January 13. War graves on Rathlin recall loss of HMS Viknor. Roll of Honour

In 1915 HMS Vicknor made a major contribution to the war by capturing the leading German spy-master after a search and chase operation of a Norwegian-owned ship. Unfortunately, the crew and their captives were lost within hours, sunk in a storm or by a mine. None of the 295 crew were saved. Amongst them were Samuel Gourley from Portglenone, Hugh Pugh from Annalong and 17 year-old Francis Galbraith from Londonderry. Bodies were washed ashore mainly at Rathlin and Ballycastle. Each year an act of remembrance is held on the island or in the channel. For two other remarkable true stories see Today’s Veterans. Elliott Forde, son of the rector of Hilltown, a banker in civvy street, served with the Machine Gun Corps and on leaving the army in 1918 with the North Irish Horse Special Reserve. He later was appointed as a Director of the Northern Bank and subsequently its Chairman. “Mac” McIlroy was shot down during the Second World War, and later became a signals expert during a long career in the RAF. Educated at Lisburn Technical School he joined the RAF in January 1939. He took part in three “Thousand Bomber Raids” and survived when his bomber crash-landed and was destroyed. McIlroy escaped uninjured. Eleven days later he was shot down. McIlroy’s flying career continued until 1953. He served until 1976 when he became a tutor at Cambridge University. He died this day in 2021. Today’s Roll includes three Inniskillings from Aughnacloy, Ballymena, and Belfast, who died in the first attack on Two Tree Hill in Tunisia, and Robert Nicholson, an RM Commando from Belfast, who died from wounds. On 13 January 1913, the Ulster Volunteer Force was established, with the purpose of resisting the implementation of Home Rule. Dublin-born barrister and MP Edward Carson donated £10,000 to its formation, and the poet Rudyard Kipling donated £50,000. Thousands of members would die in the war.

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