April 09 – Roll of Honour

Men from NI died serving with Canadian forces in both wars including Vimy Ridge. A brilliant QUB student died in Basra in WW1. Four men perished when HMS Hermes on voyage towards the Maldives was sunk by Japanese forces. Photo – The Holdcroft family of Magheragall. QMS Holdcroft died of wounds in WW1 and his grave is also in Basra, Iraq.

Representing their comrades who died on this day


Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment), 7th Btn. Quarter Master Sergeant. 8853. Died 09/04/1916 in Mesopotamia. Born Burslem, Staffordshire, enlisted Lichfield, Staffordshire, resident Belfast. Basra War Cemetery, Iraq. Magheragall Parish Church WM

+McCONNELL, Robert Wallace
King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. 10th Btn. Lieutenant. Died. 09/04/1916. Aged 20. Commissioned in February 1915. Robert survived the Gallipoli campaign, serving at Sulva Bay until the evacuation, after which he embarked for Port Said on 13/02/1916; disembarking at Basra 27/02/1916. He was attached to the Indian Expeditionary Force for the relief of General Townshend when he was known to have been wounded on 05/04/1916, later to have been reported as killed in action on 09/04/1916 during an attack on Sanna-i-yat.

Robert received his elementary education at Mountpottinger school and entered Campbell College in September 1906. He gained several prizes, won a senior scholarship for two years, and passed the junior, middle, and senior grades examinations of the Intermediate Education Board for Ireland. On more than one occasion he was among the first prize-winners at the General Assembly’s guild examinations. In 1909 he took second place with 95 per cent., the examiner (Rev. Prof. Heron, D.D.) reporting his answering to be “exceptionally brilliant.”

He entered the honours English school of the Belfast Queen’s University in October 1914. He was extremely popular with his fellow-students, and was elected a member of council of the Literary and Scientific Society, and awarded at the annual meeting of the society on 10/03/1915, the Dufferin medal for oratory. He was also immensely popular with the members of his father’s congregation, in the work of which he took a deep interest, teaching in both the morning and evening Sabbath – school. The office-bearers, at a social meeting on 808/04/1915, presented him with a sword of honour. Robert was the son of the late Rev. James McConnell, a former minister of Megain Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belfast, and Annie Duffield McConnell (nee Gibson), of “Ulidia” Holywood Rd., Belfast. He was the younger brother of Samuel Gibson.

His parents received a sympathetic letter from Major-General F. S. Maude, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., regarding the death in action of his son. The letter from Major-General Maude, a distinguished officer with many Ulster connections, was written on the 14th April, before the fall of Kut-el-Amara, and is as follows:—
“Though personally unknown to you, I feel that I must write a line, as General Officer Commanding, to offer you my respectful and wannest sympathy on the death of your gallant son in action. The fighting in our centre, which is to relieve our comrades who are beleaguered in Kut-el-Amara, has been strenuous and severe, and it has not been from want of valour and determination on the part of the relieving force, but rather owing to the exceptional conditions by which we are surrounded, that we have not, so far, been able to attain our object.

“The King’s Own fought splendidly on the day on which your son was killed, and distinguished themselves, as they have done through other campaigns, by their steadiness and heroism. I know what a heavy blow this great loss must mean to you all; but I trust that at least you may derive some small measure of comfort from the thought that he fell nobly at the call of duty and King and country, a brilliant example of self-sacrifice and devotion to many of his countrymen.

“That every solace in your overwhelming grief may be yours is the earnest wish of yours faithfully, “F. S. Maude, Major-General.” Basra Memorial, Iraq.


+BRADLEY, Francis Henry
Canadian Infantry, 15th Bn. (Central Ontario Regiment). Private. 77632. Died 09/04/1917. Aged 28. One of three brothers who died in WW1. Francis Henry Bradley emigrated to Canada where he worked as a surveyor’s axeman. He enlisted on 05/11/1914 at Victoria. Son of William and Jane Bradley, of Corr and Dunavally, Moy, Co Tyrone. Nine Elms Military Cemetery, Thelus, Pas de Calais, France. Moy WM

+JOHNSON, Andrew
Canadian Infantry, 75th Btn. (Central Ontario Regiment). Sergeant. 171257. Died 09/04/1917. The youngest son of Samuel and Margaret Johnson. Andrew was born on 04/06/1891 in Drumballyhagan, Tobermore. They were a farming family. Andrew’s mother died in 1904 when he was 13 years old. Andrew worked on the farm until he emigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1911. Andrew joined the Toronto Police Force. He enlisted in August 1915. Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Tobermore WM. Tobermore Presbyterian Church RH


+CAMPBELL, Francis
Royal Irish Rifles, 15th Btn. Rifleman. 19422. Died 09/04/1918. Son of Hugh and Mary Campbell (nee Haugh). Francis was born in Stewartstown about 1893. The family moved to Laganvale Street in Belfast. Francis was a general labourer. His mother was a widow. Frank’s brother, Rifleman Charles Campbell (14160), served with the Royal Irish Rifles and also died in the war. Cement House Cemetery, in Langemark, north of Ypres, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium


+MILLAR, Robert Lawrence
RAF. Aircraftman 1st Class. 569861. Died 09/04/1940. 210 Sqdn. Son of John and Anne Mary Millar, of Limavady. Selling Churchyard, Norway


+BURTON, Robert
RCAF. Sergeant (Pilot). R/60228. Died 09/04/1941. Aged 19. Son of Robert and Margaret Isabella Burton, of Marigold, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Hawarden (St. Denial) Churchyard, Flintshire. Dungannon WM

RNR. AB. P/6632 C. Died 09/04/1941. Age 39. HMS Voltaire. Son of Frank and Jane Houston; husband to Mary Catherine Houston, of Belfast. His father had drowned at sea during World War 1. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 26/07/1941). Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 60

+SHAW, John
RAFVR. Aircraftman 2nd Class. 1053902. Died 09/04/1941. Aged 35. 916 (County of Warwick) Balloon Squadron, which was part of Number 6 Balloon Centre at RAF Wythall. Son of Arthur C. Shaw and Kathleen Shaw; husband to Adrianna Shaw, of Belfast. Belfast City Cemetery, Glenalina

1942                                                         HMS HERMES

HMS Hermes was the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier. She was commissioned in 1924. Hermes was berthed in Trincomalee on 08/04/ when a warning of an Indian Ocean raid by the Japanese fleet was received, and she sailed that day for the Maldives with no aircraft on board. On 9 April a Japanese scout plane spotted her near Batticaloa, and she was attacked by several dozen dive bombers shortly afterwards. With no air cover, the carrier was quickly sunk by the Japanese aircraft. Most of the survivors were rescued by a nearby hospital ship, although 307 men from Hermes were lost in the sinking.

+CAUGHEY, David Smyth
RN. Engine Room Artificer 5th Class. D/MX. 59143. HMS Hermes. Died 09/04/1942. Son of Annie Caughey, Belfast. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 68

+MOORE, Alfred
RNR. Seaman. D/X 18007A. Date of Death: 09/04/1942. Age: 41. H.M.S. Hermes. Son of David and Esther Moore, of Ballymartin, Co. Down; husband to Eliza Jane Moore, Ballymartin. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 75

+QUINN, Vincent
RN. Able Seaman. D/JX 156549. Died 09/04/1942. Age 20. HMS Hermes. Son of Sophia Quinn, Whitehouse. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 35

+WILSON, Thomas
RN. Leading Cook (S). D/MX 61660. Died 09/04/1942. Age 29. HMS Hermes. Son of Samuel and Elizabeth Wilson, Comber. Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 72. Comber WM


+KELLY, Hugh Desmond
Intelligence Corps. Att 9th HAA Regt. Corporal. 6142816. Died 09/04/1943. Aged 24. Son of Hugh Montgomery Kelly and Annie Elizabeth Kelly, of Londonderry. Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. Derry Cathedral WM


+McCORMICK, William Myles Colbert
RAF. Corporal. 537072. Died 09/04/1945. Aged 27. Son of William and Julia McCormick, Belfast; Husband to Stella Valletta McCormick, Belfast. Aughlisnafin (Immaculate Conception) Roman Catholic Churchyard


09/04/1917 – The Battle of Arras began. Over 50,000 Commonwealth servicemen would be killed in the six-week campaign. CWGC’s Arras Memorial commemorates over 34,700 men who have no known grave – most of whom died during this period. All four divisions of the ‘Canadian Corps’ storm the German lines on Vimy Ridge. Their victory is seen as a “coming-of-age” moment for the young nation of Canada. On this day the Canadians take Vimy Ridge apart from the northern tip, also five villages and a reported 6,000 German prisoners.

09/04/1940 – Germany invades Denmark and Norway. The Danes capitulated within six hours and it was the shortest military campaign conducted by the Germans during the war.

09/04/1940 – Norwegian coastal defence batteries engaged German cruiser Blücher, causing serious damage. Blücher capsized and sank with major loss of life, which carried most of the troops and Gestapo agents intended to occupy Oslo.

09/04/1945 – 38 (Irish) Division. 2 LIR. 1700 D Day. Allied offensive on the Senio River line opens. 2 NZ Division on the left and 8 Indian Division on the right. Btn’s role will be that of infantry cooperating with tanks and spearheading the Allied advance through the Argenta Gap.

Something decent on the final Allied advance to the Po and beyond in April 1945 leading to comprehensive final victory… truly a remarkable multi national coalition… Operation Buckland started on 9th April…

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1 Comment

  1. Op. BUCKLAND was Eighth Army’s part in 15th Army Group’s Op. GRAPESHOT; Fifth Army carried out Op. CRAFTSMAN, beginning on the 14th. Eighth Army was commanded by Lt Gen Sir Richard McCreery, a man whose family came from Killyclogher, Co. Tyrone, and who was Eighth Army’s finest commander. The entire operation was planned by McCreery and Fifth Army’s commander, Lucian King Truscott Jr, also of Irish descent. It represented the finest example of manoeuvre warfare by the western Allies in the SWW.
    For its part in BUCKLAND, 38 (Irish) Brigade was reinforced to almost divisional strength. It included a Break-Out Force of both Fusilier battalions (1 RIrF and 2 INNISKS), each supported by a squadron of The Bays, MG platoons from D Spt Gp Kensingtons, RE recce parties and a scissors bridge with the Faughs) and C Sqn 51 RTR with Crocodile flame-thrower tanks (with the Skins). Artillery support was provided by 17th Field Regiment and 11th (HAC) Regiment RHA. The former was the Irish Brigade’s supporting field regiment and referred to themselves as the Royal Hibernian Artillery.
    The Mobile Force included 2nd London Irish in Kangaroo APCs, HQ 2 Armd Bde, 9th Lancers, 4th Hussars, to man the Kangaroos, Z Tp/209 SP Bty and an RE assault detachment.
    The final component was a Reserve Force for special roles which included C Sqn Bays, 254 A/tk Bty, an RE armoured troop, an MG platoon of D Support Gp, 214 Field Coy RE and 152nd Field Ambulance RAMC.
    The Break-Out Force included over 100 main tracked AFVs. Commanding the Kangaroo Army was Lt Col Bala Bredin who had fought in France in 1940, in Tunisia and throughout the Italian campaign and was to finish the war as one of the most highly-decorated officers in the Army.
    While 2 LIR provided the mechanised infantry of the Kangaroo Army, 1 LIR was also mechanised, taking part in amphibious operations with 56th (London) Division and crossing Lake Comacchio in Fantails (LVTs).
    Op. BUCKLAND is covered in detail in an article in the April edition of Britain at War magazine and in ‘Victory in Italy: 15th Army Group’s Final Campaign 1945’, published by Pen and Sword Books in 2014.


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