January 28. McCrae,the poet of remembrance. Ballymena and The Great Escape. Roll of Honour

The writer of “In Flanders fields the poppies grow”, the most famous poem of WW1, died on this day in 1918. John McCrae was a Canadian doctor and tribute is rightly paid to him. A veteran remembered today is Alex Ballentine, RAF aircrew, from Ballymena, who was a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III, the scene depicted in the film “The Great Escape”. The first two entries in today’s Roll of Honour reflect the reality of pain and suffering after leaving the battlefield. John Devlin of Tynan lost an eye in battle, and when home lost sight in his remaining eye and his hearing. Robert Black from Lurgan died after a long and painful illness, due to gas poisoning at the front. Captain Charles Craig of the Royal Irish Rifles served with the Ulster Division. He was one of four brothers who volunteered for service at the outbreak of war. He was wounded and became a prisoner of war. The son of a self-made millionaire whisky distiller, among his brothers was Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister, James Craig. Charles entered the House of Commons in 1903 as the Conservative member for South Antrim. Also featured today is The Huts Cemetery in Belgium. Much of the cemetery was filled between July and November 1917 and nearly two-thirds of the burials were of gunners from nearby artillery positions several of which were Australian.

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