Tribute to ‘Ireland’s greatest son’, North Down MP Sir Henry Wilson, murdered by IRA 100 years ago

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has paid tribute to former North Down MP Sir Henry Wilson, who was murdered by the IRA outside his London home 100 years ago this week.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 4:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 4:23 pm

The Co Longford-born career soldier – who rose to the very top of the British Army – committed himself to the unionist cause as Parnell’s campaign for Irish Home Rule became a serious threat in the 1880s, and was a friend of Sir Edward Carson.

Sir Henry had been returned unopposed as MP for North Down earlier the same year.

In a statement earlier this week, ahead of the anniversary, Mr Beattie said: “Sir Henry Wilson’s life was ended by two IRA gunmen on the steps of his London home on June 22, 1922 as he returned from unveiling a war memorial at Liverpool Street station.

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Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson was one of the most senior British Army staff officers of the First World War

“At the time of his murder he was the Unionist MP for North Down, having been elected just four months earlier in February. He was also military advisor to the Stormont government at the time of his death.

“He was born in Co Longford in 1864 and had – to put it mildly – a distinguished military career. In 1895 he became the youngest staff officer in the Army before serving in the Boer War and then as commandant of the Staff College at Camberley and director of military operations at the War Office prior to the outbreak of the First World War.

“Indeed between 1908 and 1911 he embarked on several tours of the border area between France, Belgium and Germany, and as a result was familiar with the territory where much of the Western Front campaign would be fought.

“He served in France where he played a key role in British-French military relations rising to the most senior rank possible, being appointed chief of the Imperial General Staff in February 1918.”

Mr Beattie, who also served as an Army officer, added: “He was the principal military advisor to Lloyd George in the crucial final year of the war and was present in Versailles as the British chief military advisor at the Paris Peace Conference. In 1919 at the age of 55, he became the youngest non-Royal Field Marshall since Wellington.

“Sir Henry Wilson was clearly one of a kind, and so great was the impact of his murder ... that Parliament was suspended and the Prince of Wales cancelled his birthday party planned for that evening in Buckingham Palace.

“Sir Henry Wilson received a state funeral and was laid to rest in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.

“He was described by Edward Carson as ‘Ireland’s greatest son ... he died for Ulster’s liberty’. There can surely be no more fitting epitaph than that.”

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, a plaque was unveiled to remember Sir Henry.

A numbers of MPs were there including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the DUP’s Ian Paisley, who campaigned for a tribute to Sir Henry at Westminster.

The plaque is positioned to the left of the speaker’s chair.