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Somme Stories - County Armagh

Sir Norman Stronge

Sir Norman was born in Bryansford, Co. Down, the son of Sir Charles Stronge, 7th Baronet. He was a member of Derryshaw Boyne Defenders LOL and was the Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution.

Sir Norman enlisted in the 10th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, as Lieutenant and later became Captain. He survived the Battle of the Somme and later enlisted to fight on the outbreak of World War II.

Sir Norman was an Ulster Unionist Party politician. On 21 January 1981 he and his son, Sir James, were murdered whilst watching television in the library of their home at Tynan Abbey, Co. Armagh, by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

Stronge was buried in Tynan Parish Church alongside his son.

Colonel William J Allen, DSO

William James Allen was a son of Joseph and Catherine Allen and before the war had been involved in the linen industry.

He was well known in Lurgan as a local Justice of the Peace and was a highly placed member of the Orange Order. He later became Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution of the British Commonwealth for his contribution to the purchase of Brownlow House for the organisation.

Brownlow House became a military headquarters from November 1914, and here Allen helped to raise and organise the basic training of the 16th (Pioneer) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles and served as its commanding officer, arriving with them in France in October 1915.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918, Mentioned in Despatches four times, and appointed Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1917 as an Irish Unionist Party MP for North Armagh.

Private Herbert Gray

Herbert Gray, known as Bert, was a member of Redrock Presbyterian Church and of Killycopple LOL No. 345.

Bert had joined up in the original draft to the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, confirming that he was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force. An eventful war saw him wounded three times, including at Hamel on 1 July 1916, before eventually being discharged as no longer physically fit for war service.

Bert maintained that his life had been saved at Hamel by a New Testament he had been given and which he carried with him all the time. A bullet struck the Testament at his chest and ricocheted into his arm.


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