Members of the Church of Ireland played a vital role in the Great War – a war which Primate Crozier described at the time as a “war of self-preservation against barbarism and brutal excess.” He declared, “Men are wanted at the front” in the fight against “German aggressive militarism.”, and volunteers responded in their thousands!
In July 1915 the Church of Ireland Gazette stated: “The fact that more than half the Ulster Division are members of the Church of Ireland proves how well the parishes of the North have responded to the country’s appeals.” St Mary’s, Crumlin Road, Belfast, “gave almost 1000 men to the colours – a record that will be hard to beat.” Derryloran mustered 153 men, 35 of whom were to die. Private Alexander McIlree, who was killed in action at Festubert on 16th May 1915, was one of 8 brothers from the Parish of Ardtrea who served. This was acknowledged by a letter from Buckingham Palace to their mother expressing “The King's congratulations and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example, in one family, of loyalty to their Sovereign and Empire.” The rector of Ardee, Co. Louth, Canon Abraham Ford, drew up a Roll of Honour of 380 serving sons of clergy. Archbishop Crozier of Armagh had 2 sons at the front, one of them a chaplain – one of some 300 chaplains under the command of Irish Presbyterian, Rev. J.M. Simms.... The Rev WER Scott of Ardtrea volunteered but, to his regret, was turned down, whilst the rector of Derryloran, Rev. Francis Moeran, responded to an appeal for chaplains from the Archbishop and served as a chaplain for a period at Shorncliffe Camp in England, organising parades and services, and preparing men for what lay ahead. Sadly he lamented: “Dear gallant-hearted lads, so many of them to fall in those awful Flanders battles.” Canon James Hannay at the age of 50 went to France where his son was serving and was to write a book on his experiences, “A Padre in France”. One of the most famous chaplains was “Woodbine Willie”, the Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, whose father was Perpetual Curate of St Doulagh’s, Balgriffin, Co. Dublin and who graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 1904. He became vicar of St Paul’s, Worcester and volunteered for the Front in 1914, where he earned his nickname by his custom of giving out cigarettes to the troops.
One of about 10 clergy who didn’t return was the Rev. Edward Duncan from Killaloe Diocese. Attached to 103rd Infantry Brigade, he was killed on the battlefield on 11 March 1917, aged 32. In November he had been awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.” Although wounded himself, he rescued a wounded officer under very heavy fire, displaying great courage and determination.
Other chaplains honoured for bravery were Major the Rev. Arthur Ross (Military Cross), Rector of Ballymena and later Bishop of Tuam, and Rev Cyril Elliott who was twice mentioned in dispatches and later became Bishop of Connor, confirming the Rector in 1965! Field Marshal Sir John French, Commander in Chief of the British Armies in France and Flanders in his dispatch of February 1915 summed up the service of army chaplains: “I cannot speak too highly of the devoted manner in which all chaplains, whether with the troops in the trenches, or in attendance on the sick and wounded in casualty clearing stations and hospitals on the line of communications, have worked throughout the campaign.”
DERRYLORAN GREAT WAR HEROES
Pen portraits of those from the Parish who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War
Private John Parr, a teenager from London, is thought to have been the first British soldier killed in action in Europe on 21st August 1914, but we honour a Derryloran parishioner, Private Richard Cheevers, who died the day before.
Private Richard Cheevers served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and died of Illness on 20th August 1914, aged 21. He was buried in Quetta Government Cemetery, India, and commemorated on the Delhi Memorial. Richard was a son of James and Maggie Cheevers of Waterloo Place, Cookstown. He was a regular soldier and was serving in India at the outbreak of the First World War.
Richard is believed to have died of an illness contracted in India and is interred close to where he was stationed. His Battalion didn’t leave India until October 1914. He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour.
Private Robert Falls served with 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action on 26th August 1914, aged 29 . He was a son of John and Margaret Falls of Blue Doors, Cookstown and enlisted in 1903, serving for a time in China. He was a life-long friend of Private William Nixon. The two friends were almost the same age and lived next door to each other. and, tragically, they died on the same day.
Robert was well known in Cookstown. He distinguished himself in sporting circles by winning a marathon race in Malta a few years before the war when he defeated several French runners and covered the 26 miles in about three hours. His prize was a silver casket priced at the time at £10, which his widowed mother and his brothers at home greatly prized. While serving in China with the British Legation Board, Robert won a medal in a cross-country race promoted by the Army and Navy YMCA, in Peking in 1910.
After completing his time of service in the Army, Robert worked for some time in Scotland, but then returned home and found work at the Ulster Dairy School (now Loughry College) in the farmyard.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Robert joined his old regiment and was posted to the Western Front with the first draft of men. He was killed in action in the battle of Le Cateau on 26th August 1914. His unit was driven back about 200 yards before eventually recovering most of the lost ground. The Battalion lost 36 men on this day. Robert has no known grave and is commemorated on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial, France, Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour, Derryloran Cookstown. His younger brother, Samuel was killed in action while serving with the Scots Guards on 27th September 1915 at the Battle of Loos.
Private William Nixon of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was killed in action on 26th August 1914, aged 30. He was born at Blue Doors in Cookstown, and had been on the Reserve Army. Prior to the outbreak of the First World War he was employed for nine years in Greenvale Mill (Adair’s). He was called up when war was declared and sent to France with the first British Expeditionary Force. On the opening day of the Battle of Le Cateau, his Battalion were at first driven back but then recovered most of the lost ground and it was during this fighting that William was killed.
His last letter to his wife was written on the 23rd August and was received by her on the day he was killed. In it he said that he had taken God as his guide and that if they did not meet on earth his trust was that they would meet in a brighter and better world.
He left a young widow, Emma, (nee Davidson) and two children - 4 year old William and 3 year old Jean. Like his good friend, Robert Falls, he was a member of Derryloran. William Nixon is buried in Esnes Communal Cemetery in France, and is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Take comfort, Christians, when your friends in Jesus fall asleep
Their better being never ends while we dejected weep
Why inconsolable? As those to whom no hope is given
Death is the messenger of peace, and calls the soul to Heaven
Together to thy Father ’s house, with joyful hearts they go
And dwell for ever with the Lord, beyond the reach of woe
A few short years of evil past we reach the happy shore
Private Thomas William Steele of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers was killed in action on 16th September 1914, aged 20. He was born in Cookstown in the summer of 1894 and had only just turned 20 when he was killed in action on 16th September 1914 having been in the army for little over a year. When he enlisted he joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, but subsequently transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Much of his early training took place at Shorncliffe Camp on the south coast of England where the Rector of Derryloran, the Rev. Francis Moeran, was serving as Chaplain. Thomas’s father had passed away and his mother Catherine, re-married. Her second husband was Robert Martin and they lived at Church Street, Cookstown. Thomas’ brother, Robert, also enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and survived the war. The British Army, having forced the Aisne, had seized the high ground to the north and was clinging on to the southern edges of these heights, whilst the French sixth army pivoted on their left. This was the commencement of a prolonged stalemate in trench warfare, for the British found the enemy strongly entrenched. The position held was precarious. Owing to the wide level plain which lay behind the British lines all movement of reinforcement by day was in full view of the enemy. The 1st Battalion Irish Fusiliers, now in support suffered more from shellfire than troops actually in the line, protected by trenches and natural caves. This action bounded the southern side of Bucy-le-Long, a village which was almost obliterated during the battle. Thomas was the only man to be killed on the 16th September, almost certainly by shellfire, and has no known grave. He is commemorated on La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial, France. Thomas Steele is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on St. Luran’s Church of Ireland Roll of Honour, Derryloran, Cookstown.
Private Joseph Sloan of the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers died from his wounds on 2nd November 1914, aged 26. He was a son of George and Elizabeth Sloan of Grange, Cookstown. Shortly after leaving school he went to Scotland in search of work and found employment in Coatbridge. He served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers prior to the war and was called up when war was declared. The regiment embarked for France on 10th September 1914 and he served in the front line almost continuously until he was wounded on 21st October. He arrived at hospital in Cork a week later and died on 2nd November. His sister, Mrs. Cheevers, had reeived a number of letters from the Chaplain of the hospital, Reverend J.H. Murphy, telling her of Joseph’s condition. The Chaplian conducted the funeral service on 3rd November 1914 with the burial in Grangegorman Cemetery, Cork. News of his death from wounds was received with shock in Coatbridge where he was fondly remembered as an active member of East United Free Church and as a keen player with Summerlee Britannia Football Club in Coatbridge. Joseph was survived by a brother and two sisters and is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Now the labourer’s task is o’er
Now the battle day has passed
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last
Father, in thy gracious keeping
Leave me now thy servants sleeping.
Inserted by his family
Private Robert Blair served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Omagh Depot) and died of Illness on 8th April 1915. Originally a native of Castlecaulfield he had served many years overseas in Egypt. Although he died at home, he was still an army reservist with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and had been employed in Orritor quarry where he lost an eye in an accident with a traction engine. At the beginning of the war he was called up but owing to the defect in his sight he was not sent to the Western Front but was employed as a cook in the depot in Omagh. Whilst at home for Easter holidays where his wife resided at Toberlane, he became ill suffering from a severe cold. Later influenza developed and cardiac trouble. He was described as a quiet inoffensive man and respected by all who knew him. He had been married about a year to Miss Sarah Jane Kempton. He passed away on the 8th April 1915 and is interred in Cookstown New Cemetery. He is also commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran. In later years Robert’s wife would often say that she was married, widowed, and became a mother, all in the one year.
Private Joseph Taylor of the2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was killed In action on 5th May 1915, aged 48. He was born in Dungannon and was the husband of Mary with a daughter, Jane, living at Coolreaghs, Cookstown. He was a brother to Sergeant William Taylor who died of illness while on home service on 20th January 1915. Both brothers had both served with the Inniskilling Fusiliers during the Boer War in South Africa and had retired from the army to work in Cookstown. Joseph was called back to his old regiment at the outbreak of the First World War.
At the opening of the Battle of Festubert the Battalion was ordered to attack and initially encountered little resistance and it was reported that there had been 6 men killed and 40 wounded. Joseph Taylor was reported as killed in action at around 6 a.m. on the morning of 5th May 1915 and was buried at 4 p.m. later that day in Cuinchy Communal Cemetery in France. He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
My darling sleeps, but not forever,
There will be a glorious dawn,
Where we meet to part, no, never,
On the resurrection morn.
It’s hard to part with one so dear,
And say, ‘Thy Will Be Done’.
But he who chose him for his own,
Will keep him ‘til we come.
Submitted by his wife Mary and daughter Jane Taylor, Mid Ulster Mail 1915
Private Abraham Stewart of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died from his wounds on 5th November 1914 and is buried in Wimereux Cemetery in Boulogne in France. He was a son of Abraham Stewart of Dunamoney, Magherafelt, and was attached to the Special Reserve which he had joined about 1910. Abraham was called up in June 1914 and sent to Finner Camp in Donegal for a hurried few weeks of training. He went to the Front with the first draft in October and was mortally wounded and taken to a Casualty Clearing Station where he died a short time later.
He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private Edward McGeown of the1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was killed in action on 28th April 1915, aged 20. He was born in Cookstown and was the son of James and Mary Jane McGeown of Killymoon Street. The family later moved to live at 27 Milfort Avenue in Dunmurry, but retained their links with Cookstown. In 1913 Edward joined the 4th Hussars, but after one year of service he underwent surgery for appendicitis. He was subsequently considered unfit for cavalry work in the Hussars and, refusing to transfer to a foot regiment, he was discharged. He re-enlisted with the Inniskillings in Cookstown at the outbreak of war and was sent to Gallipoli where he was killed in action during the first Battle of Krithia on 28th April 1915, just a few days after landing on the Peninsula. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial in Turkey. He had an older brother who had served in a Derbyshire Regiment and had gone through the Boer War without a scratch, but who was to die later in Singapore as a result of sunstroke. Just before Edward was killed his parents received a letter from him in which he said: “We have not done any fighting yet, but by all appearances it won’t be very long now. We are all ready to face the music and the men are all in the best of health.”
Sergeant William Taylor served at the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Depot and died of Illness on 20th January 1915. He was one of 3 brothers who served in the army during the Boer War in South Africa, and after his term of service had expired he returned to Cookstown to work. He was married with 7 children and was a regular attender at Derryloran. His services were called upon in 1912 on the formation of the Ulster Volunteers where he acted as an instructor with the Cookstown company. At the outbreak of the First World War he joined his old regiment as a recruiting officer, and it was during this time that he contracted pneumonia and died on 20th January 1915. He received a full regimental funeral, with the service overseen by Reverend F.M. Moran (Rector) and Reverend J. Bloomer (Curate), with funeral arrangements carried out by Mr. Robert Steenson. William is buried in Cookstown New Cemetery and does not have a commonwealth war grave. Sergeant William Taylor was a brother of Private Joseph Taylor (2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) who was later killed in action on 5th May 1915.
Private Samuel Falls of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards was killed in action on 27th September 1915, aged 26. He was born in Tempo in County Fermanagh, the son of John and Margaret Falls, of Blue Doors, Killymoon, Cookstown, and brother of Robert Falls (killed in action on 26th August 1914). He was working in Glasgow when he enlisted in the Scots Guards, by which time his father had passed away. Samuel was killed in Action on the 27th September 1915 during the Battle of Loos and has no known grave. He is commemorated on Loos Memorial in France, on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private William Wilson of the 7th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died from his wounds on 28th April1916, aged 31. He was born in Ballyronan, County Londonderry, and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Wilson from Church Street, Cookstown. At the outbreak of war, he had been working and living in Scotland with his sister Mrs McGlade in Airdrie, and enlisted in the ranks of the Inniskilling Regiment there. The 7th Inniskillings were trained at Randalstown, County Antrim and Finner Camp, Ballyshannon, County Donegal. They were posted to France in February 1916 with the battalion losing many from its ranks in early engagements with the enemy soon after at the Battle of Hulluch. In the early hours of the morning of the 27th April 1916, the 7th Inniskillings were subject to ferocious machine gun and rifle fire, followed by an artillery bombardment and the release of gas. Private Wilson died of wounds as a result of the gas attack and is buried at Philosophe British Military Cemetery, Mazingarbe, France. He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
William’s brothers, Thomas, John and Adam also served during the First World War, and his father, Samuel died as a result of an accident in Glasgow, on 8th March 1919, age 63.
For many years our family chain
Submitted to the Mid Ulster Mail, by Samuel Wilson, May 1916
Was closely linked together,
But, oh! That chain is broken now
One link has gone forever.
But the hardest part is yet to come,
When heroes do return;
When I miss among the cheering crowd
My, dear beloved son
Private James Espey served in the1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action: on 28th June 1915
He was born in the parish of Derryloran, and with his wife, Mary, lived in Chapel Street, Cookstown.
Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, James enlisted in Cookstown with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
They were posted to Gallipoli, a strange and hostile environment for men unaccustomed to the hot climate. Clean drinking water was constantly in short supply and men fought to secure a tenuous foothold.
The 1st Battalion lost 10 men on the 28th June 1915, among them, James Espey and James McGhee, from Cookstown. Both were killed in action in the assault on the Turkish trench during the Battle of Gully Ravine. James’ body was recovered and buried at the time but when the Commonwealth War Graves Commission came to build the Cemeteries his grave could not be found. He is commemorated at the Special Memorial at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Turkey, Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour
Private William George Little of the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers died from his wounds on 17th May 1915 and is remembered in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery in Turkey. He was born in Moneymore and lived at Blue Doors in Cookstown. He enlisted at Finner Camp in Donegal when he was 16 and served with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for 8 years in China and India with Robert Falls and William Nixon, two of his childhood friends. The Battalion sailed for the Mediterranean in March 1915 and landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25th April 1915, where they suffered very heavy casualties - the open terrain often leaving the men exposed to enemy fire. During this action on 17th May, William was wounded and died from his wounds a few hours later. Between April 1915 and January 1916 the battalion lost 436 men in this campaign.
In a letter to William’s mother, the Reverend O. Creighton, Church of England Chaplain with Mediterranean Forces at Gallipoli (May 18th 1915) stated: “I buried Private William Little, No.9584, Inniskilling Fusiliers who died of wounds yesterday on a hill just above ‘Y’beach, next to one or two of his comrades, at about 8.30pm last night and concealed his grave. He lies among the hills over looking the sea. Everything had been done that was possible for him by the R.A.M.C., but his wound was fatal. “
William’s mother received a letter from his friend, Private Espie who told her that William was treated at the same hospital as him and that William had only lived for 6 hours after being wounded. Subsequently the whereabouts of the marked grave was lost and William is commemorated in Turkey, on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour as William Lyttle.
He sleeps upon a foreign shore,
Verse chosen by his mother, appeared in Mid Ulster Mail 1915
But when his mortal life is o’er
May we reunite in Heaven
Clasp him again the one we love
Rest evermore in Heaven above.
Private James Smyth served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action on 1st July 1916
James Smyth was born at in the parish of Derryloran, but was working at Clydebank, Scotland at the out break of war and returned home to enlist at Finner Camp in County Donegal, joining the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
On the morning of 1st July 1916, the 9th Inniskillings attacked close to where the Ulster Tower now stands and were successful in capturing the Schwaben Redoubt, and holding it until forced to withdraw through lack of ammunition, and support on their left and right flanks.
Private Thomas Taylor of Waterloo Terrace, Cookstown, reported In a letter that James Smyth was listed as missing after 1st July and no confirmation had been received at that time as to his whereabouts.
James was later listed as killed in action on 1st July. He has no known grave and does not appear to be commemorated with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
He is however is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private Hugh Taylor served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action on 1st July 1916
He was born in Cookstown, the son of James and Elizabeth Taylor, and brother of Hetty, Emma, Mabel, Margaret, Thomas, Samuel, Oliver and William. Hugh Taylor. He worked at Gunning’s Factory, Milburn before enlisting with 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Cooktown.
Miss Annie Taylor, Milburn Street, Cooksrown, received the following letter from Major Peacock of the 9th Inniskillings: I regret to inform you that your brother, Private Hugh Taylor, of my Battalion is missing since the 1st July. He took part in the gallant attack made by the Ulster Division on that date. Every enquiry has been made regarding his fate, but without result. I cannot ask you to entertain any forlorn hopes of his turning up alive; as I am afraid he fell on that occasion. He was a good soldier and a loyal comrade. Please accept my sincere sympathy from all the ranks in the Battalion in your great loss.
Hugh Taylor was killed in action on Saturday 1st July 1916, and is one of the few Cookstown men killed on that day to have a known grave. He is buried at Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval, France. He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and Gunning’s Factory Memorial (Royal British Legion, Cookstown) and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran,.
Corporal William Nathaniel Thom served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fuiliers and was killed in action on 1st July 1916 aged 27.
He was the youngest son of William and Margaret Thom, of The Poplars, Cookstown. Known among his friends as "Nat Thom", he had been a National School Teacher in Cookstown before serving his time in the linen trade at Gunning’s Factory, Milburn. Shortly after being promoted as under-manager, the war broke out and he promptly responded to the call of King and Country, joining the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He soon gained the rank of Lance Corporal, and preferring to remain among his pals, he declined a commission in another regiment.
On the 1st July 1916, the 9th Battalion attacked up a slight rise which at first shielded them from the worst of the machine-gun fire but as they crested that rise they became a target for heavy German fire which decimated their numbers, causing a huge loss of life.
Private Thomas Taylor from Waterloo Terrace, Cookstown, wrote home to say that he was with ‘Nat’ Thom as they approached the enemy lines, and that Corporal Thom was struck in the head by a bullet.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He is also commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph, Gunning’s (Milburn) Factory Memorial (Royal British Legion Cookstown) and Derryloran Roll of Honour.
After his death his mother received letters of sympathy from Lieutenant E.W. Crawford, 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and from Mr. W Leeper, JP, on behalf of Gunnings.
Private Archibald McAllister served with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders and died from his wounds on 21st July 1916, aged 25.
He was the eldest son of John McAllister of Killymoon Street, Cookstown. Prior to enlisting in the army he had been working in Noble’s Explosive Works in Stevenston in Ayrshire. He came home at the end of 1915 and enlisted in Cookstown with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders.
He was seriously wounded during the Somme offensive and he endured a difficult journey to hospital in Rouen. By the time he reached hospital in the early hours of the morning, he was unconscious and the doctors could not save him. He had suffered serious gunshot wounds to the head.
Reverend Dr Richards, a Chaplain at the hospital, was called and remained with him until his death but he did not regain consciousness. Dr Richards wrote a letter of sympathy to the family at Cookstown.
Archie McAllister is interred at St. Sever Cemetery at Rouen, France and is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Second-Lieutenant Albert Victor Morrison served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers and was killed in action on 30th July 1916, aged 21.
He was the eldest son of Alexander and Margaret Elizabeth Morrison of Innisfallen, Cookstown and later of 38 Hopefield Avenue, Belfast. Before the war Victor was a medical student at Queen’s University and a member of the University Officer Training Corps and was a prominent football player.
He volunteered for service with the Royal Scots Fusiliers and had passed his exams and become a Second Lieutenant. He was wounded in the arm on 11th June 1916 but recovered and was sent back to his unit at the front. He was reported missing on 1st August 1916 along with fellow his officer, Lieutenant Small from Markethill, County Armagh, who was the nephew of the Reverend J. Entrican, Cookstown.
Lieutenant Morrison’s parents received the following telegram in Cookstown: Lieutenant-Colonel Walsh to Alexander Morrison at Innisfallen, Cookstown, on 13th August 1916
"I very much regret that I am unable to give you any definite news regarding your son, Lieut. A. Victor Morrison. The fighting that day was such that the very greatest uncertainty is bound to exist concerning many. Both Officers and men, who either fell or became detached from their comrades. I have made enquiries, but am unable to discover any trace of what befell your son that day. Nothing to amplify, in any way my original report. That I made on 31st July as to his being "Missing". There is, of course, the chance that he is in German hands, either as a wounded or unwounded prisoner, and I sincerely trust that such may be the case"
Victor’s body was never found and today he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private Samuel J. Curran served with the 87th Company Machine Gun Corps and was killed in action on 21st November 1916.
He was a brother of Miss Lizzie Curran, Oldtown Street, Cookstown. He was an enthusiastic member of Cookstown company of Ulster Volunteers, and was described as having a cheerful, happy disposition and popular with all, who knew him. He had been employed by, Adair & Company, Greenvale Mill, Cookstown.
He enlisted in Cookstown with the Royal Innskilling Fusilers and later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He was killed in action on 21st November 1916 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France, Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
The following is a letter written by 2nd Lieutenant Leonard K. Norris and addressed to his sister:
Dear Madam, It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your brother, Pte S.J.Curran. He was killed instantly by a bomb and I’m glad to say he didn’t suffer any pain. He was buried in the evening and a cross marks the spot where he lies. I may say that your brother will be greatly missed in our section as he was always a bright and cheerful lad and an excellent soldier in all respects, and it will be some consolation for you to know that he died as a good and brave man.
Corporal Thomas Espey served with the 4th Regiment, south African Infantry and died on 7th Januray 1918.
He was born and lived at Gortreagh before emigrating to South Africa where he enlisted in 1915.
South Africa raised 4 Infantry Battalions for the Western Front, the 4th Regiment being in action at Trones Woods at the Somme in 1916. The Brigade was also involved in battles at Arras, Ypres and Messines.
Over 146,000men served with the South African units, with 18,600 casualties including 6,600 dead, one of whom was Thomas Espey.
He is buried at Fins New British Cemetery at Sorel-Le Grand in France, and is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and Derryloran Roll of Honour.
Private Thomas Cheevers served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusilers and died from his wounds on 26thMarch 1918
He was born in Cookstown, the son of Margaret and James Cheevers, a labourer, of Millburn Street, Cookstown. and brother of Richard who died from illness on service in India in 1914. Thomas was born on 20th May 1893 and baptised in Derryloran on 21st June1893.
He was working in Scotland at the outbreak of the First World War and enlisted in Glasgow in early 1917 and returned home for training. He joined his Battalion at the front as a battle casualty replacement in late 1917 and was wounded in the retreat from St.Quentin during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918.
He died of his wounds on 26th March 1918 and is buried at Noyon New British Cemetery in France.
He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Corporal John Gilmour McGee served with the 14th Battalion Highland light Infantry and was killed in action on 27th March 1918
He was a son of Alexander McGee of Toberlane, Cookstown and was employed with his father at Wellbrook until early 1916. He was a prominent member of the Ulster Volunteers and of Orritor Orange Lodge. After leaving his position at Wellbrook he went to work in Glasgow where he joined the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and subsequently transferred to the Highland Light Infantry. He was in France from June 1916 and took part in many engagements, notably at Cambrai and Arras.
He was home on leave twice during active service. At the time of his death John had two other brothers serving in the army. George McGee was serving with the Inniskillings, and Robert with a Labour Battalion of the Royal Scots. John Gilmour McGee was one of 14 men of the 14th Highland Light Infantry who were killed in action on 27th March 1918.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing in France, on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran as J Magee.
Private Robert McNichol, M.M. served with the1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was killed in action on 30th March 1918
He was the son of Daniel and Brigid McNichol, from Killycurragh, and husband of Elizabeth McNichol.
He had previously served with the Royal Garrison Artillery before transferring to 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers. During his years of service Robert was awarded the Military Medal - awarded to men and women who had shown individual or associated acts of bravery and at least 115,000 were awarded during the First World War.
Robert’s brother Daniel was severely wounded in action during the First World War, resulting in the loss of one of his legs. He survived the war and returned to live at Killycurragh.
Robert was listed as missing, killed in action on 30th March 1918, during the German Spring Offensive of 1918. He has no known grave and is commemorated at Pozieres Memorial in France. He is also commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
He was survived by his parents, his wife Elizabeth and his brothers, Daniel and William and his sisters, Mary-Jane, Martha, Margaret and Lily.
Gunner Joseph Wylie Neill served with Royal Field Artillery and was killed in action on 17th April 1918, aged 22
He lived in Oldtown Street, Cookstown up until about 1914 and before leaving home for work in Scotland he was a member of Cookstown Company of Ulster Volunteers. He went to Clydebank to work in the shipyards of John Brown & Company. He joined the Royal Field Artillery in early 1916 listing his father, James Neill, of Clydebank as next of kin, and was sent to France in July of that same year.
It was reported at the time of his death on 17th April 1918 that he had been killed by shellfire while having his tea.
He is buried at Le Grand Hasard Military Cemetery, Hazebrouck in Belgium.
We shall know his voice in the lamb’s sweet song,
His step in the streets of Gold,
The same sweet smile on his loving face,
as he wore in the days of old.
Oh why was he taken, so young and so fair?
When earth held so many it better could spare;
Hard, was the blow that compelled us to part!
with a loved one, so near, and so dear to our heart.
Submitted to the Mid Ulster Mail by his Uncle and Aunt, Mr & Mrs Beattie, Clydebank, at Easter 1927.
Lance Corporal George Usher served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and died from his wounds on 16th October 1918, aged 19.
He was a son of James and Margaret Usher of Milburn Street, Cookstown. He was born in Cookstown and worked at Gunning’s Factory at Milburn.
He enlisted in Omagh with Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. After a period of training he was promoted Lance Corporal and joined them in a draft during 1916.
He died of wounds on 16th October 1918 and was interred at Duhallow (Advanced Dressing Station) Cemetery.
When the war was over and the cemeteries were being laid out, George’s family were asked if they would like a personal inscription added to the headstone and they chose the following:- “I shall go to him but he shall not return to me”.
2 Samuel Chapter 12, Verse 26.
George Usher is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph, on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran and Gunning’s Factory Memorial in Cookstown Royal British Legion Hall.
Private David George Curran served with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and died from his wounds on 23rd October 1918, aged 19.
He was a son of David and Elizabeth Curran of Oldtown Street and worked at Gunnings Factory. He enlisted in Cookstown late in 1916 and had been through many of the campaigns towards the end of the First World War. He was seriously wounded in both legs on 14th October 1918, and was taken to No 44 Casualty Clearing station where one of his legs was amputated. David was seriously ill and spent much of his time in the company of the Chaplain of the station where he spoke of his love for his mother and the other members of the family at home. He died of his wounds on 23rd October 1918.
Following his death the Chaplain wrote to the family and the letter concludes: I know how sore your heart will be, and that your hope will be desolate without him. But I hope you will try to remember that your loss is His gain and it is well with your boy. Everything was done for him that was humanly speaking possible but his wounds were so severe that he passed away at 4.00pm on 23rd October 1918.
He is buried at Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery near Ypres and is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph, Gunning Factory Memorial in the Royal British Legion, Cookstown and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Mervyn Jack McGeown is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll Of Honour in Derryloran as M.J. McGeown. The census results of 1901 reveal that Mervyn was the son of William and Mary McGeown who lived in house 2 in Coolnahavil with his sister Annie (1). Cookstown. By the time of 1911 census, Mervyn’s mother had died and Mervyn Jack was 11 years old, living at 55 Killymoon Street with his grandfather Thomas Ferguson, his father, Uncle John and Aunt Annie, sister Annie (12) and brother Thomas (5).
He joined up and served for 166 days when he developed Tuberculosis in training camp and was discharged on medical grounds.
We have no other details about him. He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private Hugh Ashfield served with the10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and died from his wounds on 11th August 1917
He was the son of Hugh and Annie Ashfield (nee Greer) and with his sisters, Eliza-May and Lydia lived , at Killymoon Street, Cookstown.
He enlisted in the army at Omagh and went out with a draft of men after the Battle of the Somme. He was wounded at the Battle of Pilkhem Ridge and taken to a casualty clearing station (C.C.S.) where he died of his wounds on 11t August 1917. Private David Armstrong from Stewartstown was taken to the same C.C.S. and also died. Hugh was buried with full military honours at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium, close to David Armstrong.
He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private William Long served with the 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and died from his wounds on 8th October 1918
He was born in Cookstown and lived at Milburn Street, working at Gunning’s Factory (Milburn) prior to enlisting with the 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Omagh. His wife died in 1916 and his young daughter was cared for by relatives.
By October 1918 he had been involved in a number of engagements of the War but was seriously wounded at Le Catelet when the enemy put down a barrage. The leading Company was caught in this onslaught and the column halted.
William was seriously wounded and removed to the Casualty Clearing Station at Tincourt. He died there later that evening and is buried at Tincourt Cemetery in France.
He is commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph, Derryloran’s Roll of Honour and on Gunning’s Factory Memorial in the Royal British Legion Hall, Cookstown.
William Long’s brother Samuel also served during the First World War.
Private Joseph Stewart served with the 7th/8th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action on 21st March 1918, aged 24.
He was born in Pomeroy and was a son of Mrs. Annie Mabin. He came to Cookstown and lived with his wife Lily at Church Street.
He enlisted in Omagh with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and went off to war.
He was killed in action on 21st March 1918, the first day of the German Spring offensive.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France, on Cookstown Cenotaph and the Derryloran Roll of Honour.
Lance Sergeant Robert J. Millar served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action on 1st July 1916, aged 35
He was a son of Joseph and Mary Millar of Millburn Street, Cookstown, and was married to Elizabeth Jane Millar of Eagerlougher, Loughgall in County Armagh.
He enlisted at Kingstown with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was sent to France in October of 1915 in time for the build up to the Somme offensive. He was killed in action on the 1st July 1916 in No Man’s Land and has no known grave.
He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France, on Cookstown Cenotaph and our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
Private Alexander McLernon served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was killed in action on 1st July 1916
He was born in Cookstown and later married Sarah Jane Nelson. He worked at Gunning’s Factory, Milburn, before enlisting with the Fusiliers.
On 1st July 1916, when the 9th Inniskillings made their advance toward the Schwaben Redoudt, Alexander was seen to have been severely wounded This was reported later in a letter by Private Thomas Taylor of Waterloo Terrace, Cookstown. At the end of July his wife received a letter from Colonel Ambrose Ricardo, stating that all efforts to find her husband had failed and he hoped that he may still be alive and a prisoner of war.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial to the Missing at the Somme. He is also commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph, Gunning’s Factory Memorial in the Royal British Legion Hall, Cookstown and on our Roll of Honour in Derryloran.
The following have Derryloran connections:-
Gunner William Thompson served with the 237th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery and died on 12th November 1917.
He was born at Meenan in County Down and lived for a while in Tandragee, County Armagh, before moving to Cookstown to work, living for a number of years at 12 Fortview Terrace with his wife Mary and their five children, William, Samuel, Alice, Jean and Violet.
He enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery in Belfast and went off to war. He is described as having died at the front on 12th November 1917, and was buried at Neoux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery Extension in France - a cemetery chiefly used by 6th and 7th Casualty Clearing Stations between August 1917 and December 1918.
William Thompson is commemorated on the Tandragee War Memorial.
Members of his family still live in Cookstown and attend Derryloran Parish Church.
Private George Bleakes served in the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and died on the 1st August 1918, aged 40.
He was a son of Elizabeth Bleakes of North Street, Stewartstown and was born in Dungannon about 1878. He enlisted in Cookstown and was captured during the German Offensive of 1918 and died in a prisoner of war camp on 1st August 1918. He is interred in Glageon Cemetery, about 56 kilometres east of Cambrai in France
The village of Glageon was in German occupation for most of the First World War. The communal cemetery was used for the burial of German soldiers and allied prisoners of war from September 1914 to August 1918. There are 54 Commonwealth war dead buried here out of a total of 220 graves.
George is commemorated on Stewartstown Cenotaph and Donaghendry Parish Roll of Honour (as George Bleeks). The Surname ‘Bleakes’, is more commonly spelt as ‘Bleeks’. It is not known which way the family spelled the name but records show it spelled in both forms. He is a grandfather of Billy Bleeks of Cooke Crescent.
Sergeant James Lynn MM was the son of James Lynn, a railway porter, and Elizabeth a dress maker, of Coalisland, Co. Tyrone. He was born on 23 September 1882 and was serving with the 906th Company of the Royal Army Service Corps when he died in Haifa, Palestine on 7th August 1920, aged 37. He was one of 4 brothers who died on service of whom 2 are buried in Belgium, 1 in France and 1 in Israel. Their nephew, Alan Marsh, is a parishioner of Derryloran. Derryloran pilgrims visited Sergeant Lynn’s grave in Haifa in 2015.