WWI Naval roll of honour handed over

Commander Rob Milligan, senior naval officer NI, Steve Aiken MLA, Ian Wilson, chairman of NI War Memorial building and Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey, former dean of Belfast who compiled the roll of honour

A ceremony has taken place to recognise the Northern Ireland men who served in the Royal Navy during World War One – a roll of honour that includes Bear Grylls’ great grandfather.

The first known roll of honour of the brave Ulstermen who served in the Navy during the Great War was compiled over five years by the Very Rev Dr Houston McKelvey, who was an honorary chaplain to the Royal Naval Reserve.

On Thursday afternoon, UUP MLA Steve Aiken – an OBE and former Royal Navy submarine commander – presented a copy of the roll of honour to the Northern Ireland War Memorial in Belfast.

Present at the ceremony were the chairman of the NI War Memorial, Ian Wilson, and current members of the Royal Naval Reserve including Derek Rankin, commanding officer of HMS Caroline, Lt Commander Kurt Courtenay, executive officer of HMS Hibernia, and senior naval officer Commander Rob Milligan.

Very Rev Dr McKelvey conducted the last naval marriage and baptisms on HMS Caroline as well as the final service aboard marking the ship’s decommissioning by the Royal Navy, and the service of commissioning of HMS Hibernia.

It was during this period that Dr McKelvey became aware that there was no roll of honour for Royal Navy personnel from Northern Ireland for either of the world wars.

He said: “With the help of a number of friends, authors, schools, newspapers, websites, the Masonic Order and various churches, in the region of 5,000 names have been recorded and wherever possible we have researched their service records and summarised them in the roll which contains almost 500 pages.

“Those who served come from all parts of Northern Ireland, from all social backgrounds and religious denominations.”

One of the best known officers in the Naval Air Service Armoured Corps Division was Sir Walter Smiles, son of a director of the Belfast Rope Works, and great grandfather of Bear Grylls, the explorer and chief Scout.

Sir Walter was lost in the Princess Victoria in January 1953. He was awarded the DSO for his wartime service.

The full roll of honour can be seen at NI War Memorial building at 21 Talbot Street, Belfast.

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