Mrs. Susan Bamber, Springwell Street, Ballymena. Deceased was in the big offensive on that date when he was struck by a shell and killed instantly.

His commanding officer writes: 'He was a good boy and a brave soldier.'

BELL, William, 9955, Rifleman, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on August 16, 1917. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Aged 25, he was the son of Alexander and Catherine Bell, Broughshane, and he enlisted in Ballymena.

CRAWFORD, Thomas, 27488, Private, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (formerly 6068 3rd Royal Irish Rifles), died of wounds on the 9th August, 1917. He is buried Mont Huon Military Cemetery, France. He was born and lived Ahoghill and enlisted in Ballymena. He is commemorated in Ahoghill Church of Ireland.

HAMILTON, James, 1293, Corporal, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action 10th August 1917. Aged 20, he was born at Duneane, Randalstown and enlisted in Lisburn. He was the son of John Hamilton of Ballymatoskerty, Toomebridge. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate), Belgium.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917 - The relatives of Lance Corporal James Hamilton, Royal Irish Rifles, of Ballymatoskerty, Toomebridge, have been informed that he was killed in action on August 12 (sic) , 1917.

HAMILTON, John, 10827, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles (formerly 6919 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) was killed in action on the 10th August 1917. He was born at Glenravel and enlisted in Glasgow. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate).

HARRIS, Hugh, 720, Rifleman, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds on the 9th August 1917. He was born in Ahoghill and enlisted in Ballymena. He was the only son of Robert Harris of Craigs, Cullybackey. He is buried Wieltje Farm Cemetery, Ypres and commemorated in Cullybackey UF Church.

Ballymena Observer, September 14, 1917 - Mr. Robert Harris, Craigs, Cullybackey, has received intimation to the effect that his only son, Hugh, Royal Irish Rifles, has died of wounds received in action. Prior to enlisting about two years ago, he was in the employment of Mr. Hugh Coulter, Ballyconnelly, Cullybackey.

CROWE, Agnew, 794, Lance Corporal, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, aged 19, was killed in action on the 16th August, 1917. He was the son of Pat and Mary Crowe, Glenhead, Glenwherry. He enlisted in Belfast and is commemorated on then Tyne Cot Memorial and in Glenwherry Presbyterian Church.

DUNLOP, Nathaniel, 5700, Rifleman, 7th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 20, he was born at Craigs, Cullybackey and enlisted in Ballymena. He was the son of John Dunlop, Loan, Cullybackey. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in Cullybackey UF Church. He is also named on the family headstone just north of the now disused church.

Ballymena Observer, September 7, 1917 - Signaller Nathaniel Dunlop, Royal Irish Rifles, reported killed in action on 16th August, was the second son of Mr. John Dunlop, Loan, Cullybackey. He enlisted in February 1916 at the age of 18 years and after training in Carrickfergus and Newtownards, proceeded to France in April. Prior to enlistment he was in the employment of Mr. A. Harbison, Cullybackey, as a carpenter. Signaller Dunlop was a member of the UCF Sabbath School and was awarded prizes for regular attendance extending over 10 years.

GARRETT, James, 10554, Rifleman, 7th Royal Irish Rifles (formerly S/19159 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He enlisted in Paisley but came from Tamneybrack. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in Buckna Presbyterian Church.

JAMISON, David, 657, Rifleman, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He was the son of Robert Jamison of Greenvale Street, Ballymena. He is named on the Tyne Cot Memorial and commemorated in Harryville Presbyterian Church.

KENNEDY, Alexander, 3794, Rifleman, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 8th August 1917. Aged 32, he was the son of James and Eliza Kennedy of Cullybackey Road, Ahoghill and he lived at Buick Row, Ahoghill. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate) and in 2nd Ahoghill (Trinity) Presbyterian Church.

KENNEDY, Arthur, 815, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 27, he was the son of James and Jane Kennedy, Craigs, Cullybackey and he lived at Broughdone, Cullybackey. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in Cullybackey UF Church.

Ballymena Observer, September 14, 1917 - Mr. James Kennedy, Cullybackey, has received the following letter from the Rev. A. Gibson, Chaplain to the Forces, informing him that his son, Rifleman Arthur Kennedy is missing:

26/8/17

Dear Mr. Kennedy,

I am very sorry to tell you that your son Rifleman A. Kennedy, Royal Irish Rifles, has been reported missing since August 16th. Unless you may have heard from him or of him from some reliable source it must be concluded that he is either killed or a prisoner of war. Sincerely hope he is not killed and I feel for you because of the suspense and anxiety that will be years for some time to come.

In six weeks to two months time we hope to hear who are prisoners and I can only ask you to have patience till then and bear up as bravely as you can.

Rifleman Arthur Kennedy was wounded on 1st July 1916 and his brother, Rifleman R. J. Kennedy is reported missing from that date (KIA July 1 1916). Another brother, Rifleman George Kennedy of the same regiment was also wounded at the battle of the Somme.

LOWRY, James, 891, Rifleman, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Service no. 891. Aged 19, he was born at Ahoghill and enlisted in Ballymena. He was the son of Thomas Lowry, Fenagh, Cullybackey. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

McILROY, Henry (Harry), 23187, Private, 11th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 25, he enlisted in Glasgow but he was the son of Mrs. Taylor, of Fenagh Cottage, Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial.

McKINNEY, James, Rifleman, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He was raised in Ballymena Union (workhouse) and 'boarded out' with Hollingers of Ahoghill. He is buried Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium and commemorated in Ahoghill Church of Ireland.

MILLS, David, 139, Rifleman, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He was born at Ballymarlow and enlisted in Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Ballymena Observer, September 7, 1917 - Information has been received by his relatives who reside in the Ballymena District that Rifleman David Mills, Royal Irish Rifles, was amongst the many brave men from Ulster who made the supreme sacrifice in the advance on 16th August

MONTGOMERY, Allan, 15634, Lance Corporal, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 24, born at Antrim and was the son of Robert and Annie Montgomery of The Cottage, Castle Street, Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial and Wellington Street Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery, Castle Street, Ballymena, have received intimation that their son, Lance Corporal Allan Montgomery, Royal Irish Rifles, has been reported killed in action.

Rev. John Knowles in a letter dated 21st August 1917 says:

I write to express to you my sincere sympathy in the great loss that has come to you through the death of your son, 15634 Lance Corporal A. Montgomery, who was killed in action on August 16th. I am very sorry that up to the present, his body has not been recovered but we hope that soon an advance may take place which will render this possible. Your son has seen much service out here and in everything that he did he proved himself a brave and gallant soldier, and we were all sorry to hear that the decoration for which he had been recommended, and which he thoroughly merited, was somehow never bestowed upon him. Now he has won a soldier's higher honour by laying down his life fighting for a glorious cause. He has been faithful unto death and we all mourn his loss and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to you.

Lance Corporal Montgomery was on three occasions recommended for distinctions, amongst them being the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery.

NEVIN, William, 15696, Acting Company Sergeant Major, 14th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 22, and of Clonavon, Ballymena, he was the son of Mr. And Mrs. S. Nevin, Finaghy Park, Belfast. His wife lived at Mill Street, Ballymena. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - Sergeant William Nevin, Royal Irish Rifles, was a native of Ballymena and formerly resided at Clonavon. He is the eldest son of Mr. Samuel Nevin, now of Chadwick Street, Belfast. His father was for some time a tailor in the employment of Messrs. Barclay and Crawford, Ballymena and his grandmother, Mrs. Nevin resides in Mill Street, Ballymena. He returned to the front in May last after recovering from wounds received in action on 1st July 1916. He was previously in the employment of Lafayette, Donegal Place, Belfast, as a photographer and was a member of the original YCVs.

REA, James, 3/8834, Lance Corporal, 8th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 20, he was the son of Matthew and Hanna Rea, Drumcrow, Carnalbanagh. He is buried in Tyne Cot Military Cemetery and commemorated in Carnalbanagh Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, August 17, 1917 - Intimation has been received by Mr. Matthew Rea, Carnalbana, in a letter from the front, that his son, Lance Corporal James Rea, Royal Irish Rifles (8th Btn) has been killed in action. Deceased enlisted from Renfrew, Scotland, two years ago, where he was employed and had been about nine months at the front.

REID, Thomas, 8360, Sergeant, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 31, he was the son of James Knox Reid and Grace Reid of Knockboy, Broughshane. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, September 14, 1917 - Mr. James Reid of Ballycloughan, Broughshane, has been officially notified that his son Sergeant Thomas Reid 1st Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on August 16th.

REID, Robert, 42883, Private, 8th Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in action on the 20th September 1917. He was born in Ballymena and enlisted in Yorkshire. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

ROBINSON, William John, DCM, 40839, Lance Corporal, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He was the son of Joseph Robinson of Rathkeel, Broughshane. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in 1st Broughshane Presbyterian Church.

Ballymena Observer, September 14, 1917 - Mr. Joseph Robinson of Rathkeel, Broughshane, has received a letter from the war office stating that his son, Corporal W. J. Robinson has been killed in action. He went to the front in December 1916

SMITH, Samuel, 14926, Sergeant, 11th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He was born at Toome and enlisted in Belfast. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in Wellington Street Presbyterian Church, Ballymena.

STEWART, James, 7275, Rifleman, 11th Royal Irish Rifles, killed in action on the 8th August 1917. Aged 18, he was the son of Robert and Jane Stewart, Main Street, Randalstown. Aged 18, he is buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery, Ypres and commemorated in Randalstown Old Presbyterian (The OC) Church.

THOMPSON, Scott, 4935, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. Aged 35, he was the son of James and Mary Jane Thompson of Lisnafillan, Ballymena and he was the brother of Charles Thompson above. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and in Gracehill Moravian Cemetery.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917 - The relatives of Rifleman Scott Thompson, Royal Irish Rifles, who reside at Lisnafillan, Galgorm, have received information to the effect that he was killed in the recent offensive. Rifleman Thompson was formerly employed in the Lisnafillan Bleaching Works. He was previously wounded and, after recovering, returned to the front. His brother Charles (Thompson) was lost in the recent disaster which overtook HMS Vanguard.

WATSON, William J., 19298, Rifleman, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 16th August 1917. He was the only son of Robert Watson, Alexander Street, Ballymena and the brother of Mrs. Sarah Russell of Henry Street, Harryville, Ballymena. He is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial.

Ballymena Observer, September 7, 1917 - Mr. Robert Watson, Alexander Street, Ballymena, has received notification to the effect that his only son, Rifleman William J. Watson, 12th Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on 16th August. Rifleman Watson, who enlisted in September 1914 was wounded at the Somme on July 1st 1916, receiving a gunshot wound to the right arm. Prior to joining the colours he was in the employment of the Braidwater Spinning Company.

WHITE, Robert, 7896, Rifleman, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on the 10th August 1917. He was the son of Samuel White, Knockboy, Broughshane. He is commemorated on the Ypres Memorial (Menin Gate).

Ballymena Observer, September 29, 1917 - Mr Samuel White. Knockboy, Broughshane, has been notified by the war office that his son, Private Robert White, Royal Irish Rifles, has been killed in action on 10th August last. This is Mr. White's second son to meet the same fate. The other, Private William White, Irish Guards being killed on 15th September 1916. Mr. White has another son and a son-in-law serving at the front.

Wounded in this period

Captain Murray of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who is reported dangerously wounded by a gunshot in the head is formerly of Ballymena. He is a son in law of Mr. Huston Lancashire, chairman of the Ballymena Urban Council.

At the outbreak of war Captain Murray was an inspector of the Scottish Widows Provident Association in Dublin, a position which he immediately gave up and joined the Rugby Football Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, as a private.

He took part in the landing at the Dardanelles where he was in the machine gun section and on the morning after the landing he was recommended for promotion, shortly afterwards being gazetted a second lieutenant. He also participated in the Serbian Campaign, in which he was wounded and when in France was mentioned in dispatches by Sir Douglas Haig. He was a popular footballer and tennis player in Ballymena and was educated at Ballymena Academy.

Ballymena Observer, August 24th, 1917

Mr. R. J. Craig, Randalstown, has received intimation from the war office that his eldest son, Captain James Craig, Royal Irish Rifles, was severely wounded on 17th August, receiving gunshot wounds on the right arm and thigh.

He is at present in a Red Cross Hospital. Captain Craig was previously wounded on 10th July 1916 in the chest, neck and arms. He returned to active service in February.

He was at the Queen's University, Belfast, as a medical student when the war broke out and applied for and was granted a commission in the Royal Irish Rifles. While training in the South of Ireland he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and when the 16th (Irish) Division moved to England in the spring of 1915 he was made adjutant of his battalion at the age of 21 and was perhaps the youngest adjutant in the British Army. He was a prominent athlete.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

2nd Lieutenant (John) Taylor, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who received gunshot wounds in the recent advance on 16th August is a son of Mr. James Taylor, Galgorm Parks, Ballymena.

Prior to joining the army, he was employed in Londonderry, where he gave up a good position and enlisted as a ranker. He later obtained his commission and suffered from shell-shock last year. His brother, Rifleman David Taylor is serving at the front with the Royal Irish Rifles.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

Sergeant Major Lorimer, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, whose parents reside at Alexander Street, Ballymena, has been wounded in the foot and ankle and is at present in hospital at Boulougne. He was previously wounded and is one of five brothers with the colours.

Ballymena Observer, August24, 1917

Mr. William Smyth, The Curragh, Ballymena, has been officially informed that his two sons, 2nd Lieutenant J. Smyth of the Royal Irish Rifles and 2nd Lieutenant T. W. Smyth of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, have been wounded.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

Mr. George Russell Snr., Patrick Place, Ballymena, has received a letter from his son, Lance Corporal James E. Russell, Royal Irish Rifles, stating that on 17th August, he was thrown off a fully loaded lumber wagon, one of the wheels of which passed over both legs which were badly bruised.

He is at present in the 5th General Hospital, Portsmouth. His wife resides at 79 Paisley Street, Glasgow. His brother, Rifleman Samuel E. Russell, Royal Irish Rifles was twice wounded last July and is at present in an Auxiliary Hospital in Perth, Scotland.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

Information has been received by Mr. David Kerr, Greenmount Terrace, Ballymena, informing him that his son, Lance Corporal David Kerr, Royal Irish Rifles, has been reported seriously wounded in the head and shoulder. He has also had his right arm amputated in hospital.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

and on August 31 : Nursing staff have informed the family that Lance Corporal Kerr's left arm has been amputated.

Mrs. Millar, Harperstown, Cullybackey, has received intimation that her son, Rifleman Ben Millar, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded in action. He received shell shock on 1st July 1916 but soon recovered and has been on active service for the past year. Prior to enlisting he worked at the Hillmount Works, Cullybackey.

Ballymena Observer, August24, 1917

Mr. William Nelson of Market Road, Ballymena, has been notified that his son, Rifleman William Nelson, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded.

Rifleman Nelson was previously wounded in the thigh on 1st July 1916 and prior to enlisting was an apprentice fitter at the Braidwater Foundry, Harryville.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

Mrs. Watson, Gilmore Street, Harryville, has been notified that her son, Rifleman Charles Watson, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded in the left shoulder. This is the second time Rifleman Watson has been wounded, receiving slight injuries in the arm and foot on 1st July 1916. He enlisted in July 1915 prior to which he worked at the Braidwater Spinning Mill. He has a brother serving at the front with the Royal Irish Rifles.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

Information has been received by his relatives who reside at John Street, Ballymena, that Rifleman John Scullion, Royal Irish Rifles, has been gassed.

Rifleman Scullion, a well known Ballymena footballer, was wounded in the advance of 1st July 1916 and prior to enlisting worked in the Braidwater Mill.

Ballymena Observer, August 24, 1917

Lance Corporal James Craig, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who has been wounded and is now in a Canadian Hospital, is the youngest son of Mrs. Craig, 33 Albert Place, Ballymena. He first enlisted in the North Irish Horse and afterwards joined the Inniskillings. Prior to joining the army he was employed in Milford Foundry, Belfast and Kane Bros. Foundry, Harryville, Ballymena.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Mr. David Magee, 60 Queen Street, Ballymena, has been notified that his son, Private William J. Magee, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded in the right arm. Private Magee enlisted in September 1914 and went to the front with the Ulster Division.

His brother, Rifleman Robert Magee, who was personal servant to Lieutenant B. Stuart, M.C., Royal Irish Rifles, died of wounds received in action in March 1916.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Mrs. Robinson, Castle Street, Ballymena, has been notified that her husband, Rifleman George Robinson, Royal Irish Rifles, has received severe gunshot wounds. Prior to joining the colours shortly after the outbreak of war he was employed in a large ironworks firm in Coatbridge, Scotland.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Notification has also been received by Mrs. Robinson, Castle Street, that her son, Driver Samuel Robinson, Army Service Corps, has been admitted to hospital suffering from mild valvular disease of the heart. Driver Robinson has been almost two years in France and before joining the army worked at the Braidwater Mill.

Mrs. Robinson has the record of 29 near relatives serving with the colours.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Mrs. Lynn, Castle Street, Ballymena, has received information that her son, Rifleman J. Service, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded in the left thigh and right shoulder. He was formerly a mechanic in the Braidwater Mill and before joining the army in October 1914 was employed on the Queen's Island, Belfast. He came through the Battle of the Somme.

Ballymena Observer,August 31, 1917

Mrs. Nixon, Parkhead, Ballymena, has been informed that her husband, Private Joseph Nixon, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was gassed during the recent fighting in France and is now in an English Hospital. Before joining the army, Private Nixon, who was 11 months at the front, was employed by Messrs. Coleman and Co. Broughshane Street, Ballymena.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Information has been received by Mrs. Larkin of 22 Hill Street, Ballymena that her son, Cyclist William Larkin, Cyclist Corps, has been wounded in the shoulder and thigh by shrapnel. Cyclist Larkin, who has been two years at the front, was formerly employed in Messrs. Lipton's Branch in Ballymena. His brother, Thomas Larkin, Royal Irish Rifles, was wounded last year and took part in operations to secure Dublin during the rebellion of 1916.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Mrs. Rock, Ballygarvey, Ballymena, has been notified that her son, Rifleman James Rock, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded. Prior to enlisting he worked for the Midland Railway Company.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Information has been received by the relatives of Private William Marcus, Carncoagh, to the effect that he is badly wounded. Prior to joining the Labour Brigade, he was employed by Mr. Alex Clyde, registered plumber, Ballymena, as a quarryman and pump sinker. He joined the labour brigade in March of the present year.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Information has been received by Mr. Robert Brown, Drumack, Rasharkin, that his son Rifleman Matthew Brown, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded in action. Rifleman Brown, the son of a very respectable farmer, joined the colours shortly after the outbreak of war.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Mr. James Kyle, Rasharkin, has received information that his son, Rifleman Robert Kyle, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded in action. Rifleman Kyle, prior to enlisting was a farm servant working in the district of Rasharkin.

Ballymena Observer, August 31, 1917

Rifleman J. Armstrong, Royal Irish Rifles, who has been wounded, is a son of Mr. Robert Armstrong, Hillmount, Cullybackey. Prior to joining the army he was employed as a tailor by Mr. W. Hepple, Wellington Street, Ballymena. He was wounded on July 1st 1916.

Ballymena Observer, September 7, 1917

Mr. D. Rock, Hillmount, Cullybackey, has received information that his son Rifleman David Rock, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded. Before enlisting he was employed in the Hillmount Works and was a member of the UVF and Dunminning LOL.

Ballymena Observer, September 7, 1917

Rifleman James Gordon, reported wounded, is a son of Mrs. Gordon, Station Road, Cullybackey. He was employed in the Maine Works prior to enlistment and was a member of the UVF and Fenagh LOL.

Ballymena Observer, September 7, 1917

Mr. John Gordon, Harperstown, Cullybackey, has been notified that his son, Rifleman Jack (James?) Gordon, Royal Irish Rifles (Central Antrim Volunteers) has been wounded in action. Prior to enlistment Rifleman Gordon was employed in the Hillmount Works and was a member of the local UVF.

Mr. Thomas Mullan, Queen Street, Ballymena, has received information that his son, Rifleman Hugh Mullan, Royal Irish Rifles, has been wounded and is in hospital in England. Rifleman Mullan was previously wounded on 1st July 1916. Prior to enlisting he was in the employment of the Midland Railway.

Observer, September 7, 1917

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