April 12 – A day of NI gallantry WW1 VC, WW2 MM, and 2 DSMs : Roll of Honour

In 1915 for service near Messines Robert Morrow was awarded the Victoria Cross. In 1944 the
 Belfast Telegraph reported that two members of the Royal Navy, Stoker P Rocks, and Lieutenant Crosswell from Warrenpoint had been presented with DSMs at Buckingham Palace. In 1945 Sergeant Gerald Ballard from Londonderry was serving with the North Irish Horse in Italy when he was awarded the Military Medal.

Representing their comrades who died on this day


+DEANS, Hamilton
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Derry Volunteers), 10th (Service) Btn. Private. 15454. Died 12/04/1916, aged 18, at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire. He had contracted meningitis attributable to his military service. He enlisted in the 10th Inniskillings soon after their formation in September 1914 and embarked for France with the battalion in October 1915. Born near Donemana, Co. Tyrone in 1897 and moved to L’Derry in infancy. Son of Robert and Grace Deans, 3, Cuthbert Street, Waterside, Londonderry. Londonderry City Cemetery. Diamond WM, Londonderry. Waterside Presbyterian Church RH. See Notes below

+HIGGINS, William John
Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Btn. Rifleman. 7515. Died 12/04/1916. Aged 20. Only son of William and the late Elizabeth Higgins, of King St., Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry. He was born on 10/03/1896 in Magherafelt. By 1911 William had left school and was working as a telegraph messenger. He worked for the Midland Railway Company. The family lived in King Street. William’s mother died on 404/12/1914. William joined the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in the early summer of 1915. William’s sister died on 03/10/1915, aged just 16. Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery, Somme, France. Magherafelt C of I RH

+CLARKE, J William
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. D Company. Sergeant. 19414. Died 12/04/1918. Age 40. He enlisted at Antrim, possibly in 11 RIR. Born in Ballinderry, Co. Antrim, he lived in Crumlin Co. Antrim. A member of the Orange Order in Glenavy. Son of Thomas and Sarah Clarke of Crumlin, his wife Catherine Graham subsequently re-married and lived at 19 Malt Street, Grosvenor Road, Belfast. Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinghe, Belgium

+CORRY, John
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Rifleman. 17372. Died 12/04/1918. Age 45. Born in Hollywood, he had served in the 2nd. Battalion RIR for 9 years and saw active service in the Boer War. He lived at Ballymullen, Lisburn and enlisted in the town, possibly in 11 RIR, with whom he may have embarked for France from Bordon in October 1915. Son of Henry Corry and husband of Jane Corry of Ballymullen, Lisburn and 151 Dunluce Avenue, Lisburn Road, Belfast. Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium, panels 138-140.

+HENRY, Robert
Gordon Highlanders, 1st Btn. Private. S/51467. Died 12/04/1918. Aged 19. Robert Henry was the eldest son of David and Tillie Henry. He was born 16/04/1899 in Aghadowey. He was one of at least four children and lived in Boveedy, Kilrea. David Henry died in Kilrea in 1907 when Robert was just seven years old. Robert Henry enlisted in Stirling, Scotland. Son of Mrs.Tillie Henry, of 7, Bruce St., Greenock. Ploegsteert Memorial, Hainaut, Belgium

+HILL, George Frederick
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Lance Corporal. 1777. Died 12/04/1918. Age 24. He lived in Lurgan, enlisted at Clandeboye. Son of Maria Jane Hill of Lisburn Road, Ballinderry Upper, Co. Antrim. Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium. Named on family headstone in Ballinderry Middle Church

Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Rifleman. 17880. Died 12/04/1918. Born at Edinburgh, and living in Lisburn, he enlisted there and embarked for France from Bordon with A Company 11 RIR in October 1915. He was one of the men involved in the attempt to save Henry Corkin from drowning on the 17/05/1916 and was himself wounded at the Somme on the 01/07/1916. Subsequently transferred to 12 RIR (17880) and possibly reported wounded in September 1917. Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium, panels 138-140.

+HULL, Matthew
Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Rifleman. 6441. Died 12/04/1918. Age 19. Born and enlisted at LurganSon of John Hull and Ann Jane Hull of Aghalee, Lurgan. Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Royal Irish Rifles, 12th Btn. Rifleman. 13/16731. Died 12/04/1918.  He was born on 08/11/1888 at Kinbally, Broughshane, the son of David McClintock and Sarah Austin.  The couple, both from Ballygarvey, had married in 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church on 07/01/1881. 41-year-old iron miner, David was living at Carncoagh by 1901 with Sarah and five children. In 1911 Engine Driver David and Sarah, both 51 years old, were living at Carnkeenan, Broughshane, and son David, then 18, is said to be a footman. He was later butler to the O’Neills of Tullymore House, Broughshane.  David enlisted in Belfast.Tyne Cot Memorial, 2nd Broughshane Presbyterian Church RH.


+HAIRE, Oscar
RAF. Corporal. 567057. Died 12/04/1940. Aged 22. 77 Sqdn. Son of Henry and Mary Haire, of Tanderagee, Co. Armagh. Runnymeade Memorial, Panel 21


Royal Ulster Rifles, 2nd Btn. Rifleman. 7021078. Died 12/04/1943. Aged 20. Born in Co. Down. Son of Robert E. Cairns and Mary Jane Cairns, of Ashfield. Donaghcloney Old Graveyard


+McCURDY, Samuel Patrick
RNPS. Seaman. LT/JX/181806. HMS Europa. Died 12/04/1943. Age 24. Son of John and Ellen McCurdy, Rathlin Island. Rathlin (St Thomas) Church of Ireland Churchyard.


+McKENNA, Charles Cecil
RAFVR. Sergeant, A.G.1795560. Died 12/04/1944. Aged 20. 50 Sqdn. Son of Charles K. and Jessie McKenna, of Belfast. Runnymeade Memorial, Panel 233. Knockbreda Parish WM

+MORRISON, William John
RAFVR. Sergeant. DFM.1542075. Died 12/04/1944 on board Handley-Page Halifax BB310 of No. 1647 Heavy Conversion Unit. He was 21 years old. The Halifax took off with a crew of 9 men at 1705hrs on 11/04/ 1944 from Longtown Airfield near Carlisle. The flight was a non-operational cross-country training flight for Coastal Command practice. The bomber came down on Little Dun Fell, Northern Pennines, Cumbria. Early in the morning of 12/04/1944, the crew was on the return leg of their flight. In low cloud, the plane overshot the runway and struck high ground north of Appleby, Cumbria at 0137hrs. All those on board died in the incident. Born on 08/01/1923, he was the youngest son of David Morrison and Matilda Morrison (née Cathcart) of 53 Southwell Road, Bangor, Co. Down. He attended Woodvale Public Elementary School, Belfast, Co. Antrim, and Ballymullan Public Elementary School, Bangor. he worked at the Bangor Shipyard and later at Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast. Sergeant Morrison received his call up in February 1942. His older brother, Flight Sergeant David C Morrison also served overseas with the Royal Air Force. Reverend WAA Park of Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church, Co. Down conducted the service attended by members of the Royal Air Force and Bangor Air Training Corps. Colleagues from the RAF acted as pallbearers and an RAF standard draped the airman’s coffin. Bangor New Cemetery.


+BARKER, Eric Swift
Royal Artillery. 77 (The Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry) Medium Regt.Gunner. 962840. Died 12/04/1945. Aged 28. Son of Walter Ernest and Alice Barker; husband of Jane Barker, of Newry. Rheinberg War Cemetery, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany


Robert Morrow VC

Robert Morrow joined the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers at Armagh in 1911 and after basic training went with the Battalion to
England. In August
1914 the Battalion was ordered to join the British Expeditionary Force and embark for France; he was then aged 23.

A quiet, disciplined, hard-working soldier and small in stature, he did not look like a hero, yet when his battalion was fighting, he knew no fear. One of his
typical exploits happened when he and his friends were in trenches at Messines.

Everyone was very thirsty and to get water meant crossing open ground in clear view of German snipers. Private Morrow volunteered to go, and carrying a two-gallon stone rum jar he ran to the farm and filled the jar, dodging bullets there and back. Just as he jumped back into the trench a bullet hit the jar he was holding and the water was lost. Calmly, Private Morrow grabbed some water bottles and made another trip, again dodging, and managing to escape every German bullet.

On 12 April 1915, the 1st Battalion was in trenches below Messines Ridge when Private Morrow’s Company lines came under heavy and accurate shellfire, burying several of the soldiers when the trenches collapsed. Ignoring the shells landing around him, Private Morrow dug six soldiers out and carried them to safety, returning each time to see whom else he could help. For this outstanding act of bravery, his name was put forward for a Victoria Cross. Less than two weeks later he was badly wounded at St Julien and died of his wounds the following day on 26 April 1915. His grave is in White House Cemetery near Ypres.

King George V presented the Victoria Cross to his mother at Buckingham Palace. Tsar Nicholas of Russia also awarded Private Morrow the Medal of St George for his selfless act of bravery. The Regiment raised over £100 to give to the Morrow family. Knowing the high esteem in which her son had been held, Mrs Morrow presented the Victoria Cross to the Regiment in his memory.

The award of the Victoria Cross to Robert Morrow appeared in The London Gazette dated 21 May 1915 and the citation read as follows:

No. 10531 Private Robert Morrow, 1st Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers).
For most conspicuous bravery near Messines on 12th April, 1915, when he rescued and carried successively to places of comparative safety, several men who had been buried in the debris of trenches wrecked by shell fire.

Private Morrow carried out this gallant work on his own initiative, and under very heavy fire from the enemy.

RN DSMs in the newspapers

The Belfast Weekly Telegraph of 12/04/1941 carried the following notices –

Stoker. DSM presented by HM King George VI. He also served in WW1.

Lieutenant. DSM for gallantry and devotion to duty at Dunkirk. Son of Mr and Mrs JI Croswell, Charlotte St., Warrenpoint.

Auction reveals Warrenpoint RN officer’s gallantry at Dunkirk

On June 25, 2008 a set of medals was sold at Noonan Webb auctioneers. Lieutenant Croswell’s role was referred to in the provenance. See below –

A fine Second World War Dunkirk operations D.S.M. group of nine awarded to Chief Petty Officer A. H. H. Gutsell, Royal Navy, for services in the yacht Thele.
Distinguished Service Medal, G.VI.R. (J. 28475 A. H. H. Gutsell, C.P.O., H.M.Y. Thele); 1914-15 Star (J. 28475 Boy 1, R.N.); British War and Victory Medals (J. 28475 L.S., R.N.); 1939-45 Star; Atlantic Star; War Medal 1939-45; Jubilee 1935; Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 3rd issue, coinage bust (J. 28475 P.O., H.M.S. Victory), the Great War period awards with contact marks and polished, thus fine or better, the remainder generally good very fine (9) £1800-2200 D.S.M. London Gazette 16 August 1940: ‘For good services in the withdrawal of the Allied Armies from the beaches at Dunkirk.’ The original recommendation states: ‘For conspicuous boat work and in effecting contact with G.H.Q. He worked the dinghy under heavy fire.’

Arthur Henry Herbert Gutsell was born in Hastings, Sussex in June 1898 and joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in 1913. Appointed to the cruiser H.M.S. Achilles in October 1914, he remained similarly employed until August 1918, in which period she formed part of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in the Grand Fleet and sank the German raider Leopard north of the Shetlands in March 1917. Remaining a regular between the Wars, Gutsell was appointed to the motor yacht Thele, recently requisitioned by the Admiralty for services as an Auxiliary Patrol vessel, soon after the outbreak of hostilities, and it was in this capacity that he won his D.S.M. off Dunkirk.

Thele’s C.O., Lieutenant H. M. Glassborow, R.N.V.R., submitted the following report in respect of her movements on 31 May 1940: ‘0600 – arrived off Bray. Proceeded to La Panne under orders from Ankh to take soldiers off beach. 0630 – arrived off La Panne, took soldiers from surf boats and transferred them to destroyers. Later ordered by captain of a destroyer to place ourselves at the disposal of a paddle steamer anchored off the beach. Did this, collected her boats, took them in to the beach and brought soldiers to her. The Commodore in Bounty suggested we used our launch and with assistance of soldiers on board, we tried to get the launch in the water but smashed it in the process. Later called up by the destroyer Keith and ordered to anchor astern of her. After about half an hour there was an air raid and Keith weighed and left ordering me to remain where I was as despatch boat. As bombs were falling all around, weighed anchor but remained in position.

The Commodore arrived in a small boat, transferred to us and took over the ship. Sailed round La Panne and Bray, boarding ships and transmitting Commodore’s orders. 1300 – went alongside the sloop Hebe and took her captain on board. Put Commodore on board paddle steamer. While we were alongside her, she was attacked by aircraft and she weighed and left with the Commodore aboard. Heavy air attack at La Panne; captain of the Hebe ordered me to signal all ships to move half a mile westward. Followed Hebe to try and put her captain aboard. Arrived alongside her off Bray, just as she was attacked by bombers, so was ordered by her captain to lie off her while she was in action, but close enough for him to pass orders to her if necessary.

Later, put him on La Panne and took off G.H.Q. personnel. Was given night operation orders to hand to Lord Gort. Proceeded to La Panne escorted by Hebe and lay off pier. 1630 – sent dinghy with A. H. H. Gutsell, C.P.O. and G. Duncan, A.B., with orders to contact G.H.Q. and hand over night operation orders. While waiting took on soldiers.

Dinghy returned with Lieutenant Crosswell, R.N., N.L.O. to Lord Gort.

Lord Gort was taken off by a destroyer’s launch. Went to Bray to try and contact Hebe, but on the way was ordered by the Admiral to go in to the beach with whaler and take off a General. At beach, Ahola arrived and transferred to me Lord Gort’s baggage, valet and driver. Requested Ahola to attend to the General and off again to find the Hebe. Ordered by the Admiral to proceed to sea to collect boats drifting about. Went about two miles out and collected three boats and brought these back to Bray. Closed Hebe and put Lord Gort’s gear and servants aboard. Lieutenant Crosswell remained with me. Lay off La Panne ferrying soldiers to destroyers until 0200, when no more troops could be found. Proceeded in direction of Bray and was ordered by M.T.B. 102 to lay off H.M.S. Keith as we might be wanted. Did this until 0300 when shelling of water started. Keith weighed and went off without giving me orders. Informed by Lieutenant Crosswell that everything had to be gone by 0400 and, as no ships could be seen at 0325, left beaches and proceeded to Dover and arrived 1100. It is estimated that about 250 soldiers were taken off in the course of the day. Chief Petty Officer A. H. H. Gutsell remained by the dinghy in spite of heavy shelling of the pier, until G.H.Q. staff arrived.’

Military Medal for North Irish Horse Sergeant in Italy

Sergeant Gerald Ballard from Londonderry was serving with the North Irish Horse in Italy in 1945 when he was awarded the Military Medal.

The wording of the citation is given here:-
“On the night of April 12th 1945, A Squadron North Irish Horse, did an unsupported night attack from the Argenta Canal to La pastorella a distance of nearly five miles.

“As they approached La pastorella approximately 15 enemy tanks were heard to start up and make of in a northerly direction.

“As daylight was breaking Major R.J. Griffith ordered Sergeant Ballard to take a small dismounted patrol, consisting of co-drivers to find out where and in what strength the enemy was.

“Sergeant Ballard, who had no previous experience of this type of work , carried out a most brilliant patrol.

“Seven Germans were captured, the exact enemy positions on the Santerno banks were discovered. He searched houses, dug outs and gun positions and found excellent ambush positions for the squadron.

“He was sniped at and spandau’ed constantly by the enemy.

“He was back again in an hour with this vital information and the success of the subsequent operations was largely down to him.

“This NCO has an outstanding record of battle and his skill and conduct under fire have been of the highest order.”
Recommend by Lieutenant-Colonel A.W.A Liewellen- Palmer DSO, MC. Commanding Officer North Irish Horse Endorsed by
Major-general D.Russell, Commander 8th Indian Division Approved by
Lieutenant-General R.I. McCreery General Officer Commanding 8th Army.

Report on funeral of Private Hamilton Deans

Private Deans was interred in Londonderry City Cemetery on Monday, April 17, 1916. The funeral took place from his parents’ residence. A short service was conducted by the Reverend Dr. Stuart, pastor Waterside Presbyterian Church, who paid a tribute to the deceased soldier, who, he said, when the call of King and country came was, notwithstanding the fact that he was only seventeen years of age, amongst the first to answer.

In the trenches doing his duty he contracted the illness from which he died in Netley Hospital.

Prior to the war deceased had always been a regular attender at the Bible class, and was a boy of high principle and sterling character. They deplored his loss, but knew that he had made the great sacrifice in a righteous cause.

The funeral was attended by the brass band and pipes of the 3rd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, under Drum-Major Leech, and a firing party of the battalion, under Sergeant R. Doherty, while behind the gun-carriage bearing the coffin, enveloped in the Union Flag, marched the members of the different battalions of the City of Derry Regiment of the U.V.F.

A large number of the general public also attended. The pipes played ‘The Flowers of the Forest,’ and approaching the cemetery gates the band played the Dead March in Saul. Reverend Dr Stuart and the Reverend W.P. Hall, B.A., T.C.D., pastor Gortnessy Presbyterian Church, officiated at the graveside. The firing party afterwards discharged volleys and the trumpeters sounded ‘The Last Post.’

12/04/1940 – Norway announces German control of Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim in the south, Narvik in the north.

12/04/1941 – The Yugoslav capital Belgrade, surrenders.
Greek and British forces fall back to the Mount Olympus line in Greece.
German armoured units complete the encirclement of Tobruk and push on up the coast road towards the Egyptian frontier.
US troops land in Greenland.

12/04/1942 – Both German and Russian forces pause for breath after an extremely difficult winter (temperatures dropped to a nippy Minus 30C). The Russians have outrun their supply lines and exhausted their supply store of tanks and guns, which has allowed the initiative to slip back to the Germans. However, the Germans are aware that they can no longer take Moscow with a knockout blow and so choose another alternative. They intend to drive southward as part of a “grand pincer” movement through the Caucasus to link up with Rommel’s Afrika Corps, which will solve their oil problems, disable the Russian economy, and menace the Middle East.

Japanese troops capture Migyaungyein Burma, which exposes the western flank of 1st Burma Corps at put the oilfields at Yenangyuang under threat.

12/04/1943 – German radio announces that 4,150 Polish officers that were deported by the Russian authorities in 1940 have been found in mass graves near Smolensk.
The Eighth Army takes Sousse, to the East of Kairan and claim that 20,000 axis prisoners have been taken in Tunisia since the 20th March.

12/04/1944 – Hitler authorizes a withdrawal of 230,000 German and Romanian troops to the fortress of Sevastopol. However, this is four days too late and the delay results in many unnecessary losses.
Finland rejects the heavy Russian demands for the ending of the war.

12/04/1945 – The U.S. Ninth Army crosses the Elbe, taking Brunswick.

The U.S. Third Army takes Erfurt.
French troops take Baden-Baden on the southern flank. The U.S.6th Armoured Division overruns Buchenwald concentration camp. The British Second Army captures Celle 60 miles to the South of Hamburg.
The Germans evacuates Zenica, Yugoslavia.
A German war communique confesses that Konigsberg did surrender and announces the death penalty for the fortresses commander, General Lasch.
After suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage, President Roosevelt dies at Warm Springs in Georgia, aged 63. Harry Truman is sworn in as 32nd President of the United States.

12/04/1945 – LOGUE, A – FAA. Chief Petty Officer. “Was at home this weekend. Attached to escort carrier, he was with the Russian bound convoys all through the northern passage in wintry conditions. The last big convoy” (Ulster Gazette 12/04/1945). Railway St., Armagh

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