Today’s Roll reflects the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, fought between 10 and 13 March 1915. It was the 1st Royal Irish Rifles’ first major action. In 1918 Royal Irish Fusiliers, 5th Btn. was deployed in Palestine as Jerusalem War Cemetery testifies. Today’s veteran Reginald McClelland took part in Arctic convoys, Omaha beach, and D-Day. Photo – Neuve Chapelle after the battle.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
1915 The Battle of Neuve Chapelle
The 1st Royal Irish Rifles’ first major action was the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, fought between 10 and 13 March 1915. The battalion had gone forward to previously captured German front line positions and helped to secure the village of Neuve-Chapelle. It was then subjected to determined counter-attacks which failed to dislodge them but which caused very heavy battalion casualties, amounting to 18 officers, including their Colonel, and 440 other ranks. The Indian Corps played a very prominent role in the battle, at the spearhead of this first British offensive WW1. Post-war it was apt that the Indian Corps Memorial was erected on the battlefield commemorating their missing in France.
Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Btn. Rifleman. 7955. Died 10/03/1915 at Neuve Chapelle. He was born in Ballymena and enlisted in Belfast. He had left his bank book with Katharine Saunders, Commandant, Hants 60 VAD. Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Btn. Rifleman. 8954. Died 10/03/1915. Born in the Shankill, Belfast. Michael enlisted in Belfast, but he was living in Churchtown, Cookstown. Newspaper reports suggest Michael Curtis lived at 59 Grove Street, East Belfast. Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Cookstown WM
Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Btn. Lance Corporal. 9014. Died 10/03/1915. A local soldier called Alexander, according to the Ballymena Observer, relayed the news to the parents. He was born on 1 January 1889 at Craigavole, Ballymoney and he was the son of James Dorrens Martin and Elizabeth Gregg. The couple, James from Drumsaragh, Co Londonderry and Elizabeth from Landmore, Co Londonderry, married in 2nd Kilrea Presbyterian Church on 31/05/1878. The family lived at Hope Street, Ballymena in 1901 and 1911. They said at the latter date that they had been married for 33 years and that all six of their children were then alive. Joseph Martin was then with the 1 Royal Irish Rifles, a soldier in ‘Burmah and the Andaman Islands’. Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Wellington Street Presbyterian Church WM
Rifleman, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, 2nd Btn. Rifleman. 8596
Died 10/03/1915. Age: 26. David McEwan was born on the 18t/12/1888 in Cushendun, Co Antrim. He was the son of St.George Glencairn McEwan (known as George), a coastguard, and his wife Ann nee McNeill and was the eldest of their six children. The birth, which was registered by his grandfather David McNeill, recorded the surname as McKeown but this was not picked (probably because his grandfather was illiterate) but a corrected entry was made in December 1899.
The family moved several times as George was posted to various stations. After David’s sister Margaret was born in 1890 the family moved to Slieveban in Co Donegal. It was here his brothers George, William and Isaac where born. The family then moved to Helen’s Bay where brother Charles was born in 1899. When his father George retired from the Coastguard the family moved to Hardcastle Street in Belfast and it was here George died in 1914.
About 1907 David enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. The 2nd Battalion had been stationed in Ireland but in 1906 had moved to Aldershot before moving to Dover in 1909. It was in the Citadel Barracks there that David is recorded in the 1911 census as having attained the rank of corporal.
When war broke out the 2nd Battalion, now stationed at Tidworth, were mobilised leaving there on the 13th August and disembarking at Rouen the following day. They moved forward and were involved in the battle of Mons on 23rd August.
David may have missed this engagement, however, as his Medal Index Card records the date on entering the theatre of war as the 26th August, but would have been involved in the first Battle of Ypres and La Bassée after which the battalion had been reduced to 40 men.
In March 1915, the 1st Battalion took part in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, an attempt to seize Aubers Ridge, attacking over the same ground where the 2nd Battalion had been virtually wiped out at the Battle of La Bassée the previous October. In their ranks were veterans of Mons, redrafted from the 2nd Battalion on recovery from wounds, etc. One of those men was David McEwan.
The Northern Whig of 2nd April 1915, reported: “Details of the losses sustained by the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles at Neuve Chapelle, on the 10th ult., and subsequent days, continue to be received in Belfast… Rifleman David M’Ewan, killed in action, was a son of Mrs. A. M’Ewan, 34, Hardcastle Street, Belfast. He was 26 years of age, and was serving at the front since November last.” Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Family memorial in Bangor Cemetery. – Based on Bangor Cemetery Project
+MOTUM, William George
Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Btn. E Coy. Company Serjeant Major. 6730. Died 10/03/1915. Aged 31. Born in London about 1884. William Motum met his wife Hannah in Dublin. William served in India and returned to Aden possibly in the early part of 1914. When war broke out, the Battalion was shipped to France. Aden was not an accompanied tour so on return from India the family returned to their home in Caledon Rd., Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone. Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
Royal Irish Fusiliers, 5th Btn. Lance Corporal. 3/5943. Died 10/03/1918. Son of Joseph and Essie Jess, 63 Dromore St., Banbridge. He joined the RIF at the outbreak of hostilities and went with the regiment to France where he was both gassed and wounded. He also served in Salonika and Egypt. He was one of four brothers who served in the army during the war. William John Jess of the Royal Munster Fusiliers died on 22/08/1915. Samuel, a bugler with the RIR and Joseph who also served in the RIF, survived the war. Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel and Palestine (including Gaza)
Royal Irish Fusiliers, 5th Btn. Private.18158. Died 10/03/1918 in Palestine. Edward Magee was born in Portadown and lived at Milburn Street, Cookstown, with his wife Roseanne and their two boys, William and Joseph. He came to Cookstown to work at Wilson’s Mill. He enlisted in the army in February 1915 and was subsequently wounded in action at Gallipoli. While recovering from his wounds he was allowed home on leave to see his family before going back to active service. Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel and Palestine (including Gaza) Cookstown WM
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 10th Btn. Private. 24273. Died 10/03/1916 having been struck by shell shrapnel. Aged 19. Henderson Moore was the son of William Moore, Ballymacombs, Bellaghy, County Londonderry. He lived and worked in Moneymore for Mr. W. Hunter at Turnaface for about 5 years and was member of Moneymore Company of Ulster Volunteers before enlisting with the 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Moneymore, in June 1915. Authuille Military Cemetery, Authuille, Somme, France. Moneymore WM
+BINGHAM, John Warnock
RAMC. Captain. 10th Field Ambulance. Died 10/03/1919. Age 39. Medicine QUB 1897 – 1901. In the census of Ireland 1901, it is recorded that John W Bingham was a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, as does the Campbell College Register. Appointed temporary Lieutenant (London Gazette 17/02/1915, page 1677). Son of Henry Bingham, M.D., and Letitia Bingham, The Lodge, Mountpottinger, Belfast; husband to Alison Bingham, of 3, Ulsterville Avenue, Belfast. The Newcastle Chronicle 17/07/1919 reported on his estate. His address was given as Cambois, Blyth. His widow was resident at Water Lane, Romford Rd., Stratford. Mons (Bergen) Communal Cemetery.
Royal Ulster Rifles. 8th Btn. Rifleman. 7015364. Died 10/03/1941. Aged 30. William died in Herefordshire. 8th Battalion was a hostilities only unit raised in 1940 to join 203rd Independent Infantry Brigade. Son of William Hood and Martha Hood; husband to Robina Hood of Belfast. Belfast City Cemetery, Glenalina Extension,
+BLAIR, John Coulter
RAFVR. Flight Lieutenant. 125998. Died 10/03/1945. Aged 31. Son of John T. Blair and Agnes R. Blair of Belfast; Husband to Maria Rae Blair of Belfast. Mallusk Cemetery
+DIAMOND, Joseph Francis
RAFVR. Leading Aircraftman. 1795097. Died 10/03/1945. Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Broadway Presbyterian Church, Belfast, RH
+KENNEDY, Donald Wallace
RAFV. Aircraftman 2nd Class.1903358. Died 10/03/1946. Aged 23. B.A. (Cantab.). Son of Samuel Wallace Kennedy and Rosanna Paton Kennedy of Londonderry. Londonderry cemetery
RAFVR. Leading Aircraftman. 1527513. Died 10/03/1946. Aged 29. Husband to Mary McDonald of Belfast. Milltown Roman Catholic Cemetery, Belfast
Reginald McClelland, veteran of Arctic convoys, Omaha beach, and D-Day
Reginald McClelland was one of many in the Royal Navy who took part in the perilous Arctic convoys, a crucial allied supply route for Stalin, Allan Preston writes in the Belfast Telegraph (15/03/2016).
Reginald’s fleet had to evade U-boats and navigate minefields to help sustain the war effort against Nazi Germany.
His bravery was recognised by Russia in 2014 when he was awarded the Ushakov naval medal. In addition, he was awarded the British Arctic Star medal.
He helped bombard Omaha beach in Normandy on D-Day, and later liberated prisoners from the notorious Belsen concentration camp.
Orphaned at 12, Reginald joined the Navy at 16. He served below decks on HMS Bellona as a gun loader and by 18 was sailing towards Normandy for the allied invasion.
His son Barry (60) told the Belfast Telegraph his father was “a very modest man” who never talked about the war unless he was asked.
“I know he was there on D-Day off Omaha beach serving on HMS Bellona. They fired so many shells onto the beach they burnt the guns out on the ship,” he said.
“They later returned to Cheltenham dock for shore leave. When they got back to their bunks they saw they had Arctic convoy uniforms and knew they were going up to the Arctic.
“He was down in the magazines, looking after the ship’s guns in the bottom of the ship.
“He told me that if they were hit and he was down in the bottom of the ship there would be no way of getting out.
“He told me once they had sailed down into the south Brittany area. The ships sailed into a minefield and a local French fishing boat guided them out. He said that was quite amazing.”
Barry said that his dad was devoted to his late mother Maureen. He added: “He was a good father, he was always there for me. I had a great childhood in Bangor.
“The Russian medal in 2014 meant a lot to him.
“He was always quite a modest chap and he never went out looking for attention, so when he had the opportunity it was really good.”
Over the past five years, Reginald struck up a friendship with former soldier Paul Quinn (48), with whom he shared many of his war stories. Paul revealed that one tragedy at the Russian port of Murmansk never left Reginald.
“He spent most of the day in the ship, he was part of the gun team. He was a loader,” he explained.
“He would tell me about the noise and the bombardment and things.
“When the convoy reached Murmansk, because they were a warship, they would remain outside the harbour – their ship docked alongside a British warship, a minesweeper.
“He said they had a bit of a party that evening, a few bottles of Russian vodka, until first light when they were told they were breaking berth and off on the return leg.
“He said a very short while later they heard the explosion. The minesweeper that was sitting alongside them had been struck and sunk.
“Ninety-five perished. He said that was a very poignant part of his life.”
After serving in the Arctic convoys Reginald would later be part of the effort to release prisoners from Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.
“Family members had sent him a tin of biscuits for several journeys,” remembered Paul.
“But whenever the prisoners came out of the camp he decided they would be donated to one of the families.
“I took him biscuits at Christmas one time and that was what triggered this story off. He said this picturesque tin of biscuits is what meant so much to so many people at that stage.
“By no means was he a gallant hero, but he was just one of many who played their part and that’s what in particular I liked about him.”
After his wartime experiences, Reginald returned to Bangor where he worked in the Ministry of Defence and continued to serve in the Territorial Army for 35 years. A popular local figure with a love of people, he enjoyed walking and gardening, growing poppies in his garden.
At the age of 88, he even made a trip to Japan to visit one of his lifelong friends. Barry added: “I can only say he did have a good life, he lived it to the full.”
Reginald McClelland died peacefully at the age of 90 at Beverly Lodge nursing home in Bangor, Co Down. His funeral was to Clandeboye Cemetery. At his funeral family and friends remembered a “humble” man who had been awarded the French Legion D’Honneur just two weeks earlier.
10/03/1944 – Royal Navy Hunt Class Destroyers, HMS BLENCATHRA, EXMOOR, BLANKNEY, and BRECON sank U-450 off Anzio in support of Allied efforts to push the Axis forces north and out of Italy. These ships and other small escorts were essential combatants in all areas of WW2 sea war
10/03/1945 – Tokyo is in ruins following an overnight incendiary raid by American B-29s. As many as 100,000 have perished in the inferno — more than either the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombings. It will be remembered as history’s deadliest air attack.
10/03/1974 – the last Japanese soldier, 2nd Lt. Onoda, surrenders nearly 30 years after the end of World War II. After the war in 1945, he killed as many as 30 villagers and was engaged in shootouts with the police. Onoda received a pardon from President Marcos.
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