Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
Kerr, Lieutenant Daniel
Daniel Kerr, 14th Battalion Cheshire Regiment (attached 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers), was killed in action at the Dardanelles on July 6, 1915, aged 23
He was the son of Mr S.J. Kerr, Craignamaddy, Bushmills, and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
A student for the Irish Presbyterian ministry, Daniel Kerr volunteered early in the Great War for service with the cavalry, but there being no vacancy in that branch of the services he was given a commission in the 14th Cheshires, and joined on December 9, 1914.
After a course of training, Lieutenant Kerr embarked with his regiment, and reached Egypt early in June 1915.
On July 2, 1915, he landed in the Gallipoli peninsula, where four days later he was to lay down his life.
Lieutenant Kerr had almost finished his college course.
His undergraduate course was taken at Queen’s University, Belfast, where he graduated in 1912.
He then proceeded to Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, for the winter of 1912-13, and during the summer of 1913 he engaged in the active work of the ministry, having charge of a mission station in Canada for five months.
The remaining part of his theological course was taken at McCrea Magee College, Londonderry, where in the autumn of 1914 he carried off the first prize, £30, in the sixth year class, and also passed the first part of the examination for the degree of BD.
Daniel Kerr was attached to the 2nd South Wales Borderers, who were fighting at Gully Ravine, Gallipoli, on July 6, 1915, as part of the 87th Infantry Brigade in 29th Division.
A report of the attack in which Daniel was killed came from Anglican Chaplain to the forces and author of ‘With The Twenty-Ninth Division in Gallipoli,’ the Reverend Oswin Creighton: ‘The attack took place early in the morning of Tuesday 6th July. ‘The Turks held one end of a trench and the South Wales Borderers the other with a barricade between them. ‘An attempt was made to take the part held by the Turks, but they were driven back. Three officers and ten men were killed in the attack and about twenty-four wounded. I went up and buried some of them.’
Shortly after the death of Lieutenant Daniel Kerr, a memorial service was held in Croaghmore Presbyterian Church, Bushmills, of which Daniel was a member. The sermon was preached by the Reverend Professor Paul, McCrea Magee College, Derry, and was from Exodus xiv., 15, its subject being our national position at that time and our national duties.
At the close the preacher spoke as follows concerning Lieutenant Kerr: “A sorrow has fallen on the community, not on one family only, but on the whole community, and in our sorrow we have come together to worship God in this place where prayer is wont to be made.
“We have met also to show our respect for the memory of Lieutenant Kerr and our sympathy with the bereaved family.
“You all knew him, and you all respected him. Into the membership of this church he was baptised; hither he came Sabbath after Sabbath from his earliest years to worship God. “Next after his own home this church was to him the most sacred place.
“Here, we may be sure, many a high and holy purpose, many a noble resolution was formed, and we who today mourn his loss know that such purposes and resolutions were not formed in vain.
“His course for the Christian ministry was all but completed when he heard the call ‘of King and country,’ and he was ‘not disobedient unto the Heavenly Vision,’ and now in the distant Dardanelles he has laid down his life, ‘he has finished his course.’
“He seemed, to our mind, to have had a career of great distinction before him in the calling he had chosen.
“But ‘God has willed otherwise,’ rather, as the Christian must put it, ‘God has willed better’ for him.
“In the economy of the Universe it cannot be that his fine gifts of head and heart have been wasted; they are but transferred to a higher and earthly service.
“In such a life and in such a death there is in a very true sense nothing to regret, nothing to mourn over.
“What his manner of life here was you all know.
“He came to Derry less than two years ago, and I gladly testify to the high place which his character, his intellectual and moral worth won for him.
“His professors – I speak not only for myself, but for all the others – had the greatest regard for him; in his course with us he won the highest distinctions; his fellow students appointed him to office in their societies.
“It was difficult to believe that he was scarcely two complete seasons at our college, and that we shall see his honest face and manly form no more amongst us.
“He was, I think, our first student to be appointed to a commission, and our first student to fall.
“His name is inscribed first in our roll of honour.
“He was a young man any mother might be proud of; but that will only make the loss the more felt, and I offer to his mother and to her family my respectful and most sincere sympathy, praying that the God of all comfort may comfort her and them in this hour of bereavement.”
At a meeting of the McCrea Magee College Pulpit Supply Association, held on the evening of Friday, July 16, 1915, reference was made to the death of Lieutenant Kerr, and the following resolution was ordered to be entered in the minutes and a copy sent to the bereaved family: “We, the members of the above society, have heard with profound sorrow of the death of our esteemed fellow student, Mr Dan Kerr, BA, who has been killed in action at the Dardanelles.
“We esteemed him highly, not only on account of the high position he held as a student but also on account of all the other qualities that go to the making of a Christian gentleman.
“His genial presence will be missed in all the associations of the college, but most of all by this society, of which he was an honoured member.
“Our hearts go out in sympathy to all his sorrowing relatives, but most of all to those at home, and we pray that the God of all comfort will sustain them in this their hour of trial.”
Preaching in Strand Presbyterian Church, on Sunday, July 25, 1915, from the text Daniel, ii. 22 – ‘He knoweth what is in the darkness’ – the Reverend J Carson Greer, MA, made the following reference to Lieutenant Daniel Kerr: “I bring these words to your notice today because they express what we all feel about the untimely death, as it seems to us, of a most distinguished student of McCrea Magee College, who during the college session regularly worshipped with us in this church.
“I refer to Lieutenant Daniel Kerr, who early in the present month laid down his life in the service of his country on the field of battle, and now sleeps the last long sleep under a foreign sod.
“A few short months ago he responded to the call of his King and country, because he felt that that call for him was also the call of his God, and now there has come to us the sad and distressing news that he has fallen at the Dardanelles, on a battlefield that has been already drenched with the Empire’s best blood.
“Lieutenant Kerr had dedicated his life to God for work on the foreign mission field, and those of us who knew him well dreamed of the day when his youthful enthusiasm, his restless energy, and his unfaltering faith would be engaged in great spiritual battles in which he would successfully help to conquer the world for Christ.
“This was the work for which he had been preparing for years, and this was the work on which he was soon to enter, but God called him to another service and to another sacrifice, and, leaving aside the dreams and hopes of years, he promptly obeyed.
“We cannot understand why a life which promised to be so useful and so rich in blessing to the world should be so soon ended.
“But God ‘knoweth what is in the darkness,’ and we cling to the belief that those splendid gifts of head and heart which seem to us at the moment to have been wasted will find a higher sphere for their activity in that land where ‘His servants serve Him’ for evermore.
“Among his fellow students and those that were closely associated with him at McCrea Magee College ‘Dan’ Kerr, as he was familiarly called, was held in the highest regard and esteem.
“He was so modest yet so manly, so quiet yet so courageous, so enthusiastic yet so unassuming, so strong in intellect yet so simple in faith that he readily called forth the respect and the affection of all who knew him, and today there is profound sorrow among his fellow students because of his death, and many of them feel that the world is now poorer for them than it was before.
“We tender our sympathy to his bereaved mother and relatives, and to all who feel a deep personal sorrow in his loss, and pray that the God of all comfort may turn their mourning into joy, and their spiritual misgivings in this dark hour into gratitude, as they think of the manliness and courage and Christlike nobility of his life.”
O’Reilly, Private James, 18968
James O’Reilly, 1st Battalion Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers) and formerly 11909, Hussars of the Line, was born at Londonderry.
He enlisted at Uddingston, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, which was situated on the north side of the River Clyde, about seven miles south-east of Glasgow, and died in Flanders on July 6, 1915.
His remains are interred in Artillery Wood Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.
1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers was at Shorncliffe serving with 10th Brigade, 4th Division when war broke out in August 1914. They moved at once to York and then to Harrow on August 18, to prepare for service overseas.
They proceeded to France on August 23, landing at Boulogne, and crossing France in time to provide infantry reinforcements at the Battle of Le Cateau.
They were in action at the The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne and at The Battle of Messines in 1914. In 1915 they fought in The Second Battle of Ypres.
Many people have heard of the poets Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, but lying in Artillery Wood Cemetery, along with the remains of Private O’Reilly, are poets Ellis Humphrey Evans – known better by his Welsh name of Hedd Wyn – and Francis Ledwidge.
Both were killed on the same day, July 31, 1917 - the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele).
Hedd Wyn was a Welsh language poet. He was posthumously awarded the bard’s chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod.
Evans, who had been awarded several chairs for his poetry, was inspired to take the bardic name Hedd Wyn (Welsh: blessed peace) from the way sunlight penetrated the mist in the Meirionydd valleys.
Francis Ledwidge, serving with the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed whilst repairing a road near Boezinge.
A memorial at Artillery Wood Cemetery commemorates the Irish poet bearing the first lines of his Lament for Thomas McDonagh:
“He shall not hear the bittern cry
in the wild sky, where he is lain,
Nor voices of the sweeter birds
Above the wailing of the rain”