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Somme Stories - County Down

Corporal William John Peake, MM

William John Peake enlisted with the 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He went with his battalion to France in October 1915 and saw action on the first day of the Somme.

He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions in June 1916, when he ‘commanded a blocking party in the German trench, and searched several dug-outs, getting two prisoners. When he returned to the sunken road he displayed great coolness under shell-fire and successfully led back his own party to our lines independently.’

Peake was killed in action on 1 July 1916 and was buried at Thiepval.

William John Peake was a member of RBP No.130 and is remembered on the war memorial in Downpatrick Orange Hall.

Rifleman Thomas John Bell

Thomas John Bell was the son of John and Martha Bell of Ballyvicknakelly and a member of LOL No. 828.

Prior to the war he was one of the founding members of the Ulster Volunteer Force in Dromore and enlisted with them, serving in the 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He was in the Somme sector when, on the 28 June, the 13th Battalion were moving to the front line to relieve the 11th Battalion.

As the last platoon in C Company formed up to march off, a German shell hit them and the explosion killed 14, with a further 7 dying the next day.

Thomas Bell was one of the 14 killed that day and was the first burial in a new British War Cemetery near the village of Martinsart.

Private Robert McCandless

Robert McCandless, born in Dromore, Co. Down, was married to Mary Jane McCandless and together they had five children.

He was a member of Quilly LOL No. 442 and enlisted in the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, in December 1914. Robert was killed in action, aged 29, on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. He is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2.

Privates John, James, and Samuel Donaldson

John (26), James (23), and Samuel Donaldson (21), were sons of Mary and the late John Donaldson of Ballyloughan, Comber, County Down. They enlisted together, their service numbers were in sequence, and served with ‘B’ Company, 13th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (County Down).

They died side by side at Thiepval on the first day of the battle.

The brothers were all members of Comber Old Standard LOL No. 567 and are commemorated on their roll of honour.


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