Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
Haslett, Corporal James Holmes, 30
James Holmes Haslett, 3rd Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Corps (Australian Expeditionary Force), was born at County Londonderry, enlisted at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and died at Gallipoli on August 9, 1915.
Aged 26, he attended Ebrington Presbyterian Church, and was the eldest son of John and Hannah Haslett, Bond Street and 37, Clooney Terrace, Waterside, Londonderry.
He was also the brother of Lizzie; Mary H. (May), who married Alexander, youngest son of Alexander Rankin, Dog Leap, Limavady, on July 8, 1919, at Carlisle Road Presbyterian Church, Londonderry; and John, who died in France on July 1, 1916.
Corporal Haslett’s remains are interred in Beach Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey, and his name is commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
McGlinchey, Private Robert, 13034
Robert McGlinchey, ‘C’ Company, 6th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was born at Derry, enlisted at Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, and died at Gallipoli on August 10, 1915.
Aged 34, he was the son of Robert and Mary McGlinchey, Kildrum, Killea, County Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
The 6th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers was raised for service during the First World War. The Regimental Depot was at Naas.
The 6th and 7th Battalions were assigned to the 10th (Irish) Division. They trained on the Curragh before moving to the Royal, now Collins Barracks, Dublin. Further training took place in the Phoenix Park and on the firing range at Bull Island before the Division moved to Basingstoke in Hampshire in May 1915.
The 6th and 7th Battalions Royal Dublin Fusiliers embarked for Gallipoli on the ‘Alaunia’ at Devonport at about 7am on Saturday, July 10, 1915. They sailed via Gibraltar and arrived in Valletta (Malta) on July 17. The next stop was Alexandria on July 20. They arrived in Mudros Bay on the island of Lemnos on July 24. The following day they set sail again for Mitylene where they were joined a week later by 31st Infantry Brigade. A magnificent concert party was held on board on Sunday, August 1, by the 6th & 7th Battalions entertaining about 300 sailors from a French battleship before an inspection the following day by General Sir Ian Hamilton. On August 6, the two Battalions were packed onto four fleet sweepers and set sail, arriving at 5am the following morning in Suvla Bay.
For the remainder of that day and the next, the men undertook fatigues carrying water and ammunition. The Battalion then moved forward to positions near Chocolate Hill ready to support an attack.
Also to die with the 6th Dublin Fusiliers on August 10, 1915, was Second Lieutenant Frank Brendan O’Carroll. Aged 20, he was the son of Joseph O’Carroll, M.D., F.R.C.P.I., and Frances O’Carroll, 43, Merrion Square, Dublin. Like Private McGlinchey, his name is inscribed on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli.
McLaughlin, Rifleman John, 11131
John McLaughlin, ‘A’ Company, 6th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, was born at Derry, enlisted at Belfast, and died at Gallipoli on August 10, 1915.
Aged 25, he was the son of Mrs Mary McLaughlin, 8, Meadowbank Place, Lisburn Road, Belfast, and his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Captain David Campbell, M.C., also 6th Royal Irish Rifles, was wounded at Gallipoli and wrote of his experiences in his War Diary.
The following is taken from his diary entry on the day of Rifleman John McLaughlin’s death, August 10, 1915: ‘As soon as it was fully light, a party of stretcher-bearers began moving us to the Evacuation Point from where the casualties were despatched to the hospital ships which were riding in the Bay of Suvla. It was about a mile distant and, to reach it, a long stretch of exposed beach had to be crossed. We were about half way over when a party of Turkish snipers opened fire on us and thereafter it was a case of advancing by short rushes. Many of the bearers were hit, and not a few of the wounded. When we set out there was a spare bearer to each stretcher but, before an hour had passed, there were not enough to provide two to each, and only the bravest of these dared to keep going. At last an officer came hurrying after us and stopped the procession. I was fortunate enough, as it proved, to be near the head of the column when it halted. Our stretchers were placed under cover of a low sandbank and orders issued that they should be left there until it would again be safe to move on.
‘At about 10a.m. a party of Indians with pack mules passed along the beach between the lines of stretchers and the sea. Snipers opened fire on them, wounding many of the mules.
They also attracted the attention of a Turkish battery of guns which forthwith systematically shelled the beach with shrapnel.
It began some distance away from me and gradually drew nearer as shell succeeded shell. The strike of each shower of bullets was plainly and painfully visible on the sandy beach or in the sea. There would be a poor chance of escape for anyone on whom it fell. So we thought, as we lay helplessly on our stretchers. Nearer and nearer it came. The last shower of bullets hit the ground fifty yards from where I lay. Where would the next fall? I resigned myself to my fate. I thought it was impossible that I should escape. But the unexpected happened. The next burst was further away than the last one and the next further still. Was it possible we had escaped? It seemed absurd, but it was true enough. In a few moments the shells were falling away along the beach. They drew further along still and at last they ceased altogether and we breathed again.
‘I never discovered what damage was done on the beach that day. Most of the shrapnel seemed to fall near the sea and our line of stretchers was about fifty yards up the beach. But I do know they gave us a bad half hour and one I, at least, am unlikely to forget...’
Forrest, Gunner John, 2004
John Forrest, 15th Company, Royal Garrison Artillery, was born at Eallon, Aberdeen, enlisted at Edinburgh, and died on August 13, 1915, in the Military Hospital, Ebrington Barracks, Londonderry.
Aged 40, he was the husband of Hortinas Schrawogel (or Forrest), 44, India Place, Edinburgh. His remains are interred in Londonderry City Cemetery.
Gunner Forrest’s funeral took place on Saturday, August 14, 1915. A firing party and the pipe and brass bands of the 3rd Inniskillings, under Drum Major Leech, attended. The customary ceremonies were carried out at the graveside.
Travers, Private Michael, 4081
Michael Travers, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Gallipoli on August 13, 1915.
Aged 22, he was the son of James and Bridget Travers, 46, Nelson Street, Derry. His name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
At the time of Michael Travers’ death four brothers were serving with the colours. One of them, James, husband of Maggie Travers, 36, Nelson Street, Derry, was reported wounded around April 1916. Maggie Travers also received notification, around September 1917, that her husband was suffering from a gunshot wound in the right hand, and was in hospital in France.
Another brother, Private B. Travers, Royal Inniskillings, was reported a prisoner of war at the beginning of May 1918.
He fought at Mons and the Aisne, had been four times wounded during the Great War, and had a wife who resided at Nailor’s Row.
Nelis, Private Robert, 8160
Robert Nelis, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, died at Gallipoli on August 14, 1915.
Aged 28, he was the youngest son of Robert and Minnie Nelis, 16, George’s Street, Londonderry.
At the time of the 1901 Census he was working as a barber’s apprentice, and joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers three years later.
He then served with the 1st Battalion in Crete, Malta, North China, and India, where he was transferred to the Army Reserve on completion of nine years’ service with the colours, and emigrated from there to Australia.
On the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he rejoined the colours from the Reserve, and came as far as Egypt with the first Contingent of the Australians.
He rejoined his unit at Omagh in January 1915, and was posted to the 3rd Battalion at Londonderry, and joined the 1st Battalion in Rugby, in February 1915, before they departed for the Dardanelles.
In his book, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the World War, Sir Frank Fox described the actions of the 1st Inniskillings on the day of Private Nelis’s death: ‘The 1st Inniskillings – fated soon to leave the Helles sector of Gallipoli for Suvla Bay – made a glorious finish to their stay there on Aug. 14, when the enemy, after exploding a mine which had been tunnelled towards our trench, made a resolute attack. Until far into the night his troops came in successive waves to our line, always to be beaten back with bullet and bomb and bayonet...’
Private Robert Nelis’s father, Robert (senior), was born around 1851/52 in the city of Derry, and, in the 1901 Census, was listed as an unemployed commercial clerk and bookkeeper. Private Robert Nelis’s mother, Minnie (who later appears to have emigrated to Melbourne, Australia), was born circa 1854/55 in County Donegal. Robert (senior) and Minnie produced a number of children. Ellen was born around 1874/75 in the city of Londonderry, and circa 1901 was employed as a seamstress in a shirt factory.
Laura was born around 1876/77 in County Donegal, and circa 1901 was also working as a seamstress in a shirt factory. William was born around 1878/79 in County Donegal, and circa 1901 was employed in the grocery trade.
Minnie was born around 1884/85 in the city of Derry, and circa 1901 was working as a seamstress in a shirt factory, and Matilda Nelis was born around 1893/94.
Being from a Unionist background, Minnie, Laura and Matilda (Tillie) Nelis all signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant (September 1912) resisting Home Rule for Ireland.
Private Robert Nelis belonged to the congregation of Londonderry City Mission Clooney Hall Methodist Church, and the Hamilton Fife and Drum Band. His name is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, and listed on the Diamond War Memorial.
His name is also inscribed on St Columb’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland) Memorial to the men connected to that cathedral who died during the 1914-18 War.
On the first anniversary of the death of Private Robert Nelis, his mother and sisters had the following poignant in memoriam lines inserted in a Londonderry newspaper:
‘No chilling winds, no storms of earth
Shall e’er disturb his rest;
He sleeps with all the ransomed now
Upon his Saviour’s breast,
Where the wicked cease from troubling
And the weary are at rest.’