On this day in 1938, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain returns from a meeting with Hitler in Munich and promises “peace for our time.” In less than a year, the world will be at war. Today’s Roll includes the first North Irish Horse officer killed in WW1, three brothers from Killyleagh and a RAFVR member of 502 (Ulster) Squadron
Representing their comrades who died on this day
+COMBE, Samuel Barbour
(Barrie) Combe, of Donaghcloney, County Down, was born at Malone Park, Belfast, on 20/01/1880, third son of engineer Abram Combe and his wife Emilie Caroline Combe (nee Nicholson). Educated at Rugby and in France, Combe was a member of the Ulster Club and the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, and was Master of the County Down Staghounds. On 12 March 1906 he married Mary Theresa Waring, sister of North Irish Horse officer Holt Waring. They had two children, Thomas Waring Barrie and Ruric Desmond.
Combe was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 20/10/1909 and posted to the North Irish Horse. On 22/04/1913 he was promoted to lieutenant.
He embarked for France with C Squadron of the North Irish Horse on 12/08/1914, seeing action in the retreat from Mons and the advance to the Aisne in August and September that year.
On 30 September, Combe and his troop were taking their turn at a farmhouse observation post overlooking the enemy lines on the Aisne. Soon after midday Combe was ordered to ascertain whether the Germans had evacuated Condé village, which sat on the far side of the bridge, in the shadow of Condé Fort. Combe had led a scout troop of the North Irish Horse while in Ireland, and was therefore well equipped for the task.
He set out with one man, Private Norman Darling, telling his Sergeant that no search party should be sent out if he did not return. Passing through the line of piquets, they rode to within 200 yards of the bridge. He then left Darling and two horses under cover in a sandpit and went on on foot, well aware that this area was swept by artillery and rifle fire from the German position on the higher land on the other side of the river, and presented little cover. After a couple of hours Darling became concerned and, leaving the horses, went in search of his officer. He made his way to the bridge by dusk and hunted up and down the river bank but finding no trace, returned to the outpost. Privates McIlwaine and Greer volunteered to search for Combe, but met with no success.
Hopes were held that Combe had been captured. His commanding officer, Lord Massereene, wrote to Combe’s wife:
“All the facts I have been able to ascertain point to your husband having been taken prisoner by the Germans, especially as the man who was with him and who was left behind in the sand-pit only about 300 yards from the bridge is positive that he heard no shots fired. …
“I am more sorry than I can say at the loss which I and my squadron have sustained at the disappearance of your husband, who is a most capable officer in every way, and greatly liked by every one.
“I cannot help thinking that your husband has been captured and is now on his way to Berlin.”
Richard Irwin wrote home “I am very sorry that Lieutenant Combe has been captured. Of course he will be all right, but we will miss him, for he was loved by everyone of us. He was a gentleman and every inch a soldier.” Robert Sterling wrote: “We lost one of our own officers a few days ago – Lieut. S. B. Combe. He was out reconnoitring, and never returned. He is now posted amongst the missing. We all hope the worst has not happened, as Mr. Combe was very popular throughout the whole squadron.”
However his fellow officer Richard West feared the worst:
“6.30 P.M. received word that Barry had gone out with 1 man to find out if Condé was still occupied at 1.20 PM & had not returned. Sgt Irwin returned with troop 8.30 no news of B – Condé occupied by Germans. Darling returned 9.30 with B horse having waited in sandpit 200 yds from Condé bridge till dark. B had advanced alone on foot to reconoitre – evidently walked into German outpost and either shot or captured. afraid he would stand poor chance as he had flat nosed bullets.”
Later however, news of his fate came to his family via a German officer, Ottakar Vollert, who wrote through neutral channels:
“Will you drop a few lines to Mrs. Combe, widow of the lieutenant of the North Irish Horse, who was shot by us when approaching our position most bravely. We buried him near the Castle of Conde, and have made a nice cross with the words ‘Pro Patria’ and name. He was a brave soldier. War is most terrible, and it seems that there is no end of it. Let us hope that it will ultimately clear the atmosphere.”
Barrie Combe was the first North Irish Horse officer killed in the war. The location of his burial near Condé Castle was soon forgotten. He is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, Panel 1.
1Btn. East Lancashire Regiment. Private 9416. Died 30/09/1914. Age 25. Eldest son of Robert and Sarah Heaney. Born on 31/05/1889 in the Aughavey area of County Fermanagh into a large family. The family lived in Fivemiletown for a period of years between 1894 and 1898 and then moved to Belfast. His father was a quay labourer. It seems John enlisted around 1907. Porte-de-Paris Cemetery, Cambrai, Nord, France
Royal Field Artillery. 24th Brigade, 112th Battery,. Gunner. 75752. Died 30/09/1914. Age 18. Born in Caledon about 1896. Son of Thomas and Jane Rutherford. Vailly British Cemetery, Vailly-sur-Aisne, Aisne, France. The village of Vailly-sur-Aisne was the point at which the 3rd Division crossed the river Aisne on 13 and 14/09/1914 during the Allied advance from the Marne. Dungannon WM
Royal Scots Fusiliers. 2nd Btn. Private. 16702. Died 30/09/1915. Born Kircubbin. Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France
+GILMOUR, Bryce M
Irish Guards, 2nd BTN. Lance Corporal. 6770. Died 30/09/1915. Age 21. Bryce Gilmour was a son of Bryce and Ida Gilmour. Brice Matthew Gilmour was born in Roscommon about 1894. He was one of ten children, seven surviving. His father was in the Royal Irish Constabulary. The family moved around a lot. They lived in Ballymoney. Young Bryce Gilmour also joined the Royal Irish Constabulary in Cookstown. Loos Memorial, Loos-en-Gohelle, Pas-de-Calais, Cookstown WM. Second Presbyterian Cookstown
Auckland Regiment, 1st Btn. Private. 10072. Died 30/09/1916. Son of Robert and Ann Simpson, of Greenland Terrace, Larne. Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Somme, France
+WATTERSON, Walter George
Canadian Infantry, 20th Btn. Private. 405715. Died 30/09/1916. Age 41. Born 29/06/1874 at Ballynasollus, Cookstown, son of Joseph Watterson and Barbara Jane Watterson (nee Scott). In March 1897 Walter married Tillie Barnes in Belfast. George worked as a Cementer/Labourer. By 1903 he had emigrated to Canada. He was listed as a Labourer and was bound for Toronto. His wife followed him later arriving in January 1904. By 1911 they were living in Cobalt, Ontario. He was listed as working as a Miner. He enlisted in Niagara. Vimy Memorial, Arras, Pas de Calais, France. Cookstown WM
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. 2 Btn. Private. 29098. Died 30/09/1918. Age 20. Son of Thomas and Maggie Anne Goan. He was born in Castlederg. Like his father, James worked on a farm. Enlisted in Omagh while he was still living in Castlederg. According to the local newspaper, his parents had moved and were living at Mill Street, Caledon. Haringhe Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Dungannon WM
+GRAHAM, James Lawson
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 9th Battalion. Lieutenant. Died 30/09/1918. Age 27. Member of the QUB Training Corps 1915. A sister Edith served in France with the Nursing Corps. An obelisk commemorating James Lawson was erected at the Boardmills Second Presbyterian Church by his Uncle Dr. James Graham. Dr. Graham who was Belfast Coroner from 1905 until his death in 1932 travelled to the church’s Remembrance Service from his home in Helens Bay every year, paying homage to his nephew by laying a wreath on the Memorial. A letter detailing the circumstances surrounding James’ death was sent to his father by army Chaplain Rev. W G. Murphy. The chaplain wrote: “Your son fell in action on the morning of Sunday September 29. We moved up to the attack and it was as he was leading his company forward very gallantly he fell mortally wounded by a machine gun bullet. He was one of the best among our officers and a very good man personally. We all loved him and feel a great sense of loss. His body was sent back to be buried well behind our lines which were pushing forward at this time. He helped and helped most signally to win an advance that will be memorable in this division and will do much to hasten the end of the war.” Lieutenant Graham’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel R.S. Knox said he died “the most gallant death a soldier could die, leading his company in the forefront of the advance. He was liked exceedingly by his men with whom he was always on the best of terms and had the rare gift of inspiring confidence in them,” the Lieutenant Colonel concluded. Son of Samuel J. and Agnes Graham, of Maple Vale, Boardmills, Co. Down. Tyne Cot Memorial, Panel 70 – 72, Second Boardmills Presbyterian Church memorial
+HALL, Francis Henry
Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st Battalion attached 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Second Lieutenant. Died 30/09/1918. Age 25. B.A. 1914. Son of John and Margaret Hall (nee Lytle), Glenanne, Co. Armagh. Dadizeele New British Cemetery. QUB RH
Royal Irish Rifles, 2nd Btn. Rifleman. 10593. Died 30/09/1916.Son of James and Sarah Hayes, of 48, Carson St., Larne. Tyne Cot Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
RN. Stoker 1st Class. 301487. HMS Seagull. Died 30/09/1918. Age 33. One of three brothers who served in the war. “Formerly a hackler in Messrs. Sinton’s mill, and a footballer, cricketer, and sprinter of more than local note, James Magill has given up his post in Eaton’s big store, Toronto, and joined the 9th battalion of artillery now in training there. His brother Robert, a sapper in the Canadian engineers, is in France, and another brother, Robert, is a stoker on HMS Seagull, while the youngest brother, Thomas, has been five times refused by recruiters on account of a crocked knee. Robert Magill, the local postman, has reason to be proud of these four sons”. Son of Robert and Rebecca Magill, Irish St., Killyleagh. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 28. Killyleagh WM. Killyleagh – PCI RH
+RENTOUL, James Lawrence
RAMC. 91st Field Amb. Private. 129116. Died 30/09/1918. Aged 33. QUB, BA 1906. Served 1914 – 18. Born Darlngton 1886. Son of the Rev. R. W. R. and Mrs. Rentoul (nee Wylie) of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary; husband to Agnes Rentoul (nee Moore), of ” Fircroft,” Hawthornden Rd., Knock, Co. Down. One of seven RAMC privates whose remains were interred at La Baraque British Cemetery, Bellenglise, Aisne, France
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Rifleman.19781. Died 30/09/1918. Born on 06/06/1894 at Aughalish, Drummaul, Randalstown. Son of Joseph Storey and Isabella nee Craig. As a widow Isabella later lived at Feehogue, Randalstown. Dadizeele New British Cemetery.
+HANNA, Robert Charles
RAF(AAF). Sergeant (Pilot). 816023. Died 03/09/1940. Age 23. 254 Sqdn. Robert was flying Bristol Blenheim IV, N3529 of No 254 Squadron when it crashed near Dyce after colliding with N3608 of the same unit. Son of Robert and Mary Hanna, of Belfast. Knockbreda Cemetery
+McMULLAN, Cecil Brian
RAFVR. Sergeant. 948818. Died 30/09/1941. Aged 24. 58 Sqdn. B.A., Hons. (Dublin). Son of Andrew and Margaret McMullan, of Belfast. Runnymeade Memorial, Surrey. 502 (Ulster) Squadron WM, St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
BARKER, Dawson Dewing
Machine Gun Corps. QUB, M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O., 1925. West African Medical Service, 1928-30. Campbell College. Born 30/09/1897, son of J. E. Barker, Cyprus Park, Bloomfield, Belfast.
RAMC. Captain. Moneymore Intermediate School. QCB 1888. Served 1914 – 18. Gallipoli. Born 1869. Son of William ad Eliza Duncan, Killyfaddy, Magherafelt. Husband to Elizabeth. Died 30/09/1933, Waveney Rd., Ballymena
RN. AB. J84492. Boy service from 01/01/1918. Enrolled 30/09/1918 for 12 years. War service in Powerful and Centurion. Served to 24/08/1928. Born Coleraine 30/09/1900. ADM 188/815/84492
WHITESIDE, David G
RN. Served 5 years during war. Lived Portadown. Engineer with BT. Migrated to Glastonbury, CT., USA. Husband to Margaret. Born 1917. Died 30/09/2003, Age 86. Buried Manchester, CT.
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