Local Salvation Army men who fought and died in the Great War

Having shared many memorable stories and accounts here down the years, particularly on wartime themes, History Hub Ulster’s researcher Nigel Henderson returns today with a special focus on the Salvation Army, which, like the YMCA and other organisations and societies, provided support functions for troops in theatres of war.
George BrankinGeorge Brankin
George Brankin

The Great War’s first mechanised ambulances on the Western Front - previously they’d been horse drawn - were provided by the Salvation Army, with members serving as ambulance drivers. The Salvation Army also provided rest and recreation facilities where soldiers could meet and receive news from home, and the organisation’s brass bands often held concerts to entertain the troops.

However, members of the Salvation Army also enlisted with the armed forces and three were awarded the Victoria Cross.

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Nigel is only aware of one war memorial tablet for a unit of the Salvation Army in Ulster - for No. 1 Corps (Ballymacarrett and Mountpottinger) whose premises (then called halls) were located at the corner of Belfast’s Mountpottinger Road and Carlton Street.

Lance-Corporal Robert BurtonLance-Corporal Robert Burton
Lance-Corporal Robert Burton

The memorial tablet records the names of 24 members who served with the armed forces in WWI, including five men recounted here today who died on active service overseas.

The memorial tablet, now located in the Belfast Salvation Army Temple on the Cregagh Road, was made by David Mairs of Great Victoria Street and unveiled by Captain Herbert Dixon.

Captain Dixon was the fourth son of Sir Daniel Dixon and represented the Belfast Pottinger constituency (later Belfast East) at Westminster. He was made 1st Baron Glentoran in 1939 and became the Third Baronet of Ballymenock in 1950, a few months before his death.

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In addition to the Belfast Temple memorial tablet, there is also a pictorial parchment memorial dedicated to the Comrades of Ballymacarrett No 1 Salvation Army Corps brass band. The portraits reproduced here today come from the parchment memorial.

Belfast Temple Salvation Army Band's Burton Side DrumBelfast Temple Salvation Army Band's Burton Side Drum
Belfast Temple Salvation Army Band's Burton Side Drum

George Brankin was born on March 3, 1888 at North Street in Newtownards, to James Brankin and Agnes Anna (nee Savage). George was living in Belfast when he married Mary Jane Rowney on 31st March 1905 and was working in Sirocco when he enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles. He held the rank of Corporal when he was deployed to France with 14th Battalion in October 1915.

George was wounded during the Battle of Albert in July 1916 and was subsequently stationed with a reserve battalion at Ballykinlar Camp before returning to his battalion on the Western Front in early May 1917. Promoted to the rank of Sergeant, 29-year-old George died of wounds at No 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital on 8th June 1917 and is buried in Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery in France.

Robert Burton was born around 1893 in Scotland to Andrew Burton and Agnes (Nee Cameron).

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The family moved to Belfast and were living in Hornby Street in 1906 when Andrew Burton died in the Royal Victoria Hospital after an industrial accident.

Rifleman Henry DowdsRifleman Henry Dowds
Rifleman Henry Dowds

Son Robert was working in the Belfast Rope Works when he enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was posted to the 5th Battalion, part of the 10th (Irish).

Lance-Corporal Burton landed with 5th Battalion at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, on August 7, 1915 and was killed in action eight days later at the age of 22.

He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

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On the centenary of his death the Burton family donated a bass drum and side drum to the Ballymacarrett and Mountpottinger Salvation Army Band in memory of Robert. A simple plaque adorns each drum.

Rifleman Albert ParkerRifleman Albert Parker
Rifleman Albert Parker

Henry Dowds was born on March 30, 1886 at Banoge, near Waringstown, to James Dowds, a weaver, and Rachel Mercier. Henry also became a weaver and married Minnie Bertha Lawton, a Salvation Army Officer, on May 11, 1906, in Scarva Street Presbyterian Church in Banbridge.

He enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and was posted to the 17th (Reserve) Battalion before being deployed to the 15th Battalion on the Western Front some time after December 1915.

Rifleman Dowds was killed in action on July 1, 1916, aged 30, and is buried in Connaught Cemetery at Thiepval.

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Albert Parker was born in Belfast on August 25, 1898 to engine-fitter George James Parker and Jane Thomson.

Before the war Albert worked at McCaw, Stevenson and Orr Limited, printers, publishers and chromo lithographers on the Castlereagh Road.

He enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and was deployed to France with 14th Battalion in October 1915.

Arthur PatonArthur Paton
Arthur Paton

Albert was killed in action on November 16, 1916, aged 18. He is buried in Pond Farm Cemetery in Belgium and commemorated on a family memorial in Carnmoney Church of Ireland Graveyard.

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Albert’s brother John served with the same battalion and was wounded, but survived.

John is also commemorated on the memorial tablet.

Arthur Paton (or Patton) was born on March 28, 1898 at Spruce Street in Cromac Ward to Arthur Patton senior, a baker, and Jeannie Galbraith.

Arthur junior enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles and was posted to the 14th Battalion on the Western Front sometime after December 1915.

Sergeant Patton was killed in action on June 27, 1917, aged 19, and is buried in Messines Ridge British Cemetery in Belgium.

Full details of these five local Salvation Army men who died in WWI are at http://historyhubulster.co.uk/