Maiden City Great War Roll of Honour Part 26

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Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.

Scott, Corporal Archibald, 9831

Archibald Scott, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Festubert on May 16, 1915.

He was the son of Archibald and Emily Scott, 66, Fountain Hill, Waterside, Londonderry, and his name is listed on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

His name is also recorded on Glendermott Parish Church World War 1 Memorial, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Corporal Scott was one of five brothers who served, the others being Samuel, Charles, David and Gordon.

Samuel was killed at the Somme in July 1916. David, whose wife resided in Coleraine, wrote home to his father, in the same month, stating that he had been wounded for the second time.

Corporal Archibald Scott’s father, Archibald (senior), was a former member of the Londonderry Harbour Police, and an employee for twenty-three years of Messrs. McCully, Waterside.

He was very well known in the city of Londonderry generally, and in the Waterside in particular, and also amongst the farming community in the North West, with whom he had business dealings.

Born in the Ballyarnett district, Archibald (senior) took a very keen interest in cricket, and was an ardent follower of the game in the city of Londonderry.

Sheehan, Private Patrick, 4311

Patrick Sheehan, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was born at the Longtower, Derry, enlisted at Strabane, and died at Festubert on May 16, 1915. He was the son of Edward Sheehan, 9, Howard Place, Londonderry.

His name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Speers, Private William James, 7181

William James Speers, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Festubert on May 16, 1915. Aged 30, he was the husband of Mary Ann Speers, 19, Main Street, Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, and brother of Miss Martha Speers, Cuthbert Street, Waterside, Londonderry. He was also the brother-in-law of Annie R. Deans, Ashcroft Place, Londonderry, and possibly a member of both Clooney Hall Methodist Church and Waterside Presbyterian Church, Londonderry.

His remains are interred in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calais, France, and his name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

William Speers was called up as a reservist in August 1914.

His name was read out at a memorial service held, in St Columb’s (Church of Ireland) Cathedral, Londonderry, on Sunday, July 30, 1916, to pay homage to the memory of the men of the city of Derry, who had died, or were presumed dead, during the second year of the First World War.

Williamson, Private William, 3677

William Williamson, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was the son of Henry Williamson, 8, Alma Place, and grandson of Mr William Gallagher, 34, Bishop Street, Londonderry.

He was also a nephew of Robert Gallagher, 2, Victoria Street, and brother of Lily Williamson, 26, Abbey Street, Londonderry.

His name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Private Williamson, who was twenty years of age, had volunteered after the outbreak of the Great War.

He went out to France in early 1915, and was reported missing, on May 16, 1915, at Festubert, and was later concluded dead.

He was formerly in the employment of Messrs. J. & R. Montgomery. A brother, Private Harry Williamson, served at the Front with the Army Service Corps.

Wray, Private Patrick, 4687

Patrick Wray, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Festubert on May 16, 1915. Aged 20, he was the son of Charles and Catherine Wray, 49, Long Tower Street, Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

His name is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Hillan, Private Matthew, S/3487

Matthew Hillan, 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders, was born at Londonderry, enlisted at Glasgow, and died in Flanders on May 16, 1915. His name is recorded on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, were based in Plymouth with 8th Brigade in 3rd Division when war broke out in August 1914. They proceeded to France on August 14, 1914, landing at Boulogne.

They saw action at Mons and the rearguard action at Solesmes, and after taking heavy casualties at Le Cateau, they transferred to Army Troops, on September 12, 1914. They returned to 8th Brigade on September 30.

On December 14, 1914, the 1st Gordons were engaged in a failed attack on Maedelstede Farm.

The Battalion War Diary states that May 1915 began ‘quietly’ with, heavy shelling on the 6th, which killed 3 and wounded 5. By May 11, the Brigade was ordered to relieve the 13th Brigade in front of Hill 60. Located around three miles south-east of Ypres, it was not a natural feature. The Hill was made from the earth removed during the construction of the railway line nearby. Because it was a small area of raised land in an extremely flat landscape, it had strategic importance in the battles in the Ypres Salient.

The evening that the 1st Gordon Highlanders took over the section of the front facing Hill was described in the Regimental Official History.

The scene was ghastly. In the trenches still lay the bodies of men killed by the gas the week before.

The Gordons buried them and retrieved hundreds of rifles, previous at the moment when there were hardly enough at home to equip drafts for the front. Over their left shoulders the troops could see by day the columns of smoke, by night the glow, of big fires burning in Ypres. Shelling was almost continuous, night and day.

By mid-May, patrols carried out at Hill 60, with bombing continuing and parapets blown in.

Orr, Private William (Willie), 7938

William Orr, ‘D’ Company, 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry, died from wounds received in action at Festubert, on May 16, 1915. Aged 22, he was the eldest son of William Orr, 19, Carlisle Road – who possibly died on February 14, 1917 – and cousin of Samuel Orr, 16, Albert Place, Londonderry.

Private Orr was possibly a member of the Congregational Church, Great James Street, Londonderry, and definitely belonged to Churchhill Loyal Orange Lodge 871.

His remains are interred in Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France, and his name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Private Orr had been at the Front since September 1914, and writing to his father on May 11, 1915, before he was wounded, he stated: ‘We have had a pretty exciting time of it since I wrote you last. You need not tell me about German treachery after what I have seen this last couple of days. Yesterday the Germans set fire to a wounded man who was unable to get back to our trench.’

William Orr’s cousin, Private Samuel Orr, Highland Light Infantry, in a letter to his father, Andrew Orr, Albert Place, told how his cousin received the wounds from which he eventually died. ‘I am sorry,’ he said, ‘to tell you that Willie has been wounded. We had a very hard time, but played our part well. Poor Bill was put out just at the start.

‘It was on Sunday, 16th May, at dawn, we made for our place. We were in file, and I was in front of Willie. ‘We were coming through a house to a road of about nine hundred yards, which led to our trench. The shells were bursting all over us as we advanced through this house. ‘A shell just came behind me, and caught Willie and a couple of the boys in our section. The ones behind them attended to Bill and the other two.

‘It was a sore blow to me to have to fight all the day knowing that Bill had fallen, but I got through it, and I thanked God when we finished. We had only six left in our section, and no officers left in our company. I have a lot more to tell you, but perhaps if I wrote it the Censor would not pass the letter, and I want you to get it as soon as possible.’

Samuel Orr may have escaped without a scratch on the above occasion, but he was wounded later on that year (the news was conveyed on a postcard to his father dated September 25, 1915). He went out to the Front at the commencement of the Great War as a private, and was promoted to corporal on the field.

At the beginning of January 1915, a letter, which he had written to his mother, was published in the Londonderry Sentinel: ‘I was pleased to hear that my two brothers have joined the army [one brother, Lance Corporal Thomas Orr, served with the 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers]. We spent a very happy Christmas here singing round a big fire. We received Queen Mary’s Christmas gift on the 26th; it was a beautiful one. I am trying to send it home. I have also got a pipe, which, if God spares me, I will take home to my father. On the 24th we also got a photo of the King and Queen. I am sending it home, too. It was very nice and thoughtful of the King and Queen to remember us so suitably. Wishing all at home a happy New Year.’

The name of William Orr was read out during a memorial service held in St Columb’s (Church of Ireland) Cathedral, Londonderry, on Sunday, August 1, 1915, to commemorate the officers and men of the city of Derry, who had died during the first year of the Great War.