Centenary of the Battle of Coronel: Loss of at least 26 Ulstermen.

HMS Monmouth

HMS Monmouth

Centenary of the Battle of Coronel:

Loss of at least 26 Ulstermen, 91 Irishmen, Armoured Cruisers HMS MONMOUTH, HMS GOOD HOPE and Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock

The destruction of Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock’s squadron by German Admiral von Spee at The Battle of Coronel occurred on 1st November 1914 resulting in the loss of 1,654 souls, 91 known to be Irishmen, 26 of them Ulstermen.

Ulster losses include:

-15 year old Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce from Downhill, Derry, one of ten cadets lost on MONMOUTH.
-Armagh man Gunner James McVey who was underage on enlistment and was likely the first Ulsterman from the Royal Marine Artillery to die in the Great War.
-Antrim man Private Adam Morrow who was likely the first Ulsterman from the Royal Marine Light Infantry to die in the Great War.
-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.

The Royal Navy, had spent months looking for the German East Asiatic commerce-raiding squadron known to be operating under Admiral von Spee in the Pacific without success. An intercepted radio communication, in early October revealed details of a plan devised by von Spee to prey upon shipping in the crucial trading routes along the west coast of South America. Patrolling South America at that time was Admiral Cradock’s West Indies Squadron, which consisted of two armoured cruisers, HMS GOOD HOPE and HMS MONMOUTH, the light cruiser GLASGOW, and a converted ex-liner, OTRANTO. Cradock was ordered to deal with von Spee even though his fleet was ill-matched when set against von Spee’s formidable force of five vessels, led by the armoured cruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU plus three modern light cruisers.

HMS Good Hope

HMS Good Hope

On 18 October von Spee, having heard of the solo existence of the GLASGOW, set off with his squadron from Valparaiso with the intention of destroying it. Cradock, who was aware that he was outgunned had been waiting in the hope of naval reinforcements. The Admiralty dispatched an armoured cruiser DEFENCE and an elderly battleship CANOPUS but neither reached Cradock before battle unexpectedly commenced on 1 November 1914. Deciding that he could wait no longer for reinforcements, Cradock determined to sail from the Falkland Islands to rendezvous with GLASGOW at Coronel, where she was gathering intelligence.

The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, issued orders to Cradock on 28 October instructing him to halt, pending possible reinforcement from the Japanese Navy. However Cradock had intercepted a radio signal on 31 October that LEIPZIG, the slowest of von Spee’s light cruisers, was in the area. He promptly ordered his squadron north to cut it off and found himself confronting von Spee’s entire force the following day at around 4.30pm. At this stage it is probable that Cradock’s force could have escaped by sailing towards CANOPUS as with the failing light, von Spee would most likely have lost contact with the British squadron. Instead Cradock chose to stay and fight; however he ordered OTRANTO to break formation and flee. In difficult seas, von Spee moved his faster vessels out of Cradock’s firing range; at sunset with the moon clearly silhouetting Cradock’s fleet, he began to shell the British force, with SCHARNHORST’s third salvo crippling the flagship GOOD HOPE and both GOOD HOPE and MONMOUTH were destroyed shortly afterwards, MONMOUTH under repeated battering.

Newspaper reports at the time were confused and it was not confirmed until many days later what had actually happened to Cradock and his fleet. In fact on 4th November it was reported that HMS GOOD HOPE had not been damaged at all and on the 7th November it was reported that ‘The Admiralty have now received trustworthy information’ and that HMS MONMOUTH was ashore in Chile.

Eyewitness reports state:

“Monmouth continued to battle until her hull was riddled. She toppled over in the water and lay for a moment with her keel lapped by the waters, then plunged to the bottom.”

“After the Monmouth disappeared, the Germans closed in on the Good Hope, the big guns of the two battle cruisers firing with marvellous accuracy. With flames bursting from her in a dozen places, her superstructure carried away and her guns out of commission, the Good Hope finally turned and ran ashore with water pouring into her hull.”

A German report expresses that:

“German officers bear testimony to the great gallantry of the crew of the Monmouth, which while in a sinking condition, attempted to ram one of the German vessels.”

Although GLASGOW and OTRANTO both escaped, 1,654 men were drowned on GOOD HOPE and MONMOUTH. No survivors were found and Cradock himself was lost with his ship.Von Spee’s own fleet had suffered little damage, and sailed thereafter to Valparaiso to a rapturous welcome from the local German population.

Once news of the scale of the British defeat, and its consequent humiliation, reached the British Admiralty in London a decision was quickly taken to assemble a huge naval force under Admiral Sir Frederick Sturdee. This was promptly dispatched to destroy von Spee’s force, which it subsequently did, at the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

The loss of these men will be marked within the introduction to QFT’s screening of ‘The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands’. This new restoration from the British Film Institute National Archive is one of the finest films of the British silent era – a thrilling reconstruction of two decisive naval battles of 1914, recreated and filmed 13 years later, in peacetime. With a new score performed by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.

Queen’s Film Theatre; 11 November at 6.30pm and 16 November at 3pm. Book online: http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com/
Ulster men lost:

Gunner James McVey, born Armagh, lived Belfast
Able Seaman David Boyd, born Dromore, lived Belfast
Stoker (1st) Hugh Brough, lived Belfast
Stoker (2nd) John McAteer, born Belfast
Leading Stoker Joseph Wood, lived Belfast
Leading Seaman John Weir Hanna, born Belfast, lived Aghalee
Able Seaman James McGregor Reed, born Turmore, Donegal
Able Seaman George Todd, lived Newcastle
Stoker (1st) John Bleakley, born Belfast
Boy (1st) William Connell, lived Belfast
Able Seaman Samuel James Dickson, born Edenderry, lived Belfast
Able Seaman Albert Henry O’Hea, born Londonderry
Leading Seaman Herbert Campbell, born Belfast
Private Adam Morrow, born Antrim
Able Seaman George Henry Patton, born Belfast
Able Seaman Alexander Rodgers, born Belfast
Able Seaman William A J Wilson, born Belfast
Seaman Samuel Johnston, born Newtownards, lived Donaghadee
Seaman John McMullan, born Downpatrick
Ship’s Corporal (1st) William McAllister, born Portrush
Leading Seaman John Bernard, born Belfast
Ordinary Seaman Herbert Kelly, born Belfast
Ordinary Seaman Henry McNally, born Draperstown
Leading Seaman Michael Molloy, born Ardglass
Able Seaman David Prentice, born Belfast, lived Dromore
Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce, born Downhill

Research by Karen O’Rawe, Chair History Hub Ulster.

History Hub Ulster is a research group based in Belfast, but working on projects across Ulster.


First Irish bank staff to be killed in the Great War

The Belfast News Letter of 15th December 1914 reported in the war series “Ulster and the War – Bank Clerks in the Army”.  Within the first few months of war being declared, over 100 bank clerks or workers had volunteered for service or had been ‘called up’ due to being in the Army Reserve.

Private Michael Millett from the Bank of Ireland was probably the first bank official to be killed in action.  Millett was born around 1886 in Kilcloney, Co. Roscommon and was the son of Colour Sergeant James Millett.  He would have joined the Bank of Ireland around 1902.  Soon after, he enlisted in Athlone into the Army Reserve.  At the outbreak of war he was immediately called up to serve in the 2nd Bn. Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).  After training, he was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force.  He was Killed in Action on 20th October 1914 aged 28.  Millett is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Hainaut, Belgium and on the Bank of Ireland War Memorial in College Green, Dublin.

Sergeant William Archibald Pattenden from the Northern Banking Company was to be Killed in Action at Ypres on 31st October 1914.  Pattenden was born in October 1886 in Flimwell, Tunbridge, Kent, England and was Church of England faith.  He was the son of Horace Pattenden and had 2 older brothers, George and Frank.  In September 1906, following his education, Pattenden volunteered and enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment at Chichester, England.  On his enlistment form, his next of kin is recorded as his father and the 2 elder brothers.  Their address is recorded as East Street, Hambleden, Kent, England.  He was given the Service Number of 8527.  William is described as being 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighing 141 lbs (10 st 1 lb) with a scar over his left eye.  He has dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.

Pattenden’s military career started off at the Depot, Royal Sussex Regiment.  In 1907 he was posted to the 2nd Battalion.  Later that year he was posted to the 1st Battalion.  Between October 1907 and December 1913 Pattenden was serving in India (Ambular, Rawalpindi, Gharial and Peshawar).  He transferred to the Army Reserve in December 1913.  According to the Army ‘Statement of Services, Pattenden was formally discharged from the Army Reserve on 30th September 1914.  Over the years in service, his army medical form records him suffering from tonsillitis, having an abrasion on his left arm, having an abscess.  In 1913 at Rawalpindi, India he was vaccinated as a result of having ‘vesicles’.  On his transfer to the Army Reserve, he was found to have a hernia.

Sometime after 1913 he moved to Belfast and joined the Northern Banking Company as a Head Office Porter and Caretaker.  He was married and living in 13 Third Avenue, Belfast.
At the outbreak of war, as a Reservist, Pattenden was immediately recalled to the 2nd Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment.  The battalion immediately went to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.  He was to be Killed in Action at Ypres on 31st October 1914.  He was also the first Northern Bank official to take part in the Great War.  He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, the Shankill Road Mission War Memorial and on the Northern Banking Company War Memorial in Donegall Square West, Belfast.

Research by History Hub Ulster Member Gavin Bamford

For further information on Banking memorials visit




Release of previously unseen vintage aerial photographs of Ulster

Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1947. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing East.

Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1947. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing East.

History Hub Ulster welcomes the release of previously unseen vintage aerial photographs of Ulster by the Britain From Above website.

The site has recently published many unseen vintage aerial photographs of Ulster covering the 1920’s through to the 1950’s.

Within the archive are aerial photographs of the Antrim, Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Cavan , Coleraine, Cookstown, Craigavon, Derry, Donegal, Down, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Lisburn, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Newtownabbey, North Down, Omagh and Strabane areas.

The photographs will interest everyone from local historians, railway enthusiasts and heritage fans to name a few.

Britain from Above is a four year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the Aerofilms collection, those dating from 1919 to 1953.  Once conserved, they are scanned into digital format and made available on this website for the public to see. This project has been made possible due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from The Foyle Foundation and other donors. The website launched with the first 10,000 images and as we currently have little information about the details in the images, the website provides the opportunity to share and record your memories and knowledge about the places shown in the collection.

Britain From Above website http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/ 

Gavin Bamford and Catherine Burrell, History Hub Ulster members


WW1 Centenary: Ulstermen killed at the Battle of La Bassee

WW1 Centenary: Ulster men killed at the Battle of La Bassée.

By 22nd October 1914, the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles had been at the front in France for 70 days. In that time, they had suffered 94 fatalities. In the following five days they were to lose nearly exactly double that figure – 186, in the vicinity of a northern French village which was to become the scene of a vicious set piece battle in the spring of 1915 – Neuve Chapelle.

Amongst the rank and file who fell in this period of savage fighting were three men from West Belfast.

Private Patrick Bannon

Private Patrick Bannon

First to die on 25 October 1914 was 24-year-old Private Patrick Bannon. Patrick was the eldest son of Peter and Mary Bannon, who were originally from Cork, Patrick himself was born in Monaghan. Both parents worked in the flax mills and the family lived at Milton Street in the lower Falls area. Patrick had been with the battalion in France since their arrival on 14 August and had seen much action in that time. In common with the two other West Belfast men highlighted, Patrick has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

Private Robert James Foley

Private Robert James Foley


The following day, on 26 October 1914, 29-year-old Private Robert James Foley was killed. He was the son of Patrick and Mary Ellen Foley who at the time of his death resided at 59 Servia Street with Patrick’s sister Maggie who worked in a linen mill. In 1911, the family resided a short distance away in Plevna Street. Patrick had been at the front for just over two months before his death.

On 27 October 1914, 36- year-old Private Joseph Lavery was killed. A veteran of the South African

Private Joseph Lavery

Private Joseph Lavery

War, he received the South Africa medal with clasps for service at Cape Colony, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. Returning to civilian life, he worked as a dock labourer before re-enlisting on the outbreak of war. In 1911 his home was recorded at Johnston’s Court off Durham street, where he resided with his wife, Catherine and his daughters Catherine and Mary – both under six years old when their father was killed. The family had also lived at Bank Street and Berry Street, close to the city centre. Private Lavery had been at the front for only six weeks before his death.

Of the five officers who died, two had connections to North Down, and Campbell College.

Lieutenant Vivian Trevor Tighe Rea

Lieutenant Vivian Trevor Tighe Rea

Lieutenant Vivian Trevor Tighe Rea, was born in Mendoza, Argentina in August of 1891. An only son, his father was a steamship broker and the Vice Consul in Belfast for the Netherlands and Argentina. He was educated at Campbell College Belfast from 1905-1908, where he held a scholarship before going to Queens University, and then Trinity College Dublin where he studied for the Church. In a change of career he enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles attaining the rank of Lieutenant in 1913. On 25 October 1914, Lt Rea was severely wounded in the front line. He was removed to a Chateau behind the lines where the Battalion medical facilities were, but succumbed to his wounds. He was buried in the grounds of the chateau, but that same night the Germans heavily shelled the area setting the chateau on fire and destroying it. His remains were exhumed and identified in 1921, and re-buried in the Guards Cemetery (Windy Corner) Cuinchy a short distance from Neuve Chapelle. His father arranged for his headstone to bear the inscription, ‘I have fought the good fight.’ In a very busy life cut short, Lt Rea was also a leading light in the nascent Boy Scouts movement, being scoutmaster of the Bangor Troop and Honorary Secretary of the Ulster Scout Council. In a mark of appreciation a stained glass memorial window was erected in his memory at St Comgall’s Church of Ireland, Bangor.

Captain Henry Ousely Davis

Captain Henry Ousely Davis

Another Old Campbellian to fall two days after Lieutenant Rea on 27th October 1914 was Captain Henry Ousely Davis. Born at Church Road, Holywood in September 1884, he was the eldest son of Henry and Mary Davis. He initially attended Portora Royal School Enniskillen before moving to Campbell College in 1901. He remained there until 1903 and played rugby for the school First XV. He entered Sandhurst in 1903 and was commissioned into the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1905. He resigned his commission in 1910 and appears to have become heavily involved with the UVF, becoming a member of its Headquarters Staff. In that capacity early in 1914 he approached Campbell College asking if its facilities could be used as a hospital in the event of civil war. At the outbreak of the First World War he re-enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles. Captain Davis was killed by shrapnel on 27 October 1914, and in the confusion of battle his body was never recovered. In 1921, his family received correspondence from the Imperial War Graves Commission asking for a description of Henry as they intended to open a grave to try and obtain and identification. Sir Edward Carson became involved in the matter, but no positive identification was ever made. Captain Henry Ousely Davis is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing, on a plaque in Holywood Parish Church, St Philip and St James.

Both men are commemorated on both the Campbell College Roll of Honour and the North of Ireland Football Club Roll of Honour.

Battalion Background

The 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles came into being following the reorganisation of the British Army in 1881. The amalgamation of two historic regiments – the 83rd (County of Dublin) and the 86th (Royal County Down) Regiments of Foot, formed one of many two battalion Regiments in the army – the 1st and 2nd Battalions Royal Irish Rifles. The regimental depot was located in Belfast at Victoria barracks which stood where the New Lodge is now. The main barracks entrance was at Henry Place which still joins with Clifton Street.  At the outbreak of the First World War, neither battalion had spent any meaningful time in Belfast since their formation, globetrotting being the norm with the 1st Battalion posted to South Africa, India, Burma and Aden, and the 2nd Battalion spending time in Bermuda, Canada, Gibraltar, Egypt, Malta and India as well as South Africa for the war at the turn of the century. When war was declared however, they were in the less glamorous surroundings of Tidworth in Wiltshire.  Well below their active service strength of 1,000, the 2nd Battalion received 224 reservists from the depot in Belfast before embarking for France as part of 7 Brigade, 3rd Division of the British Expeditionary Force, arriving at Rouen around teatime on 14 August 1914.

Outline of the Battle of La Bassée

The Battalion was involved in the first battle of the war at Mons on 23 August and then at Le Cateau on 26 August. Then began the long strategic retreat which confused many of the Rifles, as they had given such a good account of themselves against the best the German army could throw at them. The Battle of the Aisne in mid-September again saw the battalion on the offensive, and following this they spent a short period in rest billets before marching and being transported to Neuve Chapelle, arriving on the morning of 22nd October. At this time, both the allies and the Germans were ‘jockeying for position’, as what had been relatively open warfare slowly but surely ground to a halt. In the north Flanders plain, the Germans had control of the small town of La Bassee and the strategically important but geographically insignificant Aubers Ridge, (it rose to only 20 metres at its highest). The British forces were clustered round the lower lying marshy ground around Neuve Chapelle. On arrival, the Rifles set about trying to strengthen their position but were not granted that luxury by the Germans, and what followed was warfare in its most raw state with vicious attack and counterattack involving hand to hand fighting, and extensive use of the bayonet, all done under constant shelling by the Germans and what has become known as ‘friendly fire’ incidents involving British Artillery. Initially things went well for the Rifles. A German attack on 23 October was ruthlessly repulsed as an account by Corporal Lucy, a native of Cork, who went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel indicates:

“We let them have it. We blasted and blew them to death. They fell in scores, in hundreds, the marching column wilting under our rapid fire.”

Severe German shelling from heavy artillery took place throughout 24 October, and the German Infantry attack renewed in the evening which led to hand to hand fighting and close quarter bayonet work. This attack was also repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. Such was the ferocity of the fighting that the Corps Commander, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien issued the following order on 25 October:

“During an attack by the enemy on the 7th Infantry Brigade last night, the enemy came to close quarters with the Royal Irish Rifles, who repulsed them with great gallantry with the bayonet and made several prisoners. The Corps Commander wishes to compliment the regiment on its splendid feat, and directs that all battalions of the corps shall be informed of the circumstances and of his high appreciation of the gallantry displayed.”

The morning of 25 October saw another attack by the Germans which breached the Rifles defences for a time until reinforcements from the battalion were able to force them out, again sustaining many casualties. More galling for the Rifles was the fact that they came under heavy shelling by British artillery which took some time to stop as it was impossible to communicate with the gunners due to the telephone wires being cut. On 26 October, the Germans broke through the Rifles line in a massed attack and two Companies, B and D simply disappeared, either killed or captured. The remaining exhausted Rifles, dwindling in number managed to rally and once more force the Germans back, but on 27 October were forced due to overwhelming enemy numbers and firepower to withdraw to the village of Neuve Chapelle itself.

Research by History Hub Ulster Associate Member Michael Nugent.

Michael Nugent has recently launched a new research website for families hoping to find out more about their World War One ancestors at http://ww1researchireland.com/

Pictures courtesy of Nigel Henderson at http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com

La Bassee men


Cavan Hero of the Great War, Sergeant David Carson Jones DCM

Cavan Hero of the Great War, Sergeant David Carson Jones DCM, remembered on the Centenary of his award and subsequent death

Sgt Jones Photo 001Local Cavan man David Carson Jones was born in 1887 at Cloverhill, County Cavan. He enlisted in the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in April 1907, being promoted Lance Corporal the same year. He was promoted Corporal in 1909 and Sergeant in 1913. In addition he had attained the 1st Class Education Certificate, which marked him as a soldier with a promising future. On 17th October 1914, Sergeant Jones would perform an act of bravery that would see him awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for gallantry in the field in the face of the enemy.

Like many other regular Irish Regiments, the Royal Irish Fusiliers were first into the fray at the beginning of the First World War. As part of 10 Brigade of the 4th Division of the British Expeditionary Force, (BEF), the Faugh-a-Ballaghs went from peacetime duties to the front line in around two weeks.

Arriving in Boulogne on 22 August aboard the SS Lake Michigan, a Canadian Pacific Steamship Company passenger and cargo steamer, the Fusiliers had little time to rest before engaging the Germans at the battle of Le Cateau, France on 26 August.  In what was a fairly confused engagement owing to difficulties with communications, the Fusiliers suffered 24 fatalities including two Cavan men. They were 21-year-old Joseph Sullivan, son of Michael and Bridget Sullivan of 6 Breffni Terrace, Cavan and 24-year-old Private Peter McNally, son of Francis and Kate McNally of Cootehill.

The Faughs then joined the strategic withdrawal of the BEF which saw the battalion engaged in fighting a rear-guard action which lasted until 6 September 1914. Involvement in both the battles of the Marne and the Aisne followed, and by mid-October the battalion, although battle hardened had sustained 43 fatalities, and many more wounded.

On 17 October the Royal Irish Fusiliers found themselves on the outskirts of the town in northern France popularised by the risqué soldier’s song of the time – ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’. On the morning of 17 October, the battalion crossed the River Lys and advanced into the town, being met by ecstatic civilians who pressed bread, fruit, flowers and chocolate on the men.  However, the Germans in the town commenced firing as they were forced to withdraw, and street to street fighting took place until around noon, when the bulk of the Germans had been forced out.

On the battalion’s approach to the town was a farm occupied by the Germans. Named the Ferme Phillipeaux, an initial attack by the Faugh’s C Company was repulsed, resulting in the death of a popular officer – Captain Miles Carberry, a veteran of the South African War, and leaving several men wounded around the farm buildings. The farm was surrounded and picketed as the attack on the town took priority. Repeated attempts to encourage the Germans in the farm to surrender fell on deaf ears, and they continued to open fire on anyone who approached, killing two Fusiliers who were attempting to rescue the wounded. Orders were given to blow up the farm, and it was set on fire, but this endangered the wounded Fusiliers who were in mortal danger from falling debris.

Sergeant David Carson Jones volunteered to rescue the wounded and advanced with members of his platoon under heavy fire from the defenders, to the door of the farm.  They were able to rescue one wounded man and conveyed him to safety, although Sergeant Jones was severely wounded in the process. For this action Sergeant Jones and three of his men were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The award of the medal to Sergeant Jones was published in the London Gazette of 10 November 1914 stating:

‘For conspicuous gallantry on 17th October near Houplines, in volunteering to rescue wounded men lying close to the door of a burning house held by the enemy under heavy fire. He was successful in rescuing one wounded man.’

Unfortunately Jones did not live to receive his medal.  He succumbed to his wounds on 20 October 1914 and is buried in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres.

Another Cavan soldier from Sergeant Jones’ C Company died the same day from wounds in all probability received in the same action. Private John Sullivan, 21 years old, was from Creighan Terrace in Cavan town. The third son of John and Lizzie Sullivan, he died on an ambulance train which was removing him to a Base Hospital away from the front line. He is buried at Hazebrouck Military Cemetery, with his parents adding the inscription, ‘Son of John Sullivan of Cavan – May he Rest in Peace’ to his headstone.

Research by History Hub Ulster Associate Member Michael Nugent.

Thanks to Jonathan Maguire, Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum, Armagh, for his assistance in researching this article.

Michael Nugent has recently launched a new research website for families hoping to find out more about their World War One ancestors at http://ww1researchireland.com/

Picture courtesy of Nigel Henderson at http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com


HMS HAWKE Centenary: Heartbreaking stories of fathers-to-be who would never see their newborn children.

The sinking of HMS HAWKE: One of the greatest single losses of Royal Navy sailors from Ulster with 49 Ulstermen lost to just one U-boat

During the week when the Royal Navy traditionally remembers the Immortal Memory of Admiral Nelson and his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, it is worth pausing to reflect on the centenary of a naval incident that had a significant impact on so many Ulster families, the sinking of HMS Hawke. One of the greatest single losses of Royal Navy sailors from Ulster, this incident occurred on the 15th October 1914 when the German Submarine U-9 which was patrolling the North Sea came across two British Cruisers HMS Hawke and her sister ship HMS Theseus.

HMS_HawkeUnder the command of German hero Commander Weddigen, U-9 fired on the British ships. This was the same German submarine which had caused the deaths of almost 1500 British seamen only 3 weeks earlier with the torpedoing of the ‘Livebait Squadron’. The submarine’s first torpedo hit HMS Hawke, igniting a magazine and causing a tremendous explosion which ripped much of the ship apart. Hawke sank in a few minutes with the loss of her Commander and 523 men. Only 74 men were saved.

Sailors from Ulster lost on Hawke included the tragic loss of three fathers-to-be, leaving pregnant wives to fend for themselves throughout the difficult war years.

-Leading Stoker Joyce Power left young twins and a pregnant wife in Ballymena. 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 just 3 weeks before, suffered yet another tragedy with the loss of another member, Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister.

-Another loss for Ulster was Lieutenant Commander Ruric Henry Waring, the first of the sons of Colonel Thomas Waring JP of Waringstown to be killed. Ruric’s younger brother Major Holt Waring would be killed in 1918 at the Front.

In August 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, Hawke was part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, operating on blockade duties between the Shetland Islands and Norway. In October 1914, the 10th Cruiser Squadron was deployed further south in the North Sea as part of efforts to stop German warships from attacking a troop convoy from Canada. On 15 October, the squadron was on patrol off Aberdeen and HMS Hawke stopped at 0930 to pick up mail from her sister ship HMS Endymion. Hawke proceeded to return to her station without zig-zagging to avoid danger, and was out of sight of the rest of the Squadron when a single torpedo from U-9 struck Hawke and she quickly capsized. The remainder of the Squadron only realised something was wrong when, after a further, unsuccessful attack on Theseus, they were ordered to retreat and no response was received from Hawke. The destroyer Swift was dispatched from Scapa Flow to search for Hawke and found a raft carrying 22 men, while a boat with a further 49 survivors was rescued by a Norwegian steamer.

524 men drowned, including the ship’s Captain, Hugh P. E. T. Williams, and 49 Ulstermen. Only 74 men were saved, of which 6 were from Ulster.

A surviving Stoker explained:
‘Those on deck for an instant immediately after the explosion saw the periscope of a submarine which showed above the water like a broomstick. The Hawke was holed above the engine room and commenced to cant over to starboard with alarming rapidity. Her plates were twisted and torn and a huge gap was rent in her side. An attempt to man the guns was made but owing to the extra acute list of the vessel it was found impossible to train them on the submerged craft. The horror of the situation was added to when a tank of oil fuel caught fire and the flames advanced with fatal rapidity. Seeing there was not the ghost of a chance of doing any good by remaining in what was obviously a death trap I determined to make a dash for it. I scrambled precipitately up the iron ladder to the main deck. All this had happened in less time than it takes to tell.’

He continued:
‘But such is British pluck and coolness of nerve even in the face of such a situation that already after the initial shock the Captain, Commander and a midshipman were on the bridge and calmly on the fleet manoeuvre in the Solent, orders were given out and calmly obeyed. The bugler sounded the ‘Still’ call which called upon every man to remain at the post in which the call reached him. Apparently during the first minute or two, the belief was entertained that all that was wrong was the boiler explosion, but the rapidity with which the cruiser was making water on her starboard side rudely and quickly disputed all minds of this belief.’

Another survivor explained that:
‘The Captain, Commander and the midshipman had stuck bravely to their posts on the bridge to the last, and were seen to disappear and the ship finally plunged bow first amidst a maelstrom of cruel, swirling waters’

One survivor when interviewed pointed out that:
‘the crew for the most part were Irishmen, the reason being that at the outbreak of war the Hawke which was one of the oldest ships of the British Navy, was stationed at Queenstown… there were only around 24 active servicemen on board, the remainder being fleet reservists’

None of these men’s bodies was recovered for burial, most remaining where they drowned. The centenary of the sinking of HMS Hawke and the tragic loss of so many men of Ulster will be remembered at the Royal Navy’s annual Trafalgar Day Service in Belfast on 19th October 2014.

Ulstermen known to have died on HMS Hawke are:

Stoker (1st class) Nathaniel Agnew, born Belfast

Able Seaman Robert Algie, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) David Bell, born Ballymena

Stoker (1st class) George Jackson Campbell, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Chisim, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Hugh Patrick Cormican, born Belfast

Able Seaman Hugh Crawford, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Robert Creighton, born Larne

Stoker (1st class) James Dickey, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Mariott (Martie) Robert D Donald, born Carrickfergus

Petty Officer (1st class) William James Elkin, born Coleraine

Stoker (1st class) Samuel Fee, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William John Gillespie, born Lisburn

Able Seaman James Toland Gorman, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William Greer, born Ballybay, Monaghan

Stoker (1st class) Robert John Hamilton, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William James Harper, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Robert Hunter, born Belfast

Able Seaman William Johnston, born Carrickfergus

Stoker (1st class) Isaac Lewis, lived Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister, born Carrickfergus

Able Seaman David McCaugherty, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Hugh McComb, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William McFarlane

Stoker (1st class) James McNally, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Mills, born Belfast

Chief Petty Officer Charles Molloy, born Drumragh, Tyrone

Stoker (1st class) Edward Mullen, born Belfast

Able Seaman William James Ross, born Belfast

Leading Stoker Joyce Power, born Ballymena

Stoker (1st class) Thomas Henry Sefton, lived Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Smyth, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Archer Thompson, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) David Tully

Stoker (1st class) Charles Edward Uprichard, born Lurgan

Stoker (1st class) Henry Wasson, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) James Wilson, born Newry

Able Seaman Albert Patterson Wilson, lived Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Yates, born Belfast

Boy (1st class) Clare Robert Adams, born Enniskillen

Stoker (1st class) William Clarke, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Edward Crossin, born Belfast

Able Seaman John Thomas Gibson Dawson, born Belfast

Able Seaman James Charles Gamble, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Daniel Laverty, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Alexander Mairs, born Ballymena

Leading Stoker Patrick McEvoy, born Dechomet, Banbridge

Stoker (1st class) Hugh McGinley, born Inch Island, Donegal

Lieutenant Commander Ruric Henry Waring, born Waringstown

*Research by Karen O’Rawe, Chair History Hub Ulster and William Hull, Research Assistant, Now Project.

*Three years before, on 20 September 1911, Hawke, under command of Commander W. F. Blunt, collided in the Solent with the White Star liner RMS Olympic. In the course of the collision, Hawke lost her bow. The subsequent trial pronounced Hawke to be free from any blame. During the trial, a theory was advanced that the large amount of water displaced by the Olympic had generated a suction that had drawn Hawke off course. The decision of the first court to try the case provoked a series of legal appeals.

*There were 6 known Ulster men who survived the tragedy. These were: Charles Trainer from Derry, JA Allen from Belfast, Thomas H Doyle from Belfast, Thomas Hoy from Larne, John Aitken, from Belfast and James O’Neill, from Belfast.

*Newspaper photographs courtesy of History Hub Ulster member, Nigel Henderson at http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com

History Hub Ulster is a research group based in Belfast, but working on projects across Ulster.



Ulster and Malta in the Great War – A Presbyterian Perspective

The location of Malta between the coast of North Africa and Italy made it a key strategic position, for Malta not only provided the Royal Navy with deep water anchorage but it was also a staging post for troopships transporting men and materials to Gallipoli, Salonica and Egypt.  However, for many Ulstermen, their connection with the island was medical and, for some, Malta was their final resting place in death.  For some Ulsterwomen, Malta was the place where they provided medical care to men wounded in battle or suffering from illnesses arising from the battlefields.

Elizabeth Gould BellDuring the Great War, Malta was described as the Nurse of the Mediterranean.  In 1914, Malta had five military or naval hospitals but this rose to 27 hospitals and camps during the war.  The first wave of war casualties to be treated in Malta (600 casualties from the Gallipoli landings) arrived on 4th May 1915 and approximately 136,000 men from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and the Salonika Expeditionary Force were treated in Malta up to February 1919.

One Ulsterwoman who served in Malta was Dr. Elizabeth Gould Bell of College Gardens who left Belfast in July 1916 to take charge of a ward in a Malta Hospital.  Elizabeth was married to Dr. Hugh Fisher (but widowed by 1911) and her father, Joseph Bell, had been Clerk of the Newry Union, a position her brother also held.  She was the first female student to study Medicine and Surgery at Queen’s College Belfast and she received her degree from the Royal University in Ireland in 1893.

Before the war, Dr. Bell was a keen advocate of the extension of the franchise to women, being a member of the Irish Women’s Suffragette Society in Belfast and treated suffragette prisoners in Crumlin Road Gaol.  She later devoted herself to the medical welfare of women and children.  Her only son, Hugo Bell Fisher, was studying medicine when he received a commission with the Royal Munster Fusiliers in 1915 and he joined his unit in France on 23rd November 1916.  He was wounded and captured during the Battle of Passchendaele and died on 23rd November 1917.  He is buried in Harlebeke New British Cemetery in Belgium and is commemorated on the War Memorial in Fisherwick Presbyterian Church.


Based on the information held by Commonwealth War Graves Commission, supplemented with details from Soldiers Died in the Great War, 68 Irishmen who died in the Great War are buried in Malta and seventeen were Ulstermen:

Private (T4/061442) Hugh McCann of Crossgar died on 31st July 1915 whilst serving with 42nd (East Lancashire) Divisional Train, Army Service Corps and is buried in Addolorata Cemetery

Trooper (11/959) Hugh Adair of Belfast and Bangor died on 3rd October 1915 whilst serving with the Wellington Mounted Rifles and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Private (9949) Francis Eccles of Drumglass died on 3rd August 1915 whilst serving with 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and is buried in Addolorata Cemetery

Private (11407) Patrick Murphy of Derrygullen died on 27th August 1915 whilst serving with 5th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and is buried in Addolorata Cemetery

Lance Corporal (9236) Edward Boyle of Maguires Bridge died on 19th May 1915 whilst serving with 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and is buried in Pembroke Military Cemetery

Private (11609) George Atkinson of Donegal died on 5th December 1915 whilst serving with 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Private (11824) James Hutchinson of Armagh died on 4th September 1915 whilst serving with 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Private (G/1458) James Duffey of Londonderry died on 6th November 1916 whilst serving with 2nd Garrison Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers and is buried in Addolorata Cemetery

Private (17909) Samuel Clayton of Portadown died on 2nd October 1915 whilst serving with 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Corporal (2643686) William Dawson of Belfast died on 18th September 1917 whilst serving with 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Rifleman (8937) Henry Alexander McClune of Belfast died on 27th September 1915 whilst serving with 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Rifleman (8502) David Reid of Blaris died on 11th October 1914 whilst serving with 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Private (PLY/15918) William John McCabe of Belfast died on 29th March 1919 whilst serving with the Royal Marine Light Infantry on HMS “Foresight” and is buried in Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery

Engineer Sub-Lieutenant W C White of Belfast died on 15th June 1918 whilst serving with the Royal Naval Reserve on HMS “Snaefell” and is buried in Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery

Stoker 1st Class (K/14000) Robert Cairns of Belfast died on 27th April 1916 whilst serving with the Royal Navy on HMS “Russell” and is buried in Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery

Leading Stoker (300050) John Moon of Belfast died on 16th May 1918 whilst serving with the Royal Navy on HMS “Egmont” and is buried in Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery

Private (23685) Samuel Easton of Doagh died on 25th January 1916 whilst serving with 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery

Three of the Ulstermen buried in Malta were associated with Belfast congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Hugh Adair - SR ExtractTrooper Hugh Adair

was born in Bangor on 11th October 1893, being the third son of Hugh and Mary Adair.  His father was a farmer but Mary was a widow by 1901, at which time the family was living in Southwell Road, Bangor.  Hugh Adair emigrated to New Zealand in 1912 and was working as a Stati????????on Hand in Makauri when he enlisted with the 9th Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles in December 1914.   Trooper Adair left New Zealand in February 1915, arriving in Egypt in March 1915 and, in August 1915, his unit was located at ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Hugh’s only sister, Ruby, served as a nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Army Nursing Service in Alexandria.

Hugh Adair was transferred to a hospital on Malta on 10th September 1915 suffering from gastritis and he subsequently died of enteric fever on 3rd October 1915 and is buried in Pieta Military Cemetery.  On 20th November 1915, the Newtownards Chronicle report on his death recorded that he had been wounded after a couple of months at Gallipoli. Unlike most military gravestones in Malta, which lie canted and contain three names, Hugh Adair has a personal memorial that was erected by his aunt, his sister and his brothers. His name is also commemorated on the Rolls of Honour for First Holywood Presbyterian Church and Cooke Centenary Presbyterian Church in East Belfast.

Robert CairnsStoker (1st Class) Robert Cairns

was born in Belfast on 23rd April 1893, being the fifth child of Robert (a factory mechanic) aRobert Cairnsnd Ellen Cairns, who were living in Greenmount Street, Belfast in 1901.  Robert Cairns served on HMS Russell, a Duncan-class battleship, which was detached from the Grand Fleet on 6th November 1915 and despatched to reinforce the British naval squadron in the Dardanelles.  HMS Russell participated in the evacuation of Cape Helles from 7th to 9th January 1916 and she was the last battleship of the British Dardanelles Squadron to leave the area.

After the conclusion of the Dardanelles campaign, HMS Russell stayed on in the Mediterranean and was steaming off Malta early on the morning of 27th April 1916 when she struck two sea mines that had been laid by the German submarine U-73. A fire broke out in the aft part of the ship and the order to abandon ship was passed.  After an explosion near the aft gun turret, she took on a dangerous list but sank slowly, allowing most of the crew to escape.  A total of 27 officers and 98 ratings were lost, including Robert Cairns who was buried in the Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery.  Robert Cairns’ name is commemorated on the Roll of Honour for Great Victoria Street Presbyterian Church in South Belfast.

Leading Stoker John Moon

John Moonwas born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, on 16th September 1878 and married Rachel Reid on 27th December 1904 and his wife, a linen weaver, was living at 44 Ruth Street in 1911. John Moon 2 John was a labourer when he joined the Royal Navy on 4th March 1902 for a 12-year period.

He extended his service in March 1914 and was serving on HMS Vivid 2 when the Great War started.   From 1st November 1917, he served on HMS Egmont, a Base Ship in Malta and died of a fractured spine on 16th May 1918 following an accident onboard HMS Mimosa.

He was buried in the Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery and his name is commemorated on the Roll of Honour for Newington Presbyterian Church in North Belfast.


Research by Nigel Henderson, History Hub Ulster Member

RSPBANI Music and Songs of the Trenches Concert

Tunes and Songs of the Trenches RSPBANI Music and Songs of the Trenches Concert to Commemorate First World War

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, Northern Ireland Branch (RSPBANI) has come together with Cookstown District Council to present a Music and Songs of the Trenches concert on Friday 24th October 2014 in the prestigious Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Two-and-a-half thousand pipers served in the Great War; men from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Over five hundred of these men never returned home.    Two pipers were awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery and many other medals were presented to these courageous men.  The RSPBANI are proud to commemorate the lives of all those who lived, fought and died in the Great War through the music, tunes and songs of the period.

The programme will feature tunes composed by some of the greatest pipers of 1914 – 1918 including William Ross, William Lawrie and George Stewart McLennan performed by P.M. Ian Burrows and Pipers from Ballybriest, Cloughfin, Matt Boyd and Tullylagan Pipe bands as well as celebrated Uilleann Piper Chris McMullan.

There is great variety in the programme with the songs from the First World War sung by well-known baritone Karl McGuckin, the Willie Drennan Folk Band performing excerpts from their Somme CD  and the local Tamlaghmore Silver Band leading a sing-along as well as playing tunes from the period.

Tickets are on sale priced at £10 seat and are available from Burnavon Theatre Box Office: Tel 028 8676 9949 or http://www.burnavon.com/theatre/whats-on/Music-and-Songs-of-the-Trenches/info

Pints ‘n’ Poetry Night To Bring First World War To Life

Join Poet Laureate, Dr Sinead Morrissey, and local novelist Dr Glen Patterson, presenter of the BBC’s Study Ireland poetry TV series, as they bring some of the most personal accounts of the First World War to life in an evening of ‘Pints a’’ Poetry’ to be held at Grace Neill’s, Donaghadee.

Organised by Ards Borough Council, the words of ordinary soldiers in the trenches and established poets, read from the work of writers such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, John McCrae, Edward Thomas, and Jessie Pope, will recount what it was like to live and serve during the Great War.

While modern, original works, including those that are part of the UK-wide ‘Letters to an Unknown Soldier’ project to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of war, will explore the impact and influence that the Great War still has today.
pints and poetry
Readings will be given by local writers and members of the Ards community including the Mayor of Ards, Councillor Philip Smith, who is looking forward to the event:

“The First World War was a powerful source of inspiration for a body of literature which continues to resonate today and the incorporation of both work written at the time and modern poems and prose will ensure that the evening reflects the experience of those who lived and served during the First World War, as well as the impact and influence that it still has today.”

The Pints ‘n’ Poetry event takes place on Thursday 9th October, 8-10pm, at Grace Neill’s, Donaghadee.

Tickets cost: £5 (includes light supper) and can be purchased online visit www.ards-council.gov.uk/pintsnpoetry or at Ards Visitor Information Centre. For more information telephone 028 9182 4021.

More Than A Flag at #BelFest


East Belfast answered the call to arms in World War One. Dan Gordon and Garth McConaghie work with a group of young East Belfast Bandsmen to find out why and create a special performance with songs, poetry, music and drama to commemorate this vital part of the city’s heritage.

Running from Thurs 23 – Sat 25 Oct at Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s.

Click to book here.
More than a flag