Tragic Somme soldier remembered in home village 100 years after death

William Samuel Montgomery wrote to his sister to say he was recovering from a wound. However, he never made it home alive
William Samuel Montgomery wrote to his sister to say he was recovering from a wound. However, he never made it home alive

The 100th anniversary of the ending of the Battle of the Somme is to be marked at a poignant ceremony in a Co Down village tomorrow.

It is to be held in Killyleagh and will recall the life of Somme soldier William Samuel Montgomery, who hailed from the village, and who died just hours before the battle ended.

The grave of William Samuel Montgomery from Killyleagh

The grave of William Samuel Montgomery from Killyleagh

For the first time in 100 years, since the day of his burial, ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’ will be sounded at the grave of the Killyleagh man who died from wounds he suffered on the Somme battlefield.

Montgomery had enlisted on Boxing Day 1915.

He died on November 18, 1916, after an operation on a chest wound sustained on the Somme battlefield when serving with the 16th Royal Irish Rifles (Co Down Pioneers).

His died in a Sheffield war hospital.

His body was brought home to Killyleagh for burial, and at noon tomorrow, the 100th anniversary of the ending of the battle, he is to be posthumously honoured.

“This is a unique ceremony as few of those wounded at the Somme were brought back to Ireland for burial,” said a spokesman for one of the organisers.

His grave is marked with a Commonwealth War Graves headstone in the town’s Presbyterian graveyard.

After a bugler sounds ‘Last Post’, a poppy wreath will be laid on Montgomery’s grave.

The act of remembrance will be conducted by the village’s Presbyterian minister, Rev Hiram Higgins, and the Church of Ireland rector, Rev Colin Darling.

In his last letter home, Lance Corporal Montgomery had told his sister that he was beginning to heal in hospital, and was able to walk about 30 yards without the help of a stick.

“My wound is beginning to heal up and nurse says a fortnight will make it a deal better,” he wrote.

“She also told me I had recovered from the pneumonia. I don’t suppose you knew I had that complaint but really I have been very ill.

“I am breaking my neck for a good drink of buttermilk but it can’t be got here.

“I wonder could you send me a pint anyway, the sourer it would be the better.

“I would also like a little bread, not that I don’t get enough but I am longing for a change.

“About as much as would make a good tightener for a healthy man will be abundance, say one small piece of soda, one potato oaten, one slim, one wheaten.

“Please don’t put any currants in as I don’t think they agree with me.

“If you can at all please send this little lot, the buttermilk anyhow and I will be obliged to you forever.

“I will draw to a close and excuse me for so much trouble but I want you to do your best and try and send the milk.

“I will say goodbye and best love to all, hoping baby is well.

“Lance Corporal William Montgomery, Wharncliffe War Hospital, Sheffield.”

However, over a week later he died as a result of an operation.

The Down Recorder of November 1916 recorded: “Business houses were temporarily closed and the blinds of private houses drawn on Monday, on the occasion of the funeral of Corporal William Samuel Montgomery to the Meeting-house green...

“When the concluding prayers were said, three volleys were fired and the bugler sounded the ‘Last Post’.”