In 1944. Anzio area, Italy. Men from 2 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers reading the sports newspaper “Ireland’s Saturday Night”. Accounts today – of a medical student, John Bill, son of missionaries, serving with Royal Irish Rifles, remembered at Tyne Cot. William Richmond of the NIH survived WW1. Six sons of the McAtamney family of Carrickfergus served in WW2. Bobby, a Petty Officer, survived the First Battle of Narvik in 1940 when his ship was sunk.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
1st Bn. Highland Light Infantry. Private. 8478. Died 18/03/1915. Aged 30. Born: Londonderry. Son of Mr. & Mrs. A. Gray, Ballysally, Coleraine. Lived: Coleraine. Enlisted: Glasgow. Le Touret Memorial, Panels 37-38
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Rifleman. 571. Died 18/03/1916. Aged 32, Son of Andrew and Jane Wilson, Prospect Place, Ballymena. Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, Somme. 1st Ballymena Presbyterian Church RH
+BILL, John Alexander Patterson
RAMC. Private. Later Second Lieutenant, Royal Irish Rifles attd 12th. Btn. A Queen’s undergraduate in the Faculty of Arts, on the outbreak of war, Jack Bill enlisted as a Private with the Royal Army Medical Corps before receiving a commission in the 18th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles in April 1917. Jack Bill was attached to the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, when he was killed, aged 22, on 18/08/1917 during the Battle of Langemarck (Third Ypres)
Two of his fellow officers reported thus:
2nd Lt Branningan – “Mr Bill was hit before he got right over and his body was seen in front of our wire. Mr Bill was a great friend of mine.”
2nd Lt Stokes – “This officer was last seen about map ref. D 19 b 10 90. He was lying on the ground apparently wounded in the groin or lower abdomen. Rifleman Matthews went out to dress him but was himself killed in the act of doing so, and it is supposed that the same bullet also hit Mr Bill. The men had by this time started coming back and Mr Bill was left behind apparently very seriously wounded.”
The location identified is very close to Gallipoli Farm, just to the south of the Wieltje – Gravenstafel road. Jack Bill’s body was not recovered
Jack Bill was born on 08/07/1895 in Edinburgh, the son of Samuel Alexander and Grace Bill, who were missionaries. His grandfather was John Bill, a builder, of Downshire Park, Cregagh. Samuel Alexander Bill (born in Belfast, 1864; died in Nigeria, 1942) was raised in Ballymacarrett Presbyterian Church.
The 1901 Ireland Census return for 77 Upper Newtownards Road indicates that Jack Bill (aged 5) was living with his paternal grandfather and grandmother, John and Betsy Bill. The Fitzroy Avenue church magazine, The Courier, records that Jack Bill and his sister resided with the family of the Rev. William Colquhoun whilst their parents were in the mission field. John Bill entered RBAI in January 1907 and, in 1910, he briefly left to board at a school in County Cavan. While at RBAI, he was a member of the cricket first XI and the rugby first XV, until an accident cut short his sporting career. He also took part in the school’s “dramatic entertainments”.
The family’s address when Jack died is recorded as the Mission House, Qua Iboe, Southern Nigeria – the 1911 Ireland Census records that Grace, Emma and Jack Bill lived at 61 University Street and the return is annotated to the effect that the Head of the Household was “absent in Qua Iboe, West Africa”. It had been Jack’s intention was to follow his father as a missionary in Qua Iboe, an aspiration that was to be denied by the Great War.
After leaving RBAI, John went to QUB. He was awarded the Drennan Exhibition, which was given to the First Literary Scholar of RBAI students in their first year at QUB. His name is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Flanders (Belgium) and RBAI WM.
RAF. Sergeant (Wireless Operator). 522572. Died 18/03/1941. 149 Sqdn. Grange (Society of Friends) Burial Ground, County Tyrone, Dungannon WM
RAF. James Aircraftman 2nd Class. 974540. Died 18/03/1941. Aged 24. Son of Patrick and Elizabeth Trainer, Clough, Co. Down. Port Elizabeth (South End) Cemetery, S. Extension. R.C. South Africa
McATAMNEY, Robert Samuel (Bobby)
RN. Petty Officer. Survivor of First Battle of Narvik 1940. On 10/04/1940, at 0430, Hardy, Hunter, and Havelock steamed into the harbour at Narvik leaving Hostile and Hotspur to guard the back door. Robert, known as ‘Bobby’ was an Able Seaman on HMS Hardy at the time of the Battle of Narvik. He was only twenty years old, and when the Hardy was sinking he managed to rescue a shipmate ‘Tubby’ Cox. He saw him floating unconscious in the water and dragged him to safety. They had a laugh about it afterwards, as Bobby said that Tubby only floated because of his size. Bobby had a as he plunged into the icy waters and swam ashore. He was injured after being hit in the face by shrapnel and had part of his lip removed. After the ship had blown up and he and the rest of the survivors were led to safety, he was given a ski suit, and that’s what he wore to come home.
When he finally came home, the town was decorated with flags and bunting and the town’s people lined the streets to welcome him home. At a ceremony at the Town Hall, he was presented with a watch and a ring. When asked how he felt, he said, ” that he would look back on this day with pride”.
One of six sons of William & Jane McAtamney who served in WW 2. Born 18/03/1920 at 24 Davys Street Carrickfergus. Died 1954. Brother of: Daniel McAtamney L. Cpl. R.A.F; Francis McAtamney Flight Segt. R.A.F.; George H. McAtamney A.B. R.N.; Thomas McAtamney O.S. R.N. And William McAtamney Sergt. Royal Inniskillings
Bobby McAtamney served in the Navy until 1960 and rose to the rank of Petty Officer. Although he loved the life, he had got married in 1958 and he found the long separations a bit too much to bear so he left the Navy and went to work at Courtaulds. It was at the factory in 1974 that he suffered a heart attack and died. He was only fifty-four years of age. He left a son and daughter and was sadly missed by many in the town where he was so well-liked.
See article on Bobby McAtamney, Hardy Crew and Winston Churchill on this site at –
RICHMOND, William John
Enlisted in the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (No.469), at Belfast on 28 September 1914 and according to one source claimed to be a 19-year-old carpenter. The discovery of his real age, which meant he was underage for military service, caused him to be discharged under the terms of King’s Regulations. This happened on the 28 October 1914.
Richmond was, however, determined to be a soldier and subsequently enlisted in the North Irish Horse in November 1915 and was later sent to France as reinforcement for the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment. His medal index card at National Archives, London records him as Richmond, 1885 William J, North Irish Horse and as 71616 of the Corps of Hussars. The Ballymena Observer, 19 November 1915 notes his enlistment in its section ‘Ballymena and District Men with the Colours’.
North Irish Horse was initially attached to GHQ until 4 January 1916, and then transferred to 55th (West Lancashire) Division. On 10 May 1916, it was attached to VII Corps, forming along with D and E Squadrons the 1st North Irish Horse. 1 North Irish Horse was transferred to XIX Corps in July 1917, and then to V Corps, September 1917.
In March 1918, it became the 5th (North Irish Horse) Cyclist Battalion and remained so until the end of the war. Almost immediately the regiment became part of the “Great Retreat of 1918” during the initial phase of the German Spring Offensive, but it was part of the later advance, the Hundred Days, and at the Armistice the regiment was located close to Le Cateau, close to where it began its the war.
The “Horse”, as it was and is affectionately known, won an impressive eighteen battle honours. Captain Richard West was awarded the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and Military Cross, a remarkable achievement that itself points to the importance of the unit.
Private Richmond was transferred to the Army Reserve on 2 March 1919. He died on 18/03/1965.
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