The centenary of the loss of HMS Drake and HMS Brisk off the North West Coast of Ireland.

HMS Drake was the lead ship of her class of armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy around 1900.  She was flagship of the 6th Cruiser Squadron of the 2nd Fleet on it’s incorporation into the Grand Fleet upon the outbreak of World War I.

She remained with the Grand Fleet until refitted in late 1915 when she was transferred to the North America and West Indies Station for convoy escort duties. HMS Drake was torpedoed by German submarine U-79 off the Irish North Coast on 2 Oct 1917 and sank in shallow water with the loss of 18 lives.

Shortly afterwards the destroyer HMS Brisk made a sweep up the Sound to assist her and was hit by U-79, firing one torpedo amidships causing a catastrophic explosion which broke her in two. The bow section sank in the Sound and the stern section was eventually towed into Derry. The explosion killed 32 men outright with another surviving with severe burns until pneumonia eventually took his life on 31 Oct 1917. 

U-79 had a successful day, also sinking the Steamer Lugano, although no casualties were reported.

Of the 18 men who died on HMS Drake, Petty Officer Stoker Robert O’Brien was the only Irishman. He was from Skerries, County Dublin.

Of the 32 men who died on HMS Brisk, four were from Ireland.  Officer’s Steward William Argent had Irish links as his mother Sarah was notified of his death at the Kinsale Coastguard Station in Cork. 

The four Irishmen were Seaman Adam Carthy – born in Kinsale, Stoker Michael Fay – born in County Meath, Leading Seaman Michael Flood was a Cork native and Petty Officer Stoker John Owens was born in Lusk, County Dublin.

Able Seaman Cyril Brook who died from his injuries is buried along with three of his crewmates at Londonderry City Cemetery.  None of the other men’s bodies was found, and their grave remains the sea.

There was a Commemoration Service and Service at Sea today in Ballycastle for those who died to mark the centenary of their deaths.  

Photo: Robert White

 

 

 

 

Missing Names Project – Ballymena and District

You are encouraged to come forward with names currently missing from Ballymena and District War Memorial.

Mid and East Antrim citizens have been encouraged to take part in a consultation aimed at ensuring all local people who lost their lives during the First World War are remembered on Ballymena and District’s War Memorial.

Earlier this year Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed the addition of verified missing names of the Fallen on the monument in Memorial Park, Ballymena.

In 2013 it was discovered that some local soldiers who died in The Great War were not honoured on the Memorial.

Research undertaken by WW1 Research Ireland has found that up to 172 names could be missing.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “I would encourage local people and those from further afield to check if their forebear is on the published list of missing names and, if not, for them to share their information during the consultation period which has just opened. We would wish to ensure as best we can that all those who made the ultimate sacrifice from Ballymena and district are now remembered side by side on the Memorial with the existing names of those who lost their lives. This includes any relevant local women who served in clerical or nursing roles.”

Ballymena and District War Memorial was unveiled in 1924 after a fundraising effort raised just over £1,000.

It is unknown how the 495 names were gathered by the then War Memorial Committee in the early 1920s but through professional research, using agreed criteria, it has emerged that some of those who were killed in action or subsequently died of wounds have been overlooked until now.  

A public call for anyone who believes that their relative should be included for verification has been made by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Council’s Museum and Heritage Service at Mid-Antrim Museum is conducting the consultation facilitated by History Hub UIster.  

The consultation will be conducted through History Hub Ulster – please click here.

Primarily the criteria requires that the proposed person was born and/or enlisted in Ballymena or District, or was born in Ballymena or District and enlisted elsewhere including Dominion Forces.  

Other criteria requirements are that the proposed person was killed in action or subsequently died of wounds before August 1921, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cut-off date for First World War Fallen.  

A current database of the existing names on Ballymena War Memorial and verified names collated through ongoing research is also available to view on the page. 

Members of the public who have no access to the internet, or who would prefer to submit their information in person, are welcome to call into The Braid, Ballymena, on either Thursday 26 or Saturday 28 October. Mid-Antrim Museum staff will be available between 10am – 1pm on both days in the museum atrium to accept submissions. 

Files containing the list of existing names on the War Memorial and verified names recently collected through research will be available to view.  The 1924 Ballymena Rural District Council boundary map will also be available.

The online consultation opened on Monday 25 September and will close on Friday 10 November 2017. All names supplied, either online or in person, will be verified prior to inclusion in the final list of names missing from the War Memorial.  Members of the public who submit names for consideration will be advised accordingly.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council have undertaken to have the engraving of verified names completed on Ballymena’s War Memorial in time for the national Centenary of the Armistice on 11 November 2018.  An application is being prepared to the War Memorials Trust in London to support this initiative.

Click here for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midland Railway War Memorial

In the aftermath of the Great War, many commercial organisations and companies produced war memorials and Rolls of Honour to commemorate the part played by their employees.  The railway companies were no exception – the Great Northern Railway Company installed identical memorial plaques in Belfast and Dublin, the Belfast & County Railway Company installed a plaque in the Queen’s Quay terminus and the Midland Railway Company (Northern Counties Committee) installed an obelisk memorial in the concourse in the York Road Railway Station.

At 12:15 on Thursday 24th November 1921, the Midland Railway Company War Memorial was unveiled and dedicated – the following words being inscribed underneath the company emblem on the front face of the base of the memorial:

In honour of the members of the staff

who volunteered and served in His

Majesty’s Forces during the

Great War 1914-19.

Erected by the Midland Railway Company

Northern Counties Committee.

In an opening address, Major John A Torrens DL, Chairman of the Northern Counties Committee of the Midland Railway Company, paid a moving tribute to the men whose heroism was being remembered.  The Reverend W H Smyth MA, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, read from Psalm 47, which begins, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” and the Right Reverend W J Lowe DD, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, led the gathering in prayer before the memorial was unveiled by Major-General Nugent CB DSO who also gave a stirring address before the formal dedication of the memorial by the Dean of Belfast, the Very Reverend T G G Collins BD.

During the ceremony, Major Torrens laid a wreath on behalf of the company and other wreaths were laid after the ceremony concluded.  A large number of ex-Servicemen employed by the company attended the ceremony, many wearing their service medals, as can be seen in the newspaper picture (Belfast Telegraph, 25th November 1921).

The front face of the obelisk bears a brass plaque listing the names of the 58 men who died (an additional name, Thomas Brown, being added at a later date) and the names of the 290 who served and came home are listed on brass plaques on the other three faces of the obelisk.

Company records relating to employees who served are held at the Public Records Officer for Northern Ireland (Reference: T3899/1) and the file contains information that is not available in online or print resources. 

The file includes an eight-page document listing, by work location, the names of the men who had enlisted and details their railway job – this document formed the basis for the 1914 Roll of Honour.  

Benjamin Anderson was killed in action on 1st July 1916, aged 26, whilst serving with 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, although his death was not confirmed until the spring of 1917.  Benjamin was born on 4th December 1888 to James Anderson and Margaret Pinkerton and he married Annie McDowell on 28th October 1907 in St Anne’s Parish Church.  At the time of Benjamin’s death, they had four daughters under the age of nine and Annie and the children later returned to her parents’ home at 113 Mountcollyer Road in Belfast.

Each month a report detailing the numbers of men on active service (adjusted to show fatality numbers and the number of men discharged) was produced and accompanied by a Supplementary Lists of the names men who had enlisted since the previous report.

James McGuigan had initially joined a reserve battalion of the Connaught Rangers but was deployed to the 8th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in France.  As with Benjamin Anderson, James McGuigan died during the 1916 Battles of the Somme, being killed in action with the 16th Irish Division on 9th September 1916 during the Battle of Ginchy.  James Joseph McGuigan was born at Albert Street in Belfast on 4th June 1879 to Patrick McGuigan and Catherine Ahern and he married Mary Drain at the Roman Catholic Chapel in Randalstown on 29 December 1906.  James and Sarah were living at Drumsough in Sharvogues in 1911 and they had seven children, the first child (Peter) being born in May 1907 and the last child (Lizzie) being born in March 1915.

The committee also produced regular listings of men who had been discharged from the services, some of whom were re-engaged by the company.

Charles Esdale, a porter at Kilrea, was born at Portrush on 2nd July 1883 to Samuel Esdale and Jane O’Neill and was working as a farm labourer when he enlisted in the army on 21st November 1903.  Having completed his seven years of regular service, Charles was working for the railway when he married Margaret Leighton at Agherton Parish Church in Portstewart on 16 November 1911.  Charles and Margaret had two daughters when Charles was recalled from the army reserve on the second day of the war, being deployed to 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in France on 23rd August 1914.  He was discharged on 5th October 1915, aged 33, due to wounds that had necessitated the amputation of his right arm.  He received the Silver War Badge (number 387914) which was to be worn on civilian clothing to show that the wearer had “done his bit” for the war effort.  Whilst the entry for Charles Esdale in the Silver War Badge Register provides important information, it just records that he was discharged due to wounds – the Midland Railway Company records provide an insight on the severity of the wounds.

Charles Esdale, who had been receiving 16 shillings per week in 1914, was re-employed as a Ticket Collector at Antrim at 18 shillings per week.  [Note: 1 shilling in 1916 would be approximately £4.70 today, a weekly pay rate of £85.]

History Hub Ulster was recently contacted by Harry Bleakley, a relative of one of the men named on the war memorial, who feels that the memorial should be re-located to a location where it is accessible to the public – the proposed Belfast Transport Hub would be an ideal location.  Robert Trevor Bleakley was born on 29th June 1883 in Malvern Street in Belfast to Robert Bleakley and Mary Jane McIntyre.  His father was a Sea Captain and his mother, who had been widowed by 1901, was the Caretaker at the Gresham Life Assurance building on Royal Avenue.  Robert Bleakley junior was a boilermaker with Harland & Wolff in Southampton when he married Alice Louisa Knight on 29th January 1910 but was working as a boilermaker with the Midland Railway Company when he enlisted with 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, being Killed in Action on 25th December 1916 at the age of 33.  He is buried in the St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery in Belgium and is commemorated on the Roll of Honour for Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church (which was destroyed in the German Air Raids in 1941) and on the War Memorial plaque in the Church of the Holy Evangelists in Carnmoney.  Robert Bleakley’s army will records his beneficiary as his wife, Mrs Alice Bleakley of 88 Argyle Street in Belfast.

 

A plaque recording the names of the eight employees who laid down their lives in the Second World War was added to the memorial, which is now situated in the NIR Yard on York Road and a service of remembrance is held every November.  The 1914 Roll of Honour is on display at the Somme Museum in Conlig.

Author: Nigel Henderson, Member of History Hub Ulster.

Acknowledgements:

Images from the Midland Railway Company documents reproduced by permission of the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland.

Newspaper picture of Robert Bleakley was published in the Larne Times & Weekly Telegraph in January 1917 (courtesy of Great War Ulster Newspaper Archive, www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com)

.

 

Cleaver of Dunraven: A Famly History

A Family History
Researched and Compiled by Richard Graham

COPYRIGHT RICHARD GRAHAM

The Cleaver family originated in Scotland where one of the earliest recorded marriages took place between William Cleaver and Elizabeth Dunstone on 2nd February 1770. William served in the army, and the couple’s children were born and raised in the parish of Kilmallie, near Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. Upon his death in 1787, the family moved to Bishopstone, a small village close to the south coast of England in East Sussex.
From there, the family dispersed to the West Indies, Victoria and Tasmania in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, but for the purposes of this paper, I will focus on that branch of the family that relocated to Ireland in the mid-1800s.

John Cleaver was born in Bishopstone on 23rd September 1841, the great grandson of William Cleaver of Fort William. He served his apprenticeship in retail in London, and in a bid to further his career, he crossed the Irish Sea in 1865 to manage one of the departments in the established firm of James Lindsay & Co; general drapers, silk mercers and linen merchants at the Ulster Arcade on Donegall Place. The Lindsay family had themselves made their way to Ireland from Scotland in 1678, where they played an active role in the Relief of Derry in 1689, before moving to Belfast to establish a “woollen, linen and haberdashery warehouse” at 15 Bridge Street, the then centre of commerce in the town, in 1822.

It was during his time at Lindsay Brothers, that John Cleaver met Edward Robinson, a young man from Ballymena, who had earlier secured for himself an apprenticeship with the same company. His father Alexander, was a woollen draper in the County Antrim town. Both men soon realised the enormous potential for the development of the sale of Irish linen products, and with financial assistance from their families, set up a business partnership in premises on Castle Place in 1870, styled as Robinson & Cleaver. 

The success of their business was based on the fact that until that time, it had been almost impossible to obtain locally produced goods at reasonable prices. They were quick to identify this gap in the market and within a short space of time, the business had expanded and the partnership moved to larger premises on High Street (left) in 1879. The potential for growth of such a business in Belfast at that time was phenomenal.

On 12th August 1869, John Cleaver married Mary Anne Spence at Rich Hill Wesleyan Congregational Church in Co Armagh. They had met in Belfast, where Mary Anne had also come to seek work and soon they set up home at Ashley Villa, on Ashley Avenue, a middle class residential area just off the Lisburn Road, close to his business partner who resided on nearby Eglantine Avenue.

All of John and Mary’s children (3 sons and 5 daughters) were born at Ashley Villa:

-Arthur Spencer Cleaver (b 1870)

-John Martin Cleaver (b 1871)

-Kathleen Mary Cleaver (b 1872 – died, aged 9, 1882)

-James Frederick Cleaver (b1875)

-Mabel Cleaver (b 1877)

-Florence Edith Cleaver (b1878)

-Norah Heathcliff Cleaver (b 1881 – died, aged 9, 1890)

-Eileen Martha Esther Cleaver (b 1886)

The children were christened at nearby University Road Methodist Church (1865) – an institution that would prove to be pivotal in the life of the Cleaver family in Ireland.

In addition to raising a large family, the business at High Street continued to expand. Belfast was fast becoming one of the leading manufacturing cities of the British Empire, with markets for products produced in North East Ireland opening up across the civilised world. The partners were not slow to capitalise on this phenomenal growth and soon they were supplying high quality items of Irish linen to households across the United Kingdom. Soon the company outgrew their premises on High Street and by the mid-1880s the partners began to look for larger premises. They purchased one of the last residential houses on Donegall Place (see right) which had a large garden onto Donegall Square North, and quickly commissioned one of the leading architects of the day, Young & McKenzie, to design a building that would be fitting for the business they had grown over the past 15 years. The vast majority of parcels despatched from Belfast came from the house of Robinson & Cleaver and the company pioneered overseas sales via their brochures to homes and businesses across the empire.

The ‘Royal Irish Linen Warehouse’ of Robinson & Cleaver opened for business on September 1888, the same year that Belfast received its charter as a city. With success came great wealth for the founding partners and by this time, they would have been the equivalent of millionaires in today’s money. This precipitated a move to a larger house on the Malone Road for the Cleaver family – a large Victorian terrace opposite Fisherwick Presbyterian Church.

In 1892, such was the success of Robinson & Cleaver, that John Cleaver moved residence again, this time to the estate of ‘Dunraven’ on the Malone Road. Dunraven, a large Italianate Villa, had been built for the timber magnate and shipowner, James Porter Corry in 1870. It extended over several acres with its own lake and extensive parkland. It was in this house that John and Mary would spend the rest of their lives. 
With success came prosperity, and John Cleaver was in the position to educate his children at the same time elevating himself to a position of importance in Ulster Society.

By 1900, his eldest son, (aged 29) Arthur Spencer Cleaver, in addition to becoming a director of Robinson & Cleaver, had embarked on a military career and became a second Lieutenant in the Southern Division of the Mid Ulster (Royal Field) Artillery (left) – a regiment within the British Army. He removed to London, primarily to look after the Regent Street store at the same time becoming an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel with the Royal Garrison Artillery, 1st Reserve Battery. 

It was however his wife, Adelaide, who achieved notoriety as an adventurer and women pioneer in aviation in the 1920s and 30s. She was an avid mountain climber, expert driver and skilled motor mechanic. Adelaide Franklin Pollock was born in Newtownards in 1896, the eldest daughter of the Rt Hon Hugh MacDowell Pollock, first Minister of Finance in the Government of Northern Ireland created in 1921. Having developed an important flour importing business, Pollock was independently wealthy, and as Chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners had one of the docks named in his honour. Coming from such a privileged position within Ulster Society this was the type of union John Cleaver would have nurtured and encouraged for his offspring.

Adelaide was one of the few women to be granted a pilot’s licence in the UK in the inter war era. She flew from London to India and back in 1929, and in the following year, boarded a steamer from London to New York, with her ‘Moth’ on board, with the intention of becoming the first British woman to fly across the United States. After many thrills and spills, she eventually achieved this goal, being welcomed in Hollywood, California as somewhat of a major celebrity. She subsequently visited China, Japan and Egypt in her travels across the globe.

See thread on Rootschat here:  http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=686031.9
Arthur and Adelaide had two sons, both of which followed their father into the armed forces. Cecil Alwyn Spencer Cleaver was born in 2 Southwick Crescent, Hyde Park, the family home in London in 1907, and embarked on a military career. As a gentleman cadet, he attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, before joining the Grenadier Guards becoming a 2nd Lieutenant with the Foot Guards in 1926. On 3rd October 1930, he arrived in New York having travelled out of Southampton aboard RMS Berengaria, flagship of the Cunard Line. Cecil was killed in action whilst serving with the British forces in Tanganykia Territory, East Africa in 1935, at the age of 28 without issue. His death occurred at Tabora Hospital. This part of Africa was a colony of the British Empire and under British Administration having formerly been under German control before the First World War

Gordon Neil Spencer ‘Mouse’ Cleaver was born in Stanmore, Middlesex, in 1910, and educated at Harrow. As an accomplished skier, he was the inaugural winner of the ‘Hahnenkammrennen Combined’ in Austria in 1931. The ‘Cleaver Cup’ was subsequently named after his success on the slopes. He joined 601 Fighter Squadron (The Millionaire’s Squadron) Auxiliary Air Force in 1937, being promoted to the position of Flying Officer in October 1938. Upon the outbreak of the Second World War he was mobilised in November 1939, travelling to France with his Squadron to Merville in Northern France. He claimed 7 confirmed “kills” during the Battle of Britain before his hurricane was shot down during combat over Winchester. Although he baled out, the fragments from the Perspex canopy on his plane, shattered into his eyes and face blinding him in the right eye. For his valour, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Despite his injuries he remained in the RAF throughout the war, being released on medical grounds in November 1943, retaining the rank of Squadron Leader. Following on from the injuries he received, Cleaver underwent 18 operations on his eyes under the accomplished eye surgeon Harold Ridley. It was during work carried out during these procedures that Ridley developed the intraocular lens, a major development in repairing damage to the human eye.

John Cleaver’s first born daughter, Kathleen, died at the age of 9 years, in 1882, at the family home on Ashley Avenue, before the move to Dunraven, most likely from TB which claimed the lives of thousands of people in the town of Belfast at that time

His second son, (John) Martin Cleaver, born in 1871, was educated in England and Germany, gaining a BA from the Royal University of Ireland (precursor to QUB) and graduating from TCD with a law degree in 1893. He set up his own practice as a solicitor later that year at premises on Wellington Place. In 1897, he took into partnership William Fulton, whose father John Fulton, was a linen manufacturer at the firm of John Fulton & Co on Ormeau Avenue. The partnership was style as Cleaver & Fulton. Both the Cleavers and Fultons were Methodists, with John Fulton being greatly interested in Foreign Missions, in addition to being solicitor to the Board of Governors at Methodist College. Soon after the partnership was established, Martin Cleaver, influenced by Fulton’s vision, retired from the law, devoting his whole time to the Egypt General Mission of which he was one of the founders. He arrived in Alexandria, Egypt on 31st January 1898, one of a group of 7 missionaries where he met Aileen Mary White, who had also carried out missionary work in Egypt. After their marriage, they both returned to Alexandria, but after four years of travelling in North Africa, his health broke down, and he took up residence in London as Secretary to the Mission.He later went on to co-found the ‘Fellowship of Faith for the Muslims’ (1915) an international fellowship of Christians who have a concern for the Muslim world, publishing such pamphlets as “Why do the Muslims need the Gospel?”Having been at Keswick in 1915, he returned to visit his father at Dunraven in Belfast, but became ill and died during that visit in August of that year. Both J Martin Cleaver and his wife Aileen are buried at Belfast City Cemetery. The company he established in 1893, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, remains one of Northern Ireland’s leading law firms.

John Cleaver’s third son, (James) Frederick was born at Ashley Villa on 8th June 1875, and after being educated in Belfast and Germany, he travelled the world, visiting Australia and New Zealand, before following his father into the family business at Robinson & Cleaver, in 1895. The firm had developed branches throughout the UK including Regent Street, London; and Church Street, Liverpool. The importance of the company to the economy of Belfast cannot be underestimated. Robinson & Cleaver sent more parcels containing linen products of Irish manufacture out of the city of Belfast than any other business. Their store on London’s Regent Street was one of the most opulent and exclusive in the capital (right). He soon became Managing Director of the firm at its headquarters on Donegall Place (1906) and resided at a house called ‘Bishopstone’ on Deramore Park, recalling the origins of his father’s home in Essex. He married, in 1901, Sarah Hammond Fulton, eldest daughter of John Fulton and sister of the partner of his brother’s law firm, Cleaver and Fulton (see J Martin Cleaver).

Fred Cleaver was a staunch Unionist and Ulsterman. He was an active member of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce; the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society; the Belfast Harbour Board; The Belfast Chamber of Trade, and was Chairman of the Ulster Tourist Development Association. As a member of the Ulster Unionist Council, he took an active part in the Anti Home Rule campaign and he took a leading part in the organising and equipping of the Ulster Division in the run-up to the Great War of 1914-18. During the war, he led an expedition to retrieve the US crew of the SS Otranto which sank in 1918 whilst in use as an armed merchant cruiser. For his services, he was Knighted in 1927. Upon his father’s death in 1926, Sir Frederick became Chairman of Robinson & Cleaver, but such was the international reputation of the company that several approached were made to acquire the capital from the family controlled concern. The ordinary shares of the company were transferred to Edward de Stein, a merchant banker, in 1935, with Sir Frederick and his brother Arthur being retained in an advisory capacity.

Sir Frederick Cleaver died suddenly on the evening of Saturday 31st March 1936, following his decision to take a walk from his home, Marlborough Park House, to which he had moved in 1927 (left). He had reached Stranmillis Road, when he collapsed and died. He was survived by his wife Lady Sarah Cleaver who died at Broomhill Park in December 1951. Like so many other members of the family, she also took an active interest in the work of the Methodist missions.

John Cleaver’s eldest surviving daughter, Mabel, was born in March 1877 and in what was not perhaps a surprising move, she married Edward (Ned) Robinson on 12th June 1901 at University Road Methodist Church. Ned Robinson was the eldest son of Edward Robinson, one of the founders of Robinson & Cleaver and was a joint managing director of the firm at Donegall Place. They began their married life at a house on Somerton Park, but following the death of his father in 1906, they moved to a magnificent estate at Shaw’s Bridge overlooking the Lagan named Terrace Hill. It was the sale of the company to Edward De Stein in 1936, that precipitated the couple to demolish the original house of 1856. Ned and Mabel who enjoyed a fantastic social life, built a sprawling new house in an American neo-Georgian style, the design being executed by Young & McKenzie, (who designed the original store on Donegall Place in 1888) and in which they could entertain the cream of Ulster Society. Mabel had two daughters, who were brought up in a very privileged environment. Terrace Hill extended to over 9,200 sq feet, and had beautifully manicured gardens overlooking Barnett’s Demesne to Malone House on the other side of the valley. The house had tennis courts and a swimming pool. The eldest, Gwendoline, married Peter Swann, an insurance broker of the Wirral and left Northern Ireland in 1951, whilst Inez married Thomas Agnew, a land agent in Belfast. They were the last occupants to live at Macedon House at Whiteabbey, before it was taken over by Barnardo’s as a children’s home in 1950, as was Terrace Hill, after the departure of the Clokey family in 1970. Inez died in 1978 without issue
Ned died at Terrace Hill on 7th December 1947, after which the house was sold to the Clokey family of King Street in Belfast. Mabel died two years later in 1949 at Musgrave Nursing home aged 72.

John and Mary Anne Cleaver lost another one of their children to an early death in 1890, when Norah Heathfield Cleaver died at the young age of 9 years old. She is buried with her parents in the family plot at Belfast City Cemetery.

Their two remaining daughters left Belfast and moved to England where they married and had families. In doing so they left few members of the family residing in Northern Ireland after Sir Frederick’s sudden death in 1936. Perhaps they felt an affinity with their origins in Bishopstone, where many of the Cleaver family originate from. Florence died in Poole in Dorset in 1946, aged 68, but is commemorated on the family memorial with her parents. She had married Norman MacNaughton in 1911, whilst Eileen married Charles Mitchell Clegg in 1914 and died in Harrowgate, Yorkshire in August 1973, aged 87

Today there are several reminders of the power and influence of the Cleaver family in Ireland, although there are no remaining family members now resident here. The site of the once magnificent family home and estate at Dunraven, is now covered in villa developments from the 1930s, when the house was sold, and is now known as Cleaver Park and Cleaver Avenue, off the Malone Road.

 

The magnificent department store buildings of Robinson & Cleaver still stand on the Corner of Donegall Place and Donegall Square North, as they do in London, although the family connection with the business was severed in 1936. The achievements of the company in obtaining several Royal Warrants and supplying Royal households across the world was none the less remarkable
 

The final resting place of the Irish branch of the family can be found at Belfast City Cemetery, where there are three separate memorials. The saddest of these is the main family memorial which has only recently been revealed having been badly damaged by vandals during the period of civil unrest in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

Thanks to Peter McCabe and Ricky Cole the inscriptions of the memorial have been exposed to remind us of the power, wealth, privilege and good works that came about from the arrival of John Cleaver to Belfast in 1865. 

 

 

COPYRIGHT RICHARD GRAHAM

Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833 -1970

Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833 -1970 

“Our greatest need is for a larger sense of responsibility for our church and her welfare on the part of every church member and more workers, more people, who are prepared to give their time and talents to the work of God and the service of their fellows in this place.”

(Refer to: Townsend Street Presbyterian Church 150th Anniversary, History of the Congregation, p60)

(Quote by, Rev. John Worthington Johnston. This man of God was installed in the Townsend Presbyterian Church on 28th March 1935. He was a Chaplain in the Parachute Regiment 1939-45.   When at war Professor J. Wilson took charge of the congregation. The quote above was written in a letter by the Rev. Captain John Worthington Johnston in 1945. The Rev. Worthington Johnston also wrote a book of poetry called, “The poems of a Parachute Padre”, first published in Belfast in 1943).

The door into the Church – Is still open in 2016


General Timeline for the history of the Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833-1970*

*The Church still continues in its work to the present day

 

    • 1833 – October 22nd – The Foundation Stone of the old church building is laid down by the Marquis of Donegall. Rev, George Belis opened the special ceremony, Rev. Dr. Hanna offered up a prayer and Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke delivered an address. Rev. Dr. Morgan concluded with prayer and the benediction. These ministers were all famous figures in 19th Century Belfast.
      “The company had not left the ground when there appeared a very beautiful rainbow – one of the most perfect we ever saw – which seemed suspended, as it was undoubtedly over the spot thus dedicated.”  Newspaper report quoted in, Rev. James McCaw Townsend Street Presbyterian Church Belfast, 1833-1933, p16.

 

    • 1835 – April 26th – The church was opened by Rev. Dr. Mcleod of Glasgow

 

    • 1836 – Rev. Josias Wilson of Drogheda becomes the first Minister

 

    • 1838 – The Church is re-opened by the Rev. Cooke and Rev. Morgan

 

    • 1841 – January 21st – The school buildings are opened

 

    • 1844 – October 28th – Rev. John Weir of Newry becomes the second Minister

 

    • 1847 – September 21st – Rev. William Johnston is installed as the new Minister

 

    • 1866 – January 1st – Henry Louden an elder of the church leaves to the church a generous gift of property for the orphans

 

    • 1876 – December 4th – The Townsend congregation is worshipping in the Working Men’s Institute as a new church is under construction

 

    • 1877 – August 25th – The foundation for the new church is laid and a speech is given by one Mr. John Sinclair from New York

 

    • 1877 – September 21st – Lecture hall and school buildings opened

 

    • 1878 – October 9th – The new church was completed and it cost an estimated sum of £11,210 13s 9d

 

    • 1879 – January – The Church Gate and the railing at the front of the Church were erected to remember Dr. Henry Martyn Johnston

 

    • 1892 – September Rev James McGranahan of Larne becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1902 – June 17th Rev William Corkey from Cullybackey becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1913 – Individual Communion Cups donated as a gift by Mr. R. McDowell

 

    • 1914 – February 8th – Stained Glass windows erected to the memory of Rev. William Johnston and Mrs. Sarah Johnston and to Dr. Henry Martyn Johnston and Mrs Frank Johnston by Mr. R.T. Martin. Further to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wallace by Mr. M. Luther Wallace. The windows were unveiled by the Rev. James McGranahan

 

    • 1920 – November 1st – Freewill offering system introduced

 

    • 1921 – November 13th Opening of Grand Organ and unveiling of Tablets in memory of the men from the Townsend Congregation who had volunteered to fight in the First World War 1914-18.  This point is noted in the work Townsend Street Presbyterian Church 150th Anniversary History book, p10. “In the Nation’s hour of need Townsend Street Church played a part worthy of its great history. When the tocsin of war sounded in 1914 some 220 members of the congregation volunteered for active service of whom 36 made the supreme sacrifice. The congregation installed a Memorial Organ and Commemorative Tablet at a cost of £4000.”  Quote by Rev. Dr. T.J. Simpson Moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly.

 

    • 1922 – March 15th – Stained glass window is erected by Mrs. R.T. Martin to the memory of her husband, Mr. R.T. Martin and her son Lieut. John S. Martin. This window was dedicated by the Rev. J.R. Prenter.

 

    • 1924 – July 9th – Rev. W.G. Wimperis becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1930 – July – Restoration of the Church buildings. This is noted in the Church history, “The contractors for the stonework were Messrs. Dreyfus London, for the reconstruction, Messrs. Cairns, Belfast for the painting, Messrs Geo. Morrow and Son, Belfast and for the electrical work, Messrs. Graham and Zebedee, Belfast. Mr. W.J. MacGeagh, Ocean Buildings was the architect.”
      (Refer to Townsend Street Presbyterian Street 150th Anniversary History of the Congregation, p46. This was a time in the history of Northern Ireland when there was an economic depression. The church raised in 1930 £5,000. This was quite a feat at the time. “Every organisation in connection with the church did its bit.”)

 

    • 1930 – October 30th – The reconstructed buildings are re-opened and used

 

    • 1932 – September 29th – Rev J.T. Hall is installed as the new Minister

 

    • 1935 – March 5th – Rev. John Worthington Johnston is called to Townsend Street to become the new Minister

 

    • 1939 – September 3rd – The Second World War begins. The Rev. J.W. Johnston volunteers for service as a Chaplain in the British Army

 

    • 1941 – The air raids over Belfast – The Belfast Blitz impacts upon the City of Belfast with deadly results.

      Blue plaque remembering Wilhelmina Geddes

 

    • 1943 – Rev. J.W. Johnston injured on war service

 

    • 1944 – April – The War Memorial Hall Fund is inaugurated

 

    • 1951- November 11th – Two War Memorial Tablets unveiled in memory of those who lost their lives by enemy action and to those who served in the War, whose names are inscribed thereon

 

    • 1952 – September – Rev. W.D.F. Marshall becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1954 – June 6th – A Stained glass window is erected by the congregation to the memory of Rev. J.W. Johnston and is dedicated by the Rev. Principal J. E. Davey

 

    • 1965 – January 12th – The Rev. S.J. McCollum is installed as the new minister

 

    • 1970 – June 9th – Rev. W.M. Jackson becomes the new Minister

 

As we have read since, 1833 this Church has worked for God in the area.

By David N.K. Murphy, History Hub Ulster Member

 

Belfast Somme 100 Autumn Programme launch!

Belfast Somme 100

At the launch of the September – November Belfast Somme 100 programme, pictured from left: Karen O’Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster, and Antoinette Morelli, who stars in ‘Medal in a Drawer’ which runs in venues across Belfast from 27th – 30th September.

History Hub Ulster today launches it’s Belfast Somme 100 September – November 2016 programme of commemorative events marking the centenary of the battles of the Somme, and the place of the Somme campaign within the First World War.

Karen O’Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster and Belfast Somme 100 said

‘The impact of the Somme on Belfast is remembered in this, our final programme of events. The people of our small city heaved with tears of grief as their young men were killed and maimed, no matter what their background.  Belfast Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Quaker – all served and died together at the Somme.

The close links between people can be seen in our programme of events. Follow Rifleman Willie Kerr, a young Catholic man who enlisted in the YCV in MEDAL IN THE DRAWER. See his friend, young Protestant Rifleman George Kirkwood on the big screen at City Hall as part of the CASTLETON LANTERNS Project.  DR JOHANNE DEVLIN TREWE will give a lecture on the service of local nurses, like George Kirkwoods sisters Charlotte and Mary Ellen.

The Kirkwoods and Kerrs were just two Belfast families who received telegrams announcing the deaths of their sons. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS takes us back to a village waiting, with dread and hope, for any news from the front. 

A SOMME CONFERENCE, HEDGE SCHOOL and LECTURE SERIES as well as COMMEMORATIVE events draw together all the perspectives of this centennial year and aim to enhance our understanding of the impact of the Slaughter At the Somme’

The project focuses on the personalities and stories associated with the campaign and mark its place in the social and political history of Northern Ireland and pre-partition Ireland. The Belfast Somme 100 project aims to raise awareness of previously overlooked or submerged stories and personal connections that both the Somme and the events of 1916 have had with the broader history and development of Northern Ireland.

The programme runs for 141 days across Belfast, the exact duration of the Somme campaign in 1916, and this Autumn it features a range of commemorative events including concerts, film, lectures, walks, exhibitions, poetry, debates, theatre, children and family activities.

Highlights include:

Medal in the Drawer, a play by Brenda Winter Palmer which follows four volunteers from Belfast on their war-journey; The Year of the Somme: 1916 in Perspective conference in partnership with the Western Front Association which features a ranges of local and international speakers;  Artists at the Somme with the visual artists, poets and musicians at the Ulster Museum; a series of talks at the Linen Hall Library;  No News is Good News a new play Philip Orr, will form a Kabosh promenade production at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and take you back 100 years  to meet the villagers who were desperate for news and awaiting telegrams from the front; a season of films at the Queen’s Film Theatre; Castleton Lanterns, refound images of servicemen after 95 years will be shown on the Big Screen at City Hall;  The 1916 Centenaries, An Opportune Time for Reflection?, Hedge School in partnership with the Fellowship of the Messines Association, Battle of the Somme Centenary Concert at the Ulster Hall; and the programme culminates with a Keith Jeffery Memorial Lecture by Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History at the University of Oxford.

Local events throughout Belfast will continue through till the end of November. Activities will include the opening of a new memorial and lighting of a beacon at Skegoneill Avenue in November, a Somme Day Community Festival to launch Tree Tank in South Belfast, the ‘Row on Row’ remembrance event at Pitt Park on 18th November and a new activity and learning book on the Somme to be circulated free to schools and community centres and interactive workshops aimed at educating children and young people.

The objectives of the Somme 100 project are to dispel myths and stereotypes, to promote and encourage dialogue within communities and with other communities and to create a space which allows the development of mutual understanding.

Belfast Somme 100 is run by History Hub Ulster with an Advisory Panel made up of experts in the period and community leaders. It is funded by Belfast City Council.

Full information, updates and ticketing is available at www.belfastsomme100.com, on Facebook and on twitter @belfastsomme100.

 

The Somme: 1st July 1916: Ulstermen and the Ulster Division

An analysis of the official fatality records to determine the number of Ulstermen and men from the Ulster Division who died during the Battle of Albert, which lasted from 1st July to 13th July 1916, by History Hub Ulster researcher Nigel Henderson.

Summary statistics:

  • Over the period of the Battle of Albert, 2129 men who were born or lived in Ulster died.
  • Over the period of the Battle of Albert the Ulster Division lost 2051 men.

The following are some summary statistics drawn from the dataset for the first day of the 1916 Battles of the Somme:

  • 1721 men who were born in Ulster died on 1st July 1916.
  • 1517 of these men were from the Ulster Division and the remainder were from 14 other British Divisions.
  • On 1st July 1916, 1778 men died whilst serving with the Ulster Division.
  • The Ulster Division lost 1935 men during the two days that it was in the frontline.

Things To Note:

  • Anyone born in the nine counties of Ulster has been defined as being an Ulsterman and has been classified by County of Birth (with Belfast being treated as a County).
  • Anyone born outside Ulster but had a residential association with Ulster, has been classified as “Ulster – Residence”.
  • In determining the analysis, it was borne in mind that Ulstermen served with units attached to British Divisions other than the Ulster Division and that not all men who served in the Ulster Division were Ulstermen by birth or residence.
  • Although the dataset is based on the CWGC fatalities, the inclusion of additional information from other primary sources enhances this record of fatalities and facilitates the analysis of the data by a range of different criteria. For example, the records of Ulstermen fatalities can be broken down into regiments or divisions as well as by county and, for Ulster Division fatalities, the non-Ulstermen can be easily identified.
  • Whilst it cannot be claimed that this fatality list is 100% accurate or complete, it does represent a verifiable list of the men that died in that battle and is more accurate than many of the figures that have appeared in newspapers in recent months.

In More Detail:
Over the period of the Battle of Albert, 2129 men who were born or lived in Ulster died and the Ulster Division lost 2051 men. 

1721 men who were born in Ulster died on 1st July 1916:
• 375 from Belfast
• 320 from County Down
• 312 from County Antrim
• 192 from County Armagh
• 182 from County Londonderry
• 144 from County Tyrone
• 77 from County Donegal
• 69 from County Fermanagh
• 31 from County Monaghan
• 19 from County Cavan
1517 of these men were from the Ulster Division and the remainder were from 20 other British Divisions.

On 1st July 1916, 1778 men died whilst serving with the Ulster Division:
• 314 from Belfast
• 292 from County Down
• 298 from County Antrim
• 183 from County Armagh
• 154 from County Londonderry
• 116 from County Tyrone
• 61 from County Donegal
• 54 from County Fermanagh
• 29 from County Monaghan
• 16 from County Cavan
• 261 men were born outside Ulster

The Ulster Division lost 1935 men during the two days that it was in the frontline:
• 438 with the 107th Infantry Brigade
• 767 with the 108th Infantry Brigade
• 706 with the 109th Infantry Brigade
• 24 with Divisional Support Units

The full spreadsheet is available here: http://historyhubulster.co.uk/ulster-albert

Methodology:

  1. A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database was executed using the following criteria: Ulster DivisionThe records returned were downloaded and imported to Excel and columns were added to facilitate the recording of additional information, such as Division, Type of Death, Place of Birth and associated County/Country.
  2.  The spreadsheet was filtered by Regiment and Units to identify and mark those fatalities associated with units belonging to the 36th (Ulster) Division. If there was no unit reference on the CWGC database records, the unit reference was identified from other primary sources (for example, Soldier Died in the Great War, medal rolls).
  3. The “additional information” section in the CWGC data was analysed to identify counties, towns, etc. within Ulster and the relevant records were marked to indicate Ulster connection.
  4. For men identified in Step 3 as having an Ulster connection, the regiments/units were examined to identify whether they had played a role in the Battle of Albert and, where appropriate, the Division number was recorded. Note: the Long Long Trail website was used to determine the Division associated with a Regiment/Unit and whether that Division participated in the Battle of Albert.
  5. The Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW) online database was interrogated to identify fatalities in July 1916 in France where the birth location held on SDGW satisfied a number of Ulster-based criteria: Birth Location set to “Northern Ireland”, “Ulster”, specific cities (i.e. Belfast, Londonderry, Armagh) and each of the nine counties in turn. The results were used to update the master spreadsheet with Birth Location, County/Country of Origin, Type of Death and additional information (e.g. former regiment details, mainly for Machine Gun Corps fatalities). Where there was a Death Date discrepancy between SDGW and CWGC, other sources were checked to determine the most commonly held date – the details/sources of discrepancies were noted. Variations on Surname/Forename spellings and Regimental Numbers were also noted.
  6. For fatalities where no next-of-kin information was held on CWGC, the National Archives of Ireland Soldiers’ Wills (SW) online database was searched to identify, where a will is present, the next-of-kin name, relationship and address. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects (RSE) and Ireland Census returns were also searched to identify the name(s) and relationship(s) of the beneficiaries and the addresses of widows/parents. In checking the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, priority was given to cases where there was no Birth Location recorded on the SDGW database – there are over 950 fatality records where a next-of-kin has not yet been identified.
  7. The In Memoriam notices placed in the Belfast Evening Telegraph in late June and early July 1917 were trawled to identify next of kin details.
  8. The family memorials in the War Graves Ulster archive that specified deaths during the period of the Battle of Albert were examined to identify next of kin details.

Whilst it cannot be claimed that this fatality list is 100% accurate or complete, it does represent a verifiable list of the men that died in that battle and is more accurate than many of the figures that have appeared in newspapers in recent months.  We would welcome suggestions of names that are not present in the attached spreadsheet. Click here to email.

Nigel Henderson – History Hub Ulster

Commander of the Belfast Regiment Irish National Volunteers lost on HMS Hampshire

Today marks the Centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire with Lord Kitchener on aboard.

On 5 June 1916, HMS Hampshire left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Orkney, bound for Russia. The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was on board as part of a diplomatic and military mission aimed at boosting Russia’s efforts on the Eastern Front.

At about quarter to nine in the evening, in stormy conditions and within two miles of Orkney’s northwest shore, she struck a mine laid by German submarine U-75.

There were at least 28 Irish sailors lost on HMS Hampshire.

One of them was the ship’s surgeon, Dr Hugh Francis McNally from Belfast, son of the principal of Raglan Street Boy’s School on the Falls Road.  McNally, an ex St Malachy’s pupil had studied Medicine at Queen’s University and was a member of the Queen’s Officer Training Corps.

He joined the Irish National Volunteers at its formation and was immediately appointed company officer.  On the retirement of Captain Berkeley he was appointed Commander of the Belfast Regiment of with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

At the start of the First World War, he joined the National Volunteers. He was a magnificent organiser, and was responsible for the 1915 parade in Dublin.  Newspaper reports at the time note that he ‘his name will always be remembered by the Belfast National Volunteers with the kindliest feelings’.  On receiving his degree from Queen’s University, he joined the Royal Navy, giving his service ‘in the cause of humanity’.

His obituary notes ‘By his death a bright future has been cut short, while his loss to the Volunteer movement will be widely regretted.’

The sinking of HMS Hampshire was a grievous blow to the Allied war effort. The British Empire lost Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, whose organisational ability ensured that Britain had an army, of sufficient size, to be able to stand alongside her Allies in a major European conflict. Kitchener was a personality who was instantly familiar to all British people, both young and old, whose death was mourned as if he had been a close relative.

In addition to the crew, who numbered around 650, was Kitchener’s delegation, consisting of military officers, politicians and their staffs, who also went down with the Hampshire.

Only 12 men, all from the Ship’s company, survived the disaster.

Lord Kitchener, left, is seen aboard the HMS Iron Duke on June 5, 1916, the day before his ill-fated voyage on the HMS Hampshire. (National Army Museum archives)

Lord Kitchener, left, is seen aboard the HMS Iron Duke on June 5, 1916, the day before his ill-fated voyage on the HMS Hampshire. (National Army Museum archives)

Descendants of Irish sailors descending on Belfast for an All-Island Commemoration to the Irish Sailor event on Tuesday May 31st 2016.

Descendants of Irish sailors are flying in to Belfast from Australia, America, Canada, Spain, GB and all four corners of Ireland for the Commemoration of the Irish Sailor during the First World War on Tuesday 31st May.  The date was especially chosen as the Centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the most important naval battle of the First World War.

James Nelson Hunter and Jennie Brecke

James Nelson Hunter and Jennie Brecke

Descendants of sailors both of the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine will be in attendance at the Commemoration at Alexandra Dock with HMS Caroline as the backdrop for the event. During the proceedings HMS Caroline will be officially opened.

The Royal Navy and Irish Naval Service will stand side by side to mark all from the Island of Ireland who served at sea and wreaths will be laid on behalf of both.  Senior political and military representatives from the UK and Ireland will be attendance alongside a German Naval Admiral.  The ports of Ireland, Irish Lights and maritime emergency services will also gather with families of those who served, and Belfast City Council will host all attendees for a civic lunch on completion of the ceremony.  Irish naval ship LÉ CIARA and British Naval Ship HMS RAMSEY will be in port for the preceding weekend and open to the public as part of Belfast’s Maritime Festival.

The Battle of Jutland involved 100,000 men over the course of 36 hours in which time Britain lost 14 ships and 6000 sailors and Germany lost 11 ships and 2500 sailors.  Over 350 of the men lost were from Ireland.  The most significant loss of Irish life happened very early in the battle when HMS Indefatigable suffered from a catastrophic explosion of her cordite. From over 1000 crew members at least 120 were Irish.   Stoker John Moriarty who hailed from Bere Island, died aged 23 years old, alongside 50 other Cork men.  Gunner Lawrence Browne from Malahide was killed at Jutland on Armoured Cruiser HMS Defence, who under heavy fire from 5 German ships, violently exploded killing all of her 904 crew with no survivors – at least 98 of the men killed were Irish.   Battlecruiser HMS Invincible was blown in half and sank in 90 seconds, killing all but 6 of its crew of over 1000 men.  At least 34 were Irish, including 2 seventeen year old Belfast boys John McCullough and John Cleland Carlisle.

Larry Brown

Gunner Larry Brown HMS Defence

Karen O’Rawe, Chair History Hub Ulster said:

“The Commemoration to the Irish Sailor is a significant all-island event, the contemporary relevance of which should not be underestimated.  The event is a timely reminder that 1916 is not all about the Easter Rising and the Battles of the Somme. The sacrifice of so many men from these shores who fought at sea, the maritime war and the impact of it on our island tends to be overlooked.  The Centenary of the Battle of Jutland and the launch of HMS Caroline is the perfect context to be officially recognising the contribution of all those in maritime roles on the island of Ireland in the 1914-18 period.”

Irish sailors were lost on many ships across the course of the First World War including over 350 at the Battle of Jutland itself, 91 at the Battle of Coronel and 62 on HMS HAWKE. As well as Royal Navy ships, Irish men were lost on merchant ships such as MFA WHITE HEAD, a Harland and Wolff built steamship torpedoed in 1917; on HMS SUBMARINE K17 lost in an accidental collision in 1918; and on converted merchant ship HMS BAYANO, torpedoed off Ireland causing bodies to wash up along the Ards Peninsula.

In 1918 at least three Irishmen were lost on HMS ASCOT, the last warship lost to enemy action in the First World War, and at least fourteen were lost on the first in 1914, HMS AMPHION. Over 1,500 Irishmen were killed in action serving at sea in the years between.

Examples of local men lost at sea include:

Stoker Peter Kennedy, Royal Naval Reserve, from Ballymena lost on HMS QUEEN MARY at the Battle of Jutland.  Peter, a member of Cavehill Orange Lodge lived at Ritchie Street in Belfast and left behind his wife and 4 children under 11 years old.

Moses Alexander Reid SS Bray Head

Moses Alexander Reid SS Bray Head

15 year old Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce from Downhill, Derry, one of ten cadets lost on HMS MONMOUTH. Five more Ulster teenagers were lost; Belfast boys Stoker (2nd) John McAteer, Boy (1st) William Connell, Able Seaman William A. J. Wilson and Ordinary Seaman Herbert Kelly as well as Ordinary Seaman Henry McNally who was from Draperstown.

Leading Stoker Joyce Power left young twins and a pregnant wife in Ballymena after the sinking of HMS HAWKE. His daughter Margaret Hawke Power named after the ship he was killed on.  Also drowned was Able Seaman Albert Patterson Wilson whose first daughter Frances was born only 4 weeks later on 14 November. Mariette Isabella Donald was born at the end of 1914, her father Martie Donald not returning to Carrickfergus to meet his newborn daughter.

The Gorman siblings from Clifton Park in Belfast lost one brother, Charles on HMS PATHFINDER in September only to hear of the death of another brother, Able Seaman James Toland Gorman, only one month later on HMS HAWKE.

Sullatober Flute band from Carrickfergus who lost one of their players Henry McMurran on HMS CRESSY, 3 weeks later suffered yet another tragedy with the loss of another member, Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister on HMS HAWKE.

Notes

HMS RAMSEY is a single role Minehunter with a crew of 40 personnel.  More information can be seen here http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/ramsey

LÉ CIARA is a Coastal Patrol Vessel of the Irish Naval Service with a crew of 42. More information can be seen here http://www.military.ie/naval-service/fleet/coastal-patrol-vessel/le-ciara-p-42/

Never mind the trenches! Experiences of British sailors during the First World War by Simon Smith

The ongoing commemoration of the Great War reveals just how much this episode of our history continues to interest and influence our understanding of the past. However, the Great War continues to be studied primarily as a land-based conflict despite the Royal Navy’s crucial role. Ask someone about Jutland and they will probably look perplexed. Much remains to be done to put the navy back into the public memory of the war, and my own research is working towards this. It considers the personal experience of British sailors during the war as expressed in their diaries, particularly the collection held by the National Museum Royal Navy Portsmouth.[1]

This blog will give a brief insight into my findings so far.

The poignant image of the Great War is of young men rushing to the colours full of patriotic fervour. Surprisingly, little research has been done on sailors’ displays of war enthusiasm. This is especially interesting as many sailors were not volunteers: the navy was a career in those days where men joined at a young age.[2] Yet sailors’ diaries reveal excitement and celebrations amongst seamen when war was declared. Ships left port cheered by other vessels, and men proudly recorded their first encounters with German ships.[3] Further, diaries repeatedly refer to the “long awaited scrap” with the enemy.[4] When they did meet, British sailors boasted of the Germans’ poor gunnery in comparison to their own and clearly there was a distinct belief in the Royal Navy’s superiority, which reflects the latent imperialistic sentiment in British society at the time.[5] Yet, not all were caught up with war fever; Walter Dennis recorded that he knew of a number of sailors who were relieved to get posted overseas away from any real action.[6]

However, prolonged warfare, understandably, had a noticeable effect upon sailors. Despite the distancing effect of technology, sailors remained part of the killing machine which some enthusiastically embraced, becoming numb to the brutalities of war. [7] Interestingly few historians have considered this. One sailor – known as Wood – recorded shelling Turkish forts at Gallipoli as “amusing”.[8] This is further demonstrated by the practice of collecting war souvenirs. Seamen often served in support of the army which allowed them ready access to items such as helmets, rifles and bullets.[9] The impact of curios has been widely considered amongst soldiers but, again, sailors have so far been overlooked.[10] Their obvious engagement in this practice suggests a desire for immediacy, which was not an option for soldiers. It would be interesting to compare the diaries of artillerymen serving at the front, and see whether they encountered similar experiences.[11]

Yet, despite sailors’ interaction with killing, not all became numb to the brutalities. Witnessing the sinking of ships or even hearing about losses was traumatic. For example Walter Dennis recorded being ‘rather concerned’ as to the fate of one of his friends lost at sea.[12] Sailors were acutely aware that if their ships were sunk then death was likely, which made moments such as these particularly sobering. It is not surprising that some succumbed to psychological stresses, or in their words had ‘a tile loose’.[13] Sailors had to develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of everyday life; these were similar to those developed by soldiers, such as humour. Reflecting on battles many became flippant about the dangers experienced. One diarist, Henry Welch, recalled: ‘One shell burst on the water’s edge… Ye gods! it was lovely – only a trifle further and there would have been a few gaps among us.’[14] Coping with pressure was essential.

It is clear that personal histories of the Great War continue to find a receptive audience as more people become interested in their own history. The opportunity is there for the navy to make up lost ground. The NMRNP’s on-going project, Hear My Story, is a step in the right direction and forms a new twentieth century exhibition collating personal memories and public interaction. [15] Another interesting project is the AHRC funded Gateways project which provides centres to encourage public interest through organised lectures and study days.[16] These projects show that there was much more to the Great War than mud, blood and the trenches. It is time to put the navy back in the picture and, as the diaries of Dennis, Fletcher, Welch and Wood show, each diary tells its own unique story, and there are many more to be uncovered.

Simon Smith read History at the University of Portsmouth followed by an MA in The History of War, Culture and Society. He is currently doing a PhD on Sailors and the Royal Navy c.1870-1939 as part of the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures project.

Originally published for the NACBS here:  http://www.nacbs.org/blog/never-mind-the-trenches-experiences-of-british-sailors-during-the-first-world-war-by-simon-smith/

[1]The NMRNP holds approximately 200 diaries in its collection. Other comprehensive diary collections include the Imperial War Museum which has just re-opened with a new WW1 exhibition.
[2]For more information see Christopher McKee, Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945, (London: Harvard University Press, 2002) and Brian Lavery, Able Seamen: the lower deck of the Royal Navy, 1850-1939, (London: Conway, 2011).
[3]RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[4]RNM 1980/115: Diary of Edwin Fletcher; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood; RNM 1980/82: Diary of W Dawson; Diary of Walter Dennis.
[5]RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[6]Diary of Walter Dennis. Diary digitized by McMaster University, Ontario Canada and available at http://pw20c.mcmaster.ca.
[7]See Edgar Jones, “The Psychology of Killing: The Combat Experience of British Soldiers during the First World War”, Journal of Contemporary History, 41, 2, (2006), 233; Joanna Bourke, An intimate history of killing: face to face killing in twentieth-century warfare, (London: Granta Books, 1999), 7.
[8]RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[9]Diary of Walter Dennis; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[10]See Jones, “Psychology”, and Bourke, An intimate history, for further information of the study of soldiers.
[11]The Imperial War Museum does hold artillerymen’s diaries but these have not yet been considered.
[12]Diary of Walter Dennis.
[13]Diary of Walter Dennis.
[14]DOC: Diary of Henry Welch.
[15]See http://www.nmrn.org.uk/explore/hms-hear-my-story for further information on this project.
[16]The Arts and Humanities Research Council – see www.kent.ac.uk/ww1 for further information on this project.