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.
Nigel Henderson, member History Hub Ulster