March 08 – Roll of Honour

A Company Serjeant Major from Lisburn and a private with links to Ballycastle are listed on the Basra Memorial in Iraq. The CSM may have died on a death march of prisoners of war. Veterans include a navy flier who later designed the well-known Ruffian sailing boat in Portaferry and a DCM holder who was Chairman of the White House, Portrush. Photo – Bluet Farm Cemetery, Belgium, 3 km from Ypres. Bleuet Farm was used as a dressing station during the 1917 Allied offensive on this front. There are 442 burials from WW1 and nine from WW2 including RUR 2 Btn, dating from the allied fallback to Dunkirk in May 1840.

Representing their comrades who died on this day


Royal Irish Rifles, 9th Btn. Corporal. 12606. Died 08/03/1916. Aged 22. Son of Abraham and Charlotte Bell, of Belfast. Bertrancourt Military Cemetery, Somme, France

Manchester Regiment,1st Btn. Company Serjeant Major. Service. 714. Died 08/03/1916. Aged 33. An ‘old’ soldier with nine years experience and a gymnasium instructor, he enlisted at Belfast and served in 1 MR.  Listed as missing at Kut in Mesopotamia (Iraq) from 08/03/1916, his parents were informed in May that he was a PoW in Constantinople.  By June/July it was reported that he was wounded although subsequent references to him were to the effect that he was missing.  Eventually, in February 1918 “after almost a year’s anxiety and doubt” the War Office informed his parents that he was considered to have been killed in action in Mesopotamia on the 08/03/1916.
Although James Braithwaite is officially recorded as having been KIA, the fact that he was at one point reported to be a PoW in Constantinople (see above) raises the question of whether in fact he had died in battle, and what had actually happened to him. Whatever it was, it is difficult to imagine that it could have been worse than the fate that befell his colleagues.  On 29/04/1916, the garrison at Kut, which had been under siege since 05/12/1915, surrendered to the Turks.

Sometime between then and 6 May a “veritable death march” began as the captives were led north towards Anatolia “without any concern whatsoever for their well-being, or for their helpless status as prisoners-of-war” (Martin Gilbert, “The First World War” p.’s 247-8).  Deprived of food and water, and beaten and whipped by those who guarded them, 2,500 Indian and 1,750 British prisoners were to perish on the way.

Three of James Braithwaite’s brothers also saw active service.  CSM Samuel Braithwaite had served with the Lincolnshire Regiment in the Boer War and held both the King’s and Queen’s medals.  He lived at Ivan Street, Lisburn, with his wife and three children.

A Sergeant Instructor in the 1st Lisburn battalion of the UVF, he served in 11 RIR (17203), embarking with them for France from Bordon in October 1915. In May 1917 he was awarded the Ulster Division Parchment for gallantry in the field.  This was “for organizing parties in Thiepval Wood on the 23/06/1916 to rescue men buried by shell fire.  He set a splendid example to his men and was himself severely wounded”.

Sergeant Rene Braithwaite, who lived at 56 Millbrook, Low Road, Lisburn with his parents, served in the Cable Section, Royal Engineers.  An “old soldier” with 20 years service, he had been on his way home “time expired” when the war started and promptly re-enlisted.  He was awarded the D.C.M. in late 1916/early 1917.  According to the citation the decoration was for, “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty … establishing and maintaining communications throughout operations, … repeatedly repairing wires in the open under heavy fire”.
William L. Braithwaite, the youngest of the four, was a leading signalman on an R.N. Dreadnought.
James was the third son of Samuel and Eleanor Braithwaite of Millbrook, Low Road, Lisburn and husband to Alice Braithwaite of Junction Cottage, Ashton-under-Lyne and Barkwell Lane, Mossley, Manchester.  They had two young children. Basra Memorial, Iraq.

Highland Light Infantry. Private.12307. Died 08/03/1916. Born Kilmalcolm, Renfrewshire. Commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Panels 35 and 64 and in Culfeitrin Parish Church, outside Ballycastle


+BLAIR, William
Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Btn. Lance Corporal. 10938. Died 08/03/1917. He was born at Prospect Place (off North Street), Ballymena on the 28 /06/1896. He enlisted in Ballymena. He was the grandson of Mary Blair, later 7, Galgorm Street, Ballymena. Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France. 2nd Ballymena (High Kirk) Presbyterian Church RH

+McMULLAN, (sometimes McMullen), George
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Lance Corporal.12/19119. Died 08/03/1917. Born15/05/1895 at Brocklamont, Ballymena. Son of blacksmith Hugh McMullan and Margaret Gore, Galgorm Parks, Ballymena. They had nine children. George was a painter. St. Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery.


+DEVLIN, Michael
RAFVR. Aircraftman 1st Class. 1504358. Died 08/03/1943. Aged 20. 4023 AA Flight (RAF Regiment), Son of James and Mary Jane Devlin of Knockmoyle. Knockmoyle (St. Mary) Roman Catholic Cemetery


+MUNCE, Ian Lindsay
RAFVR. Pilot Officer (Pilot). 186936. Died 08/03/1945. Aged 23. 220 Sqdn. A.T.C.L. Son of James Stillwell Munce and Annie Munce, of Holywood, Co. Down. Lajes War Cemetery, Azores. QUB WM

+REILLY, Robert
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Fusilier. 6985605. Died 08/03/1945. Aged 20. Son of Robert and Isabella Reilly, of Lisnaskea. Maguiresbridge Roman Catholic Churchyard


BROWN, William
RN. FAA. Commissioned in 1940. He flew Walrus seaplanes from bases in N Africa and Scotland. Seconded to 836 Naval Air Squadron at Maydown on the Foyle estuary. Its remit was to monitor U-boat activity in the N Atlantic. He and his squadron flew Fairey Swordfish biplanes from converted merchant vessels known as MAC Ships (Merchant aircraft carriers) that accompanied vessels across the Atlantic.

Bill developed a passion for mathematics and post-war completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan and subsequently lectured in the USA and Canada. He returned to Portaferry in 1958 and became involved in the family business.

His passion for sailing resulted in him designing a new 35ft racing yacht ‘Ruffian’. He and his brother founded Westerley Yachts and over 200 fibreglass yachts were produced in there two factories in the 1970s and ’80s.
Bill returned to teaching mathematics at Sullivan Upper and then the Open University.

He and his wife had a strong involvement with the RNLI Portaferry Station. Bill served as Hon. Secretary to the Station for 12 years and was awarded the RNLI’s Gold Badge in 2005. Born Portaferry 24/04/1921 – Died 08/03/2006. RBAI. University of Michigan

HAMILTON, Harry Allen, DCM
Chairman of the White House (Portrush) Ltd. Died 08/03/1942. Mr. Hamilton served with the King’s Royal Rifles in the 1914-18 war and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal

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