Our researchers, Nigel Henderson and Michael Nugent have presented a short series of talks about the work of ministers and chaplains during the Great War, with a particular focus on clerics who died, were wounded, were taken prisoner, or who received gallantry awards. The talks are presented via our YouTube channel at the following links:
In late 1914, Campbell and Sons of Ravenhill Road were awarded the contract to construct the camp and advertised for “galvanised iron fitters for Newtownards Camp”. The erection of the buildings was carried out under the direction of James Sinclair Jackson, representing Swiney, Ferguson and Croasdaile of Royal Avenue. He was wounded in 1916 whilst serving with the Royal Engineers.
In February 1915, Major-General Friend, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland, inspected the men of the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and the first death of a soldier from the camp occurred. Rifleman William James Bacon (35) died of influenza and pneumonia at Newtownards Workhouse Infirmary on 6th February. His body was returned to his home in Portrush for burial in Ballywillan Cemetery with full military honours.
An outbreak of scarlet fever was to claim the life of Lance-Corporal John Bowden (19) of Harryville at Newtownards Fever Hospital on 1st April 1915. He was buried with full military honours in Ballymena New Cemetery on 3rd April.
In the same month, John Cooper, a regimental librarian, lost the sight in one eye after being struck by a stone chip from road-building work at the camp. He was discharged from the army and had to support a wife and six children on an allowance of twelve shillings and sixpence per week. A year later his claim for damages against the camp contractors had still not been resolved.
In September 1915, the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons’ Service Squadron, the Ulster Division’s cavalry unit, moved to Newtownards Camp in preparation for being deployed to France. The Catch-my-Pal Society erected a recreation hut at the camp around the same time. It was a place where the soldiers could gather to read, play games and to write letters home.
In 1916, the camp became a training base for the Ulster Division’s reserve battalions. On 17th December 1917, men from the 19th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles were carrying out bomb throwing practice when a fatal accident occurred. Corporal Leonard Parker, who had recently been invalided from the Western Front, was leading the practice when a bomb that he was preparing to throw exploded prematurely. He was killed instantaneously and two officers, Major Hall and Lieutenant Currie, were seriously injured. Major William Charles Hall (52) died of shrapnel wounds later the same day. Corporal Leonard Edward John Parker (20), a son of Edward and Lilian Parker of Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, London, was interred in Movilla Cemetery in Newtownards.
By 1918, the camp was the home base of the Irish Command Labour Corps, which remained at the camp until the end of 1919. In September 1919, a memorial to the men of the ICLC who had served in the Great War was erected near the camp’s recreation ground. The location is marked on the OSNI Historical Fourth Edition map. It is not known what happened to the memorial.
In the early 1920s, the camp became the training depot for the RUC and Ulster Special Constabulary. In January 1921, the evangelist Captain Gipsy Pat Smith, who had served in the Great War, addressed over 400 men at the YMCA Hut in the camp. Throughout the 1920s, the camp was used for annual shooting competitions by the police and for sporting events.
In August 1921, a fatal incident occurred when three Specials were returning to camp from Ballygowan in a private car. On approaching the North Gate, the car slowed but one of the camp guards fired a shot which struck Special Constable Thomas Reid (27) in the chest. Although he was treated by medical staff at the camp, Thomas died on 31st July at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
In May 1922, Sergeant William Lamont lost his life in another accident at Newtownards Camp. His wife, Martha (33) died at their home in Fourth Street on 5th May 1922. The news was relayed to the guardhouse the following morning. When Sergeant Blythe called at Sergeant Lamont’s cubicle in Hut 15 to deliver the news, he noticed a strong smell of gas and discovered William lying prone. Sergeant Blythe, CSM Cherry and Sergeant Barnes (RAMC) attempted artificial respiration to no avail. Dr Jamison, the camp’s Medical Officer, gave evidence at the Coroner’s Enquiry that William had died of asphyxia caused by gas poisoning. William and Martha Lamont are buried in Belfast City Cemetery Glenalina Extension.
Whilst the camp continued to be used for shooting competitions and for training purposes by the British Army (e.g., 300 men of the London Irish Rifles were quartered at the camp in July 1931 before moving to Victoria Barracks, Belfast), the numbers of men stationed in the camp declined. In March 1926, the Minister of Home Affairs made a statement about the camp in response to a written question from Major David Graham Shillington, MP for Armagh. The Minister reported that the camp was held on a yearly lease from the War Department at a cost of £1,080 p.a. and that 145 men, including twenty Special Constables, were quartered at the camp. The lease could be cancelled by either side at six months’ notice.
Following the creation of the airfield at Newtownards in the mid-1930s and the outbreak of the Second World War, the camp returned to military duty … but that is another story.
The Salvation Army, like the YMCA and other societies, provided support functions for troops in theatres of war. The first mechanised ambulances to be used on the Western Front were provided by the Salvation Army and members served as ambulance drivers. The Salvation Army also provided rest and recreation huts where soldiers could meet and get news from home. Salvation Army bands provided concerts to entertain the troops. However, members of the Salvation Army also enlisted with the armed forces and three members were awarded the Victoria Cross. So far, I am only aware of only one war memorial tablet for a unit of the Salvation Army in Ulster – for No. 1 Corps (Ballymacarrett and Mountpottinger) whose premises were located at the corner of Mountpottinger Road and Calton Street.
The memorial tablet records the names twenty-four members of this corps who served with the armed forces and five of the men died on active service overseas. The memorial tablet, now located at the Belfast Temple on the Cregagh Road, was made by David Mairs of Great Victoria Street and unveiled by Captain Herbert Dixon. The latter was the fourth son of Sir Daniel Dixon and represented the Belfast Pottinger constituency (later Belfast East) at Westminster. He was made 1st Baron Glentoran in 1939 and became the Third Baronet of Ballymenock in 1950, a few months before his death. In addition to the memorial tablet, there is also a pictorial parchment memorial dedicated to the Comrades of Ballymacarrett No 1 Band. The portraits of the fatalities in this article are drawn from the parchment commemoration.
George Brankin was born on 3rd March 1888 at North Street in Newtownards to James Brankin and Agnes Anna Savage and his father died of tuberculosis at Thistle Street in Belfast on 6th July 1896 at the age of 40. In 1901, Agnes Brankin, now a draper, was living at Marymount Street in Ormeau Ward with five children ranging in age from 10 to 19 and a seven-year-old grandson. George Brankin was living at Carnan Street in Shankill Ward when he married Mary Jane Rowney on 31st March 1905 at Trinity Church of Ireland in Belfast. George and Minnie had five children between December 1906 and January 1916, with one child dying 24 days after being born. George Brankin was working at the Sirocco Works and living at Seventh Street when he enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and held the rank of Corporal when he was deployed to France with 14th Battalion in October 1915. George Brankin was wounded during the Battle of Albert in July 1916 and this photograph, in which he is wearing hospital blues, was taken whilst he was convalescing. He was subsequently stationed with a reserve battalion at Ballykinlar Camp before returning to his battalion on the Western Front in early May 1917. Sergeant George Brankin died of wounds at No 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital on 8th June 1917, aged 29. He is buried in Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery in France and commemorated on the Rowney family memorial in Belfast City Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the Newtownards and District War Memorial, and on the memorial tablets for Davidson & Company and St Mark’s Church of Ireland in Newtownards. Mary Brankin, who had four children under the age of eleven, was awarded a pension of thirty-one shillings and three pence from December 1917. She also received a War Gratuity of fifteen pounds and ten shillings in November 1919.
Robert Burton was born around 1893 at Pollockshaws in Renfrewshire to Andrew Burton and Agnes Cameron and the family was living in Govan in 1901. The family was living at Hornby Street in 1906 when Andrew Burton, a coal trimmer, died in the Royal Victoria Hospital. He had fractured his skull after falling into the hold of Steamship Empress on 17th April 1906 and died three days later. In 1911, Agnes Cameron Burton was a linen weaver and living at St Leonard’s Street in Victoria Ward with six children, ranging in age from four to nineteen. Her two eldest children, Agnes and Robert, were both employed at Belfast Rope Works – Agnes as a netter and Robert as a machine boy. Robert enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was posted to the 5th Battalion, part of the 10th (Irish). The division departed Liverpool on 7th July 1915, bound for the Eastern Mediterranean and Robert Burton signed his army will on 22nd July on the Island of Lemnos. Lance-Corporal Robert Burton landed with 5th Battalion at Suvla Bay on 7th August 1915 and was killed in action eight days later at the age of 22. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula. His mother was awarded a pension of ten shillings per week from March 1917 and received a War Gratuity of three pounds in December 1919. On the 50th anniversary of his death, the Burton family donated a Bass drum and side drum to the Ballymacarrett and Mountpottinger Salvation Army Band in memory of Robert. A simple plaque adorns each drum.
Henry Dowds was born on 30th March 1886 at Banoge near Waringstown to James Dowds, a weaver, and Rachel Mercier. Henry Dowds was a weaver when he married Minnie Bertha Lawton, a Salvation Army Officer, on 11th May 1906 in Scarva Street Presbyterian Church in Banbridge. In 1911, Henry was a docks labourer and living at Jonesborough Street with his wife and their first son, Horace Henry (3). Their second child, Norman Harold, was born at Jonesborough Street in May 1913. Henry Dowds enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and was posted to the 17th (Reserve) Battalion before being deployed to the 15th Battalion on the Western Front after December 1915. Henry Dowds was killed in action on 1st July 1916, aged 30, and is buried in Connaught Cemetery at Thiepval. Minnie Bertha Dowds was awarded a pension of twenty-one shillings per week from February 1917 and received a War Gratuity of £3 in October 1919.
Albert Parker was born on 25th August 1898 at Jocelyn Avenue to George James Parker, an engine fitter, and Jane Thomson who lived at Frank Street in 1911 and at Castlereagh Street in 1918. Before the war Albert Parker was employed at McCaw, Stevenson and Orr Limited (printers, publishers, and chromo lithographers, Loop Bridge Works, Castlereagh Road). Albert Parker enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and was deployed to France with 14th Battalion in October 1915. He was Killed in Action on 16th November 1916, aged 18, and is buried in Pond Farm Cemetery in Belgium and commemorated on a family memorial in Carnmoney Church of Ireland Graveyard. Jane Parker was awarded a pension of five shillings per week and George James Parker received a War Gratuity of eight pounds and ten shillings in October 1919. His brother, John Parker, served with the same battalion and was transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on 9th April 1919. He was subsequently awarded a 20% Disablement Pension in respect of gunshot wounds to the left hip at the rate of eight shillings per week. John Parker is also commemorated on the memorial tablet.
Arthur Paton (or Patton) was born on 28th March 1898 at Spruce Street in Cromac Ward to Arthur Patton, a baker, and Jeannie Galbraith and the family lived on the Woodstock Road before moving to Reid Street by 1911. Arthur Patton enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and was posted to the 14th Battalion on the Western Front after December 1915. Sergeant Arthur Patton was Killed in Action on 27th June 1917, aged 19, and is buried in Messines Ridge British Cemetery in Belgium. Locally, he is commemorated on a family memorial in Dundonald Cemetery and on the memorial Roll of Honour for Ravenhill Road Presbyterian Church. His mother was awarded a pension of five shillings per week from December 1918 and received a War Gratuity of thirteen pounds and ten shillings in October 1919.
At the outbreak of the war, the Guinness Brewery at St. James’s Gate was the world’s largest brewery. The company actively encouraged its workers to enlist for war service and an article on the Herald.ie website in February 2015 estimated that a fifth of the Guinness workforce served. Like many other industrial and commercial concerns, the company guaranteed that the jobs of men enlisting for war service would be there for them on their return. However, Guinness went further, and paid half of the men’s ordinary wages to their families during every week in which they were engaged in the conflict.
After the war, those men who returned expressed their gratitude to the
company for its philanthropic attitude by presenting the Directors with an
illuminated address on 16th February 1920.
A duplicate address was prepared to enable a number of employees, who had
not had the opportunity to subscribe to the address in the first instance, to
similarly express their thanks. The two
addresses were installed in the Board Room at St. James’ Gate in Dublin.
The company subsequently produced a parchment Roll of Honour and a Roll
of Honour book in which the names of 645 employees who served in the Great War
are listed by Department. 104 Guinness
employees (16% of those who enlisted) died, with 96 being killed in action or
dying of wounds. One of the Roll of
Honour books is on display at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.
Two of the company’s directors served in the Great War. Captain Edward Guinness, Viscount Elveden,
served with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was an Aide de Camp to His
Majesty King George V from 1916 to 1918.
Lieutenant-Colonel, the Honourable Walter Edward Guinness served with
the Duke of York’s Own Loyal Suffolk Hussars and was awarded the Distinguished
Service Order (with Bar) and was Mentioned in Despatches on three occasions.
The company had its own steamers for making deliveries to Great Britain and one ship was lost to enemy action. The SS “W M Barkley” was built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company of Troon in 1898 for William M Barkley & Sons (coal merchants, steamship owners and agents) of Wellington Place in Belfast but was later sold to John Kelly & Company before being purchased by Guinness in 1913. On 12th October 1917, the SS “W M Barkley” was transporting a cargo of stout from Dublin to Liverpool when she was torpedoed by German submarine UC-75 and sank seven miles east of the Kish lightvessel. Five men from the crew of 14 were lost and their names are commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London. Whilst the Guinness Genealogy Archive lists all five men as employees of the company, only Able Seaman Ernest Arthur Kendall (40) of Meany Place in Dalkey is listed in the Guinness Roll of Honour. The other fatalities were Ship’s Master, Edward Gregory (46) of Meadows Lane in Arklow, First Engineer Alexander Corry (48) of Victoria Villas in Dublin (who is commemorated on family memorials in Belfast City Cemetery and Movilla Cemetery in Newtownards), Second Engineer Owen Francis Murphy (27) of South Main Street in Wexford and Fireman Thomas Murphy (29) of Lower Sheriff Street in Dublin.
Another anomaly on the Guinness Roll of Honour is William Geoghegan, who
had joined the company in 1889 at the age of 24 and worked as a labourer in the
Brewhouse Department. He is listed as a
Sergeant with 8th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers and he had given his age as
52 when enlisting in October 1914. He was
discharged as “unlikely to make an efficient soldier” on 21st
November 1914 and died of pulmonary tuberculosis at his home address in Dublin on
22nd February 1916. The Register of Deaths records his age as 51 and his
occupation as “Sergeant R.D.F.”.
However, he is not listed as a war fatality by Commonwealth War Graves
Commission as he was not a serving soldier and his death was not attributable
to war service.
The first Guinness employee to die was Private Thomas McDonagh, 1st
Battalion Irish Guards, who died of wounds at Coulommiers on 8th September 1914
at the age of 25 and is commemorated on La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial in
France. The Guinness Genealogy Archive records that Thomas
McDonagh was born on 30th May 1889 and had joined the company as a cleaner in
the Engineer’s Department on 13th November 1911. He left the company on 5th August 1914, being
recalled from the Army Reserve, and was deployed to France on 13th August 1914.
He was a son of Thomas McDonagh and the
husband of Elsie McDonagh, later of 24 Pancras Square in London.
The last Guinness war fatality was Private James Kennedy, 1st Battalion
Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who died of influenza at a Military Hospital in
Shropshire on 9th April 1919, aged 31, and is buried in the Dean’s Grange
Cemetery in Dublin. The Guinness
Genealogy Archive records that James Kennedy was born on 19th March 1888,
joined the company as a labourer at the Cooke’s Lane Maltings on 18th July 1911
and left on 27th March 1915. He was stationed
at Victoria Barracks in Cork when he married Ellen Doyle of Montpellier Parade
in Blackrock on 4th September 1915. He was deployed to the Western Front after
31st December 1915.
The Guinness Roll of Honour records
that 47 employees received gallantry awards during the war, with several men
receiving multiple awards:
Service Order awarded to three men (four awards in total)
Conduct Medal awarded to eight men
awarded to nine men
awarded to 16 men
18 men were “Mentioned
in Despatches” (25 awards in total)
Three men were
awarded the Croix-de-Guerre.
Two employees serving with the Irish Guards are recorded as having
received the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM).
However, the United Kingdom only issued DSMs to naval personnel in the
Great War. It is possible that Henry
Corrin (a fitter in the Engineer’s Department) and George Woods (a Gate Porter
in the Brewhouse Department) were awarded DSMs by the United States of America.
Four men were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and Captain Trevor Crotty, Royal Army Service Corps, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Major Edward Gordon Peake, Royal Engineers, and Major Frank Douglas Stevens, Royal Air Force, were made Officers of the Order of the British Empire and Major John Lumsden, Royal Army Medical Corps, was made a Knight of the Order of the British Empire.
One of the Guinness men to be awarded the Military Cross was James Plowman. He was born at Skerton in Lancashire on 15th September 1890 to Louis Plowman and Eliza Thomas, being the second of their seven children. Their third child was born in Dublin in 1892 at which time Louis Plowman was employed as a Coach Painter for the Great South Western Railway. James Plowman joined Guinness as a Fitter in the Engineer’s Department on 9th June 1913. The family was living at St. Patrick’s Terrace in the New Kilmainham district when James married Isabella Small of Rosemount Terrace in the Arbour’s Hill district on 29th July 1914 in St Paul’s Church of Ireland. The Guinness Genealogy Archive records that James left the company on 6th August 1914. He was deployed to France with the South Irish Horse on 17th August, receiving a commission with the Leinster Regiment on 28th August 1915. James Plowman was awarded the Military Cross for an act of gallantry in June 1917, the citation being published in the London Gazette on 9th January 1918. Captain James Plowman MC was serving with 2nd Battalion Leinster Regiment when he died of wounds on 29th April 1918, aged 27, and he is buried in the Cinq Rues British Cemetery at Hazebrouck in France.
History Hub Ulster acknowledges the assistance of Dr Jonathan Mattison in providing access to the Roll of Honour book to photograph and transcribe the contents. A copy of our transcription and the photographs of the pages have been provided to the Museum so that visitors can access the information whilst preserving the integrity of the artefact.
On Saturday 19th March, participants of North Belfast Remembers set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War.
Adults and children across North Belfast took part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas. The adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life. Each child received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story.
This memorial event was the culmination of the project when the participants released their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline.
Members of the public were invited to bring their ancestor’s story and write a message for a bottle which was provided on site and was thrown into Alexandra Dock.
The sea of lights was a poignant reminder of those who died in the First World War.
Adult groups taking part were: The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road, Survivors of Trauma Centre from Cliftonville, Alexandra Presbyterian Church on the York Road, Dalariada Community Organisation, ACT North Belfast and Brantwood History Group from Skegoneill Avenue.
Children’s groups taking part were the Hammer Youth Centre and Clonard Youth, the Church of God Boys Brigade on the Shankill, The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road and Ardoyne Youth Club.
This project has been funded by Belfast City Council and Community Relations Council.