Category Archives: Family and Social History

My Family at War – Part 5: John Palmer Bowes

504226 Private John Palmer Bowes

Private John Palmer Bowes. 2nd Canadian Division Mechanical Transport Company, Canadian Army Service Corps.

Private John Palmer Bowes. 2nd Canadian Division Mechanical Transport Company, Canadian Army Service Corps.

John Palmer Bowes was my wife’s maternal great-grandfather. He was born at Oakwood in the township of Mariposa[1] in Ontario, Canada on 29 March 1869, the second youngest of the five children of Emmanuel and Elizabeth Bowes.[2] The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1890, where Emmanuel re-established his business as a grocer. John later moved to St Louis and became a motor mechanic. In 1901 he married Emma Leming (née Young), a widow with three children from her first marriage.[3] Their son, Emanuel Adrian, was born at their home at 4120 Blair Avenue, St Louis on 12 December 1906. Continue reading

My Family at War – Part 4: Robert Thompson

18/1141 Lance Corporal Robert Thompson

Robbie Thompson

Robbie Thompson

My great-uncle Robbie was the eldest of the twelve children of Henry and Margaret Thompson, and the only one old enough to serve during the First World War.[1] He was born at Hyde Park, Mallusk in County Antrim on 25 December 1898 and enlisted, considerably underage, on 1 December 1915, a little less than a month short of his 17th birthday. Continue reading

My Family at War – Part 3: Thomas Bunting

17/673 Lance Corporal Thomas George Bunting

Private Thomas Bunting

Private Thomas Bunting

Thomas George Bunting was the nephew of William Neill and Hammie Neill. Their sister, Annie, married Matthew Bunting on 11 July 1895 at Magheralin Parish Church and the couple had three children—Miriam, born on 31 October 1895, Thomas George born on 25 February 1897, and Alfred born on 19 June 1903. Annie, Matthew and the two boys lived in a small, three-roomed house in Ballymacateer and Miriam lived with her grandparents nearby. It is not known where Thomas worked before the war but it was probably in the mill with his parents and uncles.

Thomas Bunting enlisted into The Royal Irish Rifles on, or about, 17 May 1915, aged 18, and joined the 17th (Reserve) Battalion at Newcastle, County Down, where he was allocated the number 17/673. Continue reading

Arlington National Cemetery – LCDR ‘Jack’ Doherty, USN (Ret)

Yesterday, I had the privilege to attend the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery of my next door neighbour, Jack Doherty.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Jack was born in Malden Massachusetts on 6 February 1924. He enlisted into the United States Navy in March 1942, aged 18, and served at sea throughout the Second World War. This was the first of three wars that he experienced first-hand; he also served in Korea and Vietnam. Continue reading

My Family at War – Part 2: Hammie Neill

5/4732 Sergeant Hamilton Neill

Sergeant Hammie Neill

Sergeant Hammie Neill

Hamilton Neill—known throughout his life as ‘Hammie’—was the younger brother of my great-grandfather William Neill. He served with The Royal Irish Rifles in the Militia, the Special Reserve, and the Regular Army for a little over 30 years and saw operational service during the South Africa War, the First World War, and the 1920 Iraqi revolt. The final six years of his service were spent in India attached to the 2nd Battalion, Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Regiment. Continue reading

My Family at War – Part 1: William Neill

14577 Sergeant William Neill DCM

Sergeant William Neill DCM

Sergeant William Neill DCM

It was the stories about my great-grandfather, William Neill, that led me to write Blacker’s Boys. I had been told that he had earned a Distinguished Conduct Medal at Ypres and I embarked on an attempt to separate family myth from fact. I have largely succeeded, with one exception—William Neill believed that he had been awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal but no record of that exists. During his post-war service with the Ulster Special Constabulary he wore a rosette on his ribbon bar, his obituary and his gravestone both state that he had a Bar, and my father’s memory of him was that his Bar was a source of great family pride. It is evident, however, that this second award was never made. Nevertheless, it must have been commonly agreed that he was entitled to it. He served in the USC alongside other former officers and soldiers of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and it is hard to believe that a man of his considerable good reputation decided to award it to himself. How he came to believe that he had been awarded that Bar is now lost to history. Continue reading

For Gallantry, Volume 2 – The Colonial Police Medal for Gallantry

This Colonial Police Medal for Gallantry was awarded to British Sergeant Dennis Baily Richards, Palestine Police, in December 1947. Richards had served previously with the 15th/19th The King’s Royal Hussars. This group comprises: Colonial Police Medal for Gallantry; India General Service Medal 1908-35, with clasp ‘NORTH WEST FRONTIER 1930-31’; General Service Medal 1918-62, with clasps ‘PALESTINE’ and ‘PALESTINE 1945-48’. (Photo © Dix Noonan Web.)

Following the successful introduction of the Colonial Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1934, an award to reward members of the Colonial Police Service for their meritorious service and gallantry was suggested, first in March 1935 and then again in November 1936, by Inspector General R G B Spicer CMG, MC of the Palestine Police Force. The Colonial Police Medal was instituted in 1938. Continue reading