Second Lieutenant Brian Boyd MM - died 7/6/1917
14th Royal Irish Rifles
Brian was born in Swansea, to William A Boyd and Lizzie M Boyd, who later moved to 10, Cyprus Gardens, Belfast.
He was serving an apprenticeship in the linen trade when he enlisted in Belfast in 1914. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in December 1916
He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field; the announcement in the London Gazette was October 1916
Brian died of wounds at No 2 Casualty Clearing Station, at the age of 19, on 7th June 1917, having taken part in the Ulster Division attack on the Messines Ridge. The 14th Royal Irish Rifles set off that morning from positions behind the Spanbroekmolen mine crater, and were faced with machine gun posts at the Skip Point and Scott Farm positions. It is here that the majority of casualties are believed to have occurred. The positions were taken, and the day was a success; even so 44 of the men of the battalion died that day, including Brian.
He is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension (ref. III C 104), Nord, France.
Lieutenant William Graham Boyd - died 16/8/1917
9th Royal Irish Fusiliers
William was born on 8th March 1896, the son of the Rev. R H Boyd and Sarah Louisa Boyd of Fitzroy, Carrickfergus, and brother of Lt T W Boyd. He joined the 17th (Reserve) Royal Irish Rifles on 6th April 1915, subsequently being commissioned into the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 23rd August 1915. Both he and his brother joined the 9th Battalion in April 1916, William serving with C Company. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 23rd February 1917.
William's poem, Ode to a Wet Night in Camp, was printed in the June 1915 edition of School News:
Drip! Drip! Drip! And a ceaseless patter of rain
And I would I dared to write my thoughts but I think I'd better refrain.
For through the holes just over my head, comes the rain in a steady pour
And my blankets are soaking up the floods that are streaming over the floor.
Oh, well for the tent-maker now, that his home is nowhere near
For it's oh for a grip on the back of his neck, and a few soft words in his ear.
The rain comes steadily down, and it's dark, and I cannot see
But the well-starched stiffness that once was mine will never come back to me.
William was killed by shellfire on 16th August 1917, at the age of 21, when leading his platoon into battle at the Battle of Langemarck (3rd Ypres). In all, the battalion suffered 456 casualties that day.
Corporal O'Neill of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers wrote "Lt Boyd's platoon was immediately on my right during the advance at a strong point known as "Gallipoli". I regret to state that a shell burst just above our heads and several of us were wounded. I went to where I saw Lt Boyd laying and found that he was mortally wounded and he died soon after. I certify that the above is a true statement of how this splendid officer died at the head of his platoon."
In the months following William's death, his mother wrote a number of letters regarding the fate of her son. As no body had been found, she wondered whether it was possible he had survived, perhaps being taken prisoner by the Germans. After the receipt of Corporal O'Neill's letter above, she wrote "I thank you for your letter and enclosure from Corp O'Neill in regards to the fate of my dear son. I wonder did Corp O'Neill see him dead or does he only think he died soon after he saw him. I have had several letters from soldiers who say they saw him badly wounded and think he died, but none saw him dead. The strange part is where is his body, as the British took back again 3 days after where his body was lying and the Red Cross say if the Germans buried him they would send word to the Red Cross Office. It is queer no trace can be found and the director of graves cannot locate his grave. One man wrote that he saw him wounded when they were going forward at 5 o'clock and coming back at 8.30 he saw him again and he was still living so between all reports I do not know what to believe."
William's body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial (Panel 140 to 141), Flanders, Belgium.
Second Lieutenant Hugh Brown - died 31/7/1917
6th Royal Irish Rifles attached 1st Battalion
Hugh, the brother of John B Brown below, was originally in the 5th Hampshire Regiment until transferring to the Royal Irish Rifles.
He was killed in action on 31st July 1917. His battalion were involved in an attack launched from the Westhoek Ridge toward high ground near Polygon Wood, and Hannebeke Stream. Heavy casualties were suffered: 36 deaths and over 150 wounded and missing. Hugh is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial (panel 40), Flanders, Belgium.
Corporal John B Brown - died 21/1/1916
1/4th Hampshire Battalion - service number 240483
John, the brother of Hugh above, was born in Belfast and enlisted with the 5th Hampshire Regiment in Southampton, before transferring to the 1/4th Battalion.
He was killed in action on 21st January 1916 in the course of the battalion's unsuccessful attack on the Turkish position at Umm-el-Hannah, between Kut-el-Amara and the ruins at Orah. An officer of the 1/4 Hants descibed the days events as follows: "The fighting on the 21st was a pure slaughter. It was too awful. The troops from France say that in all their experience there they never suffered so much from weather conditions. We were wet to the skin and there was a bitter wind coming off the snow hills. Many poor fellows died from exposure that night, I am afraid; and many of the wounded were lying out for more than twenty four hours until the armistice was arranged the following day."
Another member of the battalion described the attack: "we never made a rush and just walked slowly through the rain. A slow march to our deaths, I call it."
The battalion suffered 249 casualties, including over 100 killed or missing. On the same day as John was killed, Captain J A Sinton, also an Instonian, was winning his Victoria Cross at the nearby Orah Ruins.
John is commemorated on the Basra Memorial (panel 21 and 63), Iraq.
Second Lieutenant Thomas Fletcher Brown- died 30/5/1915
7th Manchester Regiment
Thomas was the son of William and Lizzie Brown of 204 Shankill Road, Belfast. He was appointed to a commission with the 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment on 2nd September 1914 and embarked for Egypt 9 days later.
27 days after leaving Egypt for the Dardanelles, Thomas was killed in action on 30th May 1915, at the age of 20, and is buried in the Redoubt Cemetery (ref. Sp Mem A 110), Helles, Turkey