A former soldier from Fivemiletown has recounted with pride the story of two men from the area – one a Protestant and one a Catholic – who emigrated to Canada but later returned to Europe to fight in the First World War.
Robert Hall and Joseph Breadon were born just a few miles from each other. Their remains now lie just yards apart in a cemetery in Toronto.
Iain Lendrum, who served with the UDR and the Royal Irish Regiment and was chairman of Fivemiletown Community War Memorial Project, is passionate about visiting the graves of the more than 70 servicemen whose names are recorded on the town’s memorial.
Earlier this year, he travelled more than 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to see family in Ontario. And while he was there he made a journey of around 100 miles to pay his respects at the graves of Private Hall and Private Breadon.
“I was visiting a relative in Ontario to celebrate my 50th birthday,” Iain explained.
“It has been a passion of mine to visit as many of the graves of those soldiers recorded on the Fivemiletown memorial, and two of those soldiers – Robert Hall and Joseph Breadon – are buried in Toronto, in St John’s Norway Cemetery on the outskirts of the city.”
The stories of Pte Hall and Pte Breadon are told in ‘Fivemiletown’s Fallen’ – a book complied by local historian Mark Byers.
It details how Robert Hall was born at Tiercar, Fivemiletown. He was the son of Thomas and Sarah Hall who were farmers.
One of eight children, he was listed in the 1901 census as a seven-year-old scholar.
It’s unclear exactly when he emigrated to Canada, but in 1917 he enlisted into the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force as part of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps.
A single man, he listed his mother Sarah as his next of kin. He died on February 4, 1918 from illness.
He is survived today by Mervyn Hall, a retired schoolteacher in Enniskillen.
Joseph Breadon was born at Alderwood, Fivemiletown.
The son of Thomas and Mary Breadon, he was recorded in the 1911 census as a 19-year-old farmer’s son.
He emigrated to Canada where he worked as a grocer’s clerk and later in the Canadian Militia in the Governor General’s Bodyguard. Joseph, who was married to Sarah and had a family, joined the 58th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry in 1915.
The battalion was awarded Battle Honours at Arras, Vimy, Ypres and Passchendale to name but a few during their service in France and Belgium. On completion of the war they returned to Canada to be demobilised in 1919.
Joseph died in Canada in 1920 and his death is recorded as wounds attributed to his war service.
His wife and children are buried in the same plot in St John’s Norway Cemetery.
“These two men were born only a few miles apart and one wonders did they ever know each other,” Iain continued.
“They now lie in a cemetery thousands of miles from their birthplace in Fivemiletown, yet only a few metres apart in death.
“On the last day of my trip I visited their graves, placed a poppy on each and observed a minute’s silence in memory of these two brave men from Fivemiletown.”
Iain, 50, who was on parade with E Company 4 UDR in Enniskillen on the day of the heinous IRA Remembrance Day bomb in 1987 and later served with 4 Royal Irish, is extremely proud of the sacrifice the men of Fivemiletown made during the World Wars.
As chairman of the local Royal British Legion club, he was a key player in the drive to see a war memorial erected in the town ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.
From April 2013 efforts began to raise funds for the memorial, and historian Mark Byers set about researching those whose names would eventually be inscribed on the monument.
Over the next couple of years more than £40,000 was raised and the obelisk, complete with the names of 73 men who made the ultimate sacrifice, now stands proudly in the town’s memorial garden.
“As we approached the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War in 2014 Fivemiletown didn’t even have a war memorial, so it was decided that we should do something about that,” Iain explained.
“Thanks to the fantastic efforts of the Fivemiletown Community War Memorial Project committee and local community, the 73 men from the local area who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars are now remembered.”
But the dedication of the memorial and launch of the book in September 2015 wasn’t the end of the project. It was then decided to take a group of 24 members of Fivemiletown RBL on a private trip to visit the graves in France and Belgium of those recorded on the memorial.
“The trip took place in May 2016 and more than 30 graves and memorials were visited. At each site a minute’s silence was observed and poppies laid,” Iain recalled.
Since then a ‘poppy seat’ has been installed in the town’s memorial garden in memory of those who came home from the front with both the physical and mental scars of war.
Iain retraces steps of his relatives, including a WW2 veteran
Iain Lendrum’s journey to Canada earlier this year saw him retrace the steps made by many people from Fivemiletown many years ago, including some of his own relatives.
As an ex-soldier he had a particular interest in his father’s cousin, Cecil Anderson, who served in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada during the Second World War.
Cecil was born in Cornarooslan, a townland just outside Fivemiletown, in 1921. He was about four years old when his family emigrated to Hamilton in the province of Ontario.
When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Cecil answered his country’s call and was soon deployed to southern England in preparation for the D-Day landings.
Iain’s father, who was five years old at the time, remembers “great excitement” as Cecil visited relatives in Fivemiletown during a period of leave.
Having been badly injured during the war, Cecil returned to Canada where he married Helen and worked as a postman.
During his visit, Iain joined Cecil’s son Bob on an emotional visit to the tree planted in Burlington in his memory to pay their respects to the WW2 hero.
Town’s memorial garden remembers WW1 and WW2 servicemen, and the victims of the Enniskillen bomb
In November last year a piece of the original Enniskillen War Memorial, which was damaged in the IRA Remembrance Day bomb attack, was placed in the memorial garden at Fivemiletown.
The large piece of stone had lain in a builder’s yard since the memorial had been refurbished in 1991.
Iain Lendrum, who as a 19-year-old UDR soldier was on parade when the IRA bomb exploded, said it was “an honour” for Fivemiletown Royal British Legion to have been given the stone for its memorial garden. It now remembers the 12 innocent victims murdered on November 8, 1987.
Meanwhile, on Saturday afternoon, 73 metal poppies – one representing each of the men from the area who gave their lives in WW1 and WW2 – were unveiled in the town’s memorial garden.
A new sculpture – a silhouette of a WW1 soldier standing with head bowed – was dedicated to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.