February 25 – Roll of Honour

The WW1 entries today are a reminder that men from NI served in a number of regiments such as the Royal Scots and the North Staffordshire Regiment which have no obvious links with the region. WW2 entries are dominated by the loss of HMS Mahratta. Today’s veteran, Wilson Ervin, a former FAA Petty Officer, made one of the most outstanding contributions to post-war civic society. Photo – Essex Farm Cemetery.

Representing their comrades who died on this day

1915

+McGURK, James
Royal Scots, 1st Btn. Private. 3802. Died 25/02/1915. Aged 36. Born in Cookstown. The family moved to live in Glasgow. He and his wife Matilda had five children. James appears to have enlisted first in August 1914 for one year in 3rd Royal Scots (Depot Battalion). Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Cookstown WM.

1917

+McALLISTER, Andrew
Royal Irish Rifles, 9th Btn. Serjeant.15325. Died 25/02/1917. Aged 23. Son of Andrew and Isabella McAllister, of Thornton, Belfast Rd., Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Native of Belfast. St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, Hainaut, Belgium

+McDOWELL, Robert
North Staffordshire Regiment. Second Lieutenant. MC. Died 25/02/1917. Member of the Training Corps 1915. Commissioned 26/03/1916, he embarked for Mesopotamia at Devonport on the 07/05/1916, arriving in Basrah on July 4. He joined his battalion in the field on July 28. On 11/01/1917 he assumed command of ‘C’ Company along with Captain Robinson. On 25/01/1917 he was wounded in action. On this date, his battalion took part in an assault on the first Turkish Line on the West bank of the Hai. Their casualties were quite severe with eight officers being killed, wounded or missing. After many bodies had been recovered the final tally was 55 men killed, 163 wounded and 46 missing.

For his gallantry in this action, Robert was awarded the Military Cross (London Gazette 17/03/17. and 26/05/17). The commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Henderson was killed in action and awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. The award of Robert’s Military Cross was recorded in the Order of the Day No 51 (Mesopotamia Exp Force – 08/02/1917). The citation: “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led his company in the assault, and after all the remaining officers of the battalion had become casualties, he assumed command of the whole line. He reorganized his men and maintained his position in spite of strong enemy counter-attack”.

Robert had been admitted to Basrah General Hospital on January 28 being discharged to convalescence on February 3. On the 19th of that month, he rejoined his battalion. He was killed in action on February 25, one month to the day from the action which had resulted in the award of his Military Cross.

On February 24, along with others, the battalion crossed the River Tigris and bivouacked for the night. Then, at 0500 the following day, the 13th Division commenced the pursuit of the enemy. After the 38th Brigade had first engaged the Turks at approximately 1330 the 13th was ordered to advance with the North Staffs on the left. After a rapid advance over three miles, the objective was sighted and the Turks opened fire at 1500 yards. Bayonets were fixed as the Brigade charged over the last 50 yards causing the enemy to retire before they reached the nullah.

Later that day, after re-organisation it was found that four officers, including 2nd Lieut McDowell MC, had been killed and two wounded. In the other ranks, 27 men had been killed, 81 wounded and there were 34 men missing.

He had been for ten years in the service of Messrs Bradley and Robb, boot and shoe merchants, 56 Victoria Street, Belfast when he joined the Army. Robert was identified with some of the activities of McQuiston Memorial Presbyterian Church. He was for five years secretary of the Junior Department of the Sunday school. He passed through the Boys Brigade and the Bible Class and also associated himself with the social life of the church. A first-class athlete, he was a member of the McQuiston Cricket eleven which won the Boys Brigade Shield on two successive seasons. He was a fine tennis player. Son of the late Mr. Robert McDowell, Jocelyn Gardens, Belfast, who was for many years a foreman in the employ of the City Corporation. He was one of three brothers, two of whom joined the army.

1942

+WILSON, Richard
Royal Ulster Rifles, 1st (Airborne) Btn. Rifleman. 7013415. Died 25/02/1942 as a result of injuries sustained in an explosion. Aged 27. Son of Elizabeth Hogg, of Belfast. Belfast City Cemetery

1943

+BEATTIE, John Harwood
RN. Warrant Writer Officer. HMS Victory. Died 25/02/1943. Age 46. He had been home four weeks prior to his death and received the congratulations of friends on his recent promotion. He had 25 years’ service. Served in HMS Birmingham, Fearless and Inconstant. In 1921 he was promoted Second Writer while serving in HMS Curacoa. He served as Captain’s Writer in HMS Cornflower whilst on the China station from 1931 – 34. An enthusiastic cricketer he was a brother of Alfie Beattie a well known Waringstown cricketer and cousin of Ruric and Jack Harwood also members of the club. Husband to Evelyn May Beattie, Waringstown. Son of Samuel John and Elizabeth Beattie, Waringstown. Holy Trinity, Waringstown, C of I Churchyard. Belfast Weekly Telegraph 05/03/1943.

1944                                    HMS MAHRATTA

HMS Mahratta was an M-class destroyer which served during World War II. Begun as Marksman, she was damaged while under construction and dismantled to be rebuilt on a new slipway. She was launched as Mahratta in 1942, completed in 1943, and quickly pressed into service. After a short but busy career in the North Atlantic and Arctic, largely guarding merchant convoys, she was torpedoed and sunk on 25/02/1944.

+FULTON, David
RN. AB. D/JX148901. HMS Mahratta. Died 25/02/1944. Age 25. Son of Hugh and Mary Fulton, Geoffrey St., Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 31/03/1944). Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 86

+HICKS, George
RN. Leading Seaman. D/SSX 22741. Date of Death: 25/02/1944. Age: 26. HMS Mahratta. Son of Robert and Evelyn Hicks, Belfast. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 85

+JONES, Samuel Edwin
RN. Seaman. D/JX 649439. Died 25/02/1944. Age 19. HMS Mahratta. Son of Samuel Edward and Rebecca Amelia Jones, Courtrai St., Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 24/03/1944). Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 88

+KEAG, Samuel
RN. Officers’ Steward. D/LX 25821. Died 25/02/1944. Age 20. HMS Mahratta. Son of David and Annie Keag, Gaffikin St., Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 24/03/1944). Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 91

+NEILLY, Albert
RN. Petty Officer Telegraphist. D/JX 153420. Died 25/02/1944. Aged 37. HMS Mahratta. Son of Joseph B. and Martha Neilly, Ogilvie St., Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 07/04/1944) Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 88.

1944

+McCORMICK, John Payne
RAFVR. Sergeant. 1493956. Died 25/02/1944. Age 20. 514 Sqd. Son of Samuel and Sarah Mccormick, of Belfast. Durnbach War Cemetery, Germany

1945

+PELAN, Henry Girvan
RAF. Corporal. 648059. Died 25/02/1945. Aged 33. Son of James Pelan, and of Elizabeth Pelan, of Lisburn; husband to Mary Eleanor Pelan, of Lisburn. Singapore Memorial, Column 452

1946

+BONNAR, William McKee

RAFVR. Squadron Leader. 108613. Died 25/02/1946. Aged 28. QUB, MB, BCh, BAO 1939, MD 1942. Son of Samuel and Elizabeth Ellen Bonnar, of Carnmoney. Kirkee War Cemetery, India. QUB RH

VETERAN

ERVIN, Wilson
RN. FAA. CBE. Petty Officer. Radar. Served 4 years. HMS Illustrious. Served in home waters as well as South Africa, the Far East, Ceylon, Burma and Australia. His 21st birthday was spent in the Indian Ocean. Served in Pacific, experienced kamikaze attacks. Off Burma when war ended. Attended Stramillis and Fane Street Primary Schools, and RBAI. Joined the Belfast Banking Company on 15/04/1942 at Dungannon branch. He returned from active service on 22/08/1946. Post-war career in banking, from clerk to chief executive and managing director of Northern Bank in Ireland. He attended the 2000 re-dedication ceremony of the Bank’s Rolls of Honour. Governor of RBAI, Vice President of RNLI, RUAS. Trustee of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and elder of Fisherwick Church from where his funeral took place 25/02/2015. Aged 91. Son of Robert John Ervin, Lucerne Parade, Belfast. Husband to Joan who predeceased him.

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