Doctors from NI formed a significant element of the community’s response in both World Wars. John West from Antrim rose to become Colonel Commandant of the Royal Army Medical Corps. His father served as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church. James McCurdy, a young shoemaker from Portrush, who served with the North Irish Horse in WW1 was admitted to hospital due to frostbite. Photo – Ulster Memorial Tower.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
Leinster Regiment, 2nd Btn. Private. 5017. Died 06/03/1916. Menin Road South Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Dungannon WM
+HAMILTON, James Hope
RN. AB. 239262. HMS Sandhurst. Died 06/03/1917. Boy service from 21/08/1907. Enrolled 27/11/09 for 12 years. War service in Suffolk, Vivid II, Sandhurst (Pheasant). Born Belfast 27/11/1891. ADM 188/425/239262
Royal Irish Rifles. Rifleman. 6096. Died 06/03/1917. Aged 18. Son of Margaret Taylor (formerly Scott), of Drumnascamph, Rathfriland, Co. Down, and the late Joseph Scott. Fins New British Cemetery, Sorel-le-Grand, Somme, France
RAF. Leading Aircraftman. 510876. Died 06/03/1940. No family details recorded on CWGC. Ardmore Roman Catholic Cemetery
+SHEALS, Hubert Stanley
RAF. Flying Officer. 61116. Died 06/03/1942. Aged 37. Son of Hugh and Frances Sheals; husband to Ethel Winifred Sheals, of Belfast. Singapore Memorial, Column 413, Singapore.
+IRWIN, Joseph Alexander
RAFVR. Flying Officer.124167. Died 06/03/1944. Aged 25. 174 Sqdn. M.Sc. Queen’s University, Belfast. Son of William Wilson Irwin and Annie Craig Irwin of Coleraine. Coleraine Cemetery. QUB WM
Royal Scots Fusiliers,1st Btn. Fusilier. 3129096. Died 06/03/1944. Aged 33. Born 03/07/1910. William Kelly worked as a farm labourer prior to enlisting in the army on 14/12/1933. He served in Egypt, Palestine, and India. Fusilier Kelly was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers when he was killed in action in Burma. Son of Mary Kelly, Factory Square, Cookstown. Taukkyan War Cemetery, Myanmar
RAMC. Lt. Colonel. QUB MB 1916. Lieutenant RAMC SR 04/06/1914. Served Mesopotamia 1916 – 18. Post war service in India and Aden. Served throughout WW2. Born 12/11/1889 Lurgan. Died 06/03/1947.
McCURDY, James (junior)
Trooper, North Irish Horse. He volunteered for active service in the winter of 1915 (aged about 21 years). He was in hospital for some time in 1917 suffering from severe frostbite. Before the war, he was employed as a shoemaker. His parents, Mr. John (shoemaker) and Mrs. Lizzie McCurdy, lived at Coleraine Road, Portstewart. His wife was Annie. James died on 06/03/1942 and was buried in Agherton Cemetery. He is commemorated on Portstewart Presbyterian Church’s Roll of Honour and the Roll of Honour of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
WEST, John Weir
RAMC. Major General. CBE. CB. CMG. MiD five times. Colonel Commandant RAMC. John was educated at RBAI (Inst), and received his medical education at the Queen’s College, Belfast, qualifying M.B., B.Ch., B.O.A. in 1899. He joined the Medical Services at the rank of Lieutenant on 29//11/1900, and then saw active service in South Africa from 1901 to 1906, gaining the Queen’s South African Medal with 4 clasps. On 29/11/1903 he gained promotion to Captain, and became a Specialist in Operative Surgery in 1908. In 1910 he completed a diploma in public heath (D.P.H.), then served from 1910 to 1914 in India, where he was stationed when war was declared. During this time he gained promotion to the rank of Major on 29/11/1911.
Returning to the UK, John became the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Cavalry Field Ambulance, entering the war in France, with the unit, on 17/08/1914. He served with them until 1916 when he became the Officer in Charge of the Surgical Division of No 13 General Hospital. On 24/02/1916 he was awarded the French Legion of Honour, Croix de Chevalier by the French Republic in recognition of his service in the field. In 1917, he qualified as a master of surgery (M.Ch.). He left the British Expeditionary Force in France and went on to serve in Italy as Commanding Officer for No 11 General Hospital, up until 1918, when he transferred to No 62 General Hospital from 1918 to 1919. During this time, he served under the rank of acting Lieutenant Colonel from 3rd -13th February 1917, and 24th November – 25th December 1917.
The next day, on 26th December, he was granted the full rank of Lieutenant Colonel. John became of Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George on 1st January 1919. Also in 1919, he served as Surgeon Specialist at the Queen Alexander Military Hospital, Millbank and as Assistant Professor of Military Surgery at the Royal Army Medical College – becoming Professor of Military Surgery from 1920 to 1927. On 29th October 1920, he received the Italian Silver Medal della Salute Publica.
From 1922 to 1926 John was a Consultant Surgeon to the Army. He gained the rank of Brevet Colonel on 15/04/1922, as well as becoming King’s Honorary Surgeon the same day. From 1927 to 1931 he served in Burma as the Assistant Director of Medical Services (ADMS) at Headquarters Burma District. During which time he served under the rank of temporary Colonel from 01/05/1924 to 02/11/1927, gaining the full rank of Colonel on 26/12/1927.
On 26/12/1931 he reverted to half-pay but was restored to full pay on 01/03/1932. From 1932 to 1935 he served as Professor of Military Surgery and Consultant Surgeon to the Army. On 25/06/1932 he gained promotion to the rank of Major General, and on 20th December, the same year, he received the C.B.E. (Commander Order of the British Empire). On 03/06/1935 he became a Commander of the Order of the Bath. He retired with pay on 27/08/1935, became Colonel Commandant in 1942, then ceased being on the Roll of Officers on 27th August 1942.
In 1937 Queen’s University conferred an honorary doctorate on John West. He was born on 17/08/1875, the son of the Rev Dr Thomas and Mrs Helen West. Dr West was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in 1917. John West died on 06/03/1949. RCSI RH
06/03/1917 – The British line extends south of the Somme to the neighbourhood of Reims. The line is twice the length that it was a year earlier.
06/03/1945 – Nazi Germany launches its last major offensive of the Second World War. Operation Spring Awakening targets Hungary’s oil fields, and it is crushed by the Soviets in just 10 days.
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