Second Lieutenant William Wylie Houston – died 17/8/1917

226th Royal Engineers

William was born on 23rd March 1887, the son of Thomas and Jane Wylie Houston of “Lenamore”, Jordanstown, Whiteabbey, County Antrim.

After Inst, he attended Queen’s University, Belfast, where he was a cadet in the Officer Training Corps. He was living at 110 Fitzroy Ave, Belfast, and an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, when he enlisted.

William was killed in action on 17th August 1917, at the age of 30. He, with a party of Royal Engineers, was conducting a working party of infantry to Mill Trench, near Cuinchy. They were in a position known as Lunatic Sap, when a pineapple bomb dropped close by. As well as William, Lance Corporal Turner was also killed, and 2 sappers wounded.

William is buried in Cambrin Military Cemetery (ref L 1), Pas de Calais, France.

He is also commemorated on the Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church Memorial, Dublin.

Private Leslie James Hughes - died 24/8/1917

5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion - service number 139603 - listed as J L Hughes on memorial

Leslie was born in Belfast on 11th February 1889, the son of Fred P Hughes and the late Mary E Hughes of Deramore Park South, Belfast and later 2027, Canyon Drive, Hollywood, California. He was employed as a flour miller when he enlisted with the 75th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, on 13th July 1915, in Toronto.

Leslie was killed on 24th August 1917, when his battalion were in the trenches north-west of Loos, and were subject to shell fire throughout the day. 

Leslie is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Second Lieutenant James N Ireland – died 24/8/1918

Royal Field Artillery

James was the son of James Ireland of Newforge Lodge, Belfast. The photograph above is of Second Lt James Ireland of the Royal Irish Rifles, taken in 1916 - it is not known if this is the same officer.

He died on 24th August 1918 and is buried in Belfast City Cemetery (ref H1 544)

Lieutenant Commander Ralph Ireland – died 19/1/1917

Royal Navy - HMS Southampton


Ralph was born on the 8th February 1888, the second son of Adam Liddell Ireland, Isabel Ireland (daughter of Rev William McHinch) of 17 Malone Park, Belfast.

As well as Inst, he attended Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy, Winchester. He entered the Navy on 15th January 1903, joining HMS Britannia as a cadet. He passed out the following year a Chief Captain and also won the Kings Medal.

Ralph served in various ships on the China, Mediterranean, West African and Home Stations, before being promoted to Lieutenant on 15th July 1909 (with 6 “firsts”) and Lieutenant Commander on 15th July 1916.

On the outbreak of the war, he was serving in HMS Birmingham, which sunk the first German submarine (U15) on 9th August 1914.

Ralph took part in the Battles of the Heligoland Bight (28th August 1914) and Dogger Bank (24th January 1915) before transferring to HMS Southampton (a 1912 Chatham Class, 2nd Class Cruiser) early in 1916. On this ship he took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916.

Ralph was accidentally drowned in the North Sea on 19th January 1917, at the age of 28. The following, written by Commander Stephen King-Hall, describes his death, in this extract from “A North Sea Diary 1914-1918”:

"Last Friday morning, at about 7 a.m., when 100 miles east of May Island, the cover of the navel pipe carried away, and as we were plunging into a very considerable sea, about a hundred tons of water got down into the cable lockers.

Our first lieutenant and navigator, Ralph Ireland, who was temporarily doing executive officer of the ship, went down to put a mat over the hole. The mate, the gunnery lieutenant, and three men were already on the forecastle.

The ship dipped her nose into the sea, and scooped up a big sea which carried every one off their feet. When it passed, 'guns' and the mate were lying in the breakwater only bruised, but of the others nothing more was ever seen. Clad as they were in sweaters, sea-boots, and oilskins, they must have sunk at once in the sea that was running.

An hour later we read the burial service in the waist, when at about the spot where they were lost. A driving snowstorm added to the almost unbearable melancholy of the service.

Ralph Ireland, our Number 2, was a great friend of mine, with whom only a few hours before I had been yarning on the bridge, and but twelve hours before we had been rehearsing our parts together in a home-made revue we intended to produce.

He had come to us from the Birmingham when that ship paid off. His death under such tragic circumstances together with the three sailors caused a deep gloom in the ship, where he was immensely popular. Ireland was a very lovable personality-brilliantly clever, a King's medallist, an athlete, he was marked out for certain advancement in the Service. It was not to be, and within a few days of his twenty-eighth birthday the North Sea claimed him as part of the price of Admiralty."

The Times reported his death as follows:

“Lt Com Ralph Ireland, whose death on active service is reported, has endeared himself to all who knew him, not only by his brilliant attainments, which gave promise of a career of great usefulness, but by his modesty and charm. No work came amiss to him, either of danger or steady application. His spontaneous gaiety and genuine unselfishness were a great asset in any community and his clean-minded, healthy outlook on life made it impossible to be long with him without feeling refreshed and thankful.”

The April 1917 edition of School News said this about Ralph:

"Ralph, who was only in his 28th year, was the finest type of British naval officer, a sportsman and a gentleman. He was a man of wonderful bodily and mental elasticity. His career in the navy was one of exceptional brilliancy, and his progress, which was notably rapid, was due as much to his sterling character as to his first-rate ability. The gallant officer had really lived through this great testing time, and had faced the verities of life with resolution and undaunted courage. All Instonians regret that his short career, so full of promise and so full of achievement, has been ended."

Ralph is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (panel 24)

Second Lieutenant William James Irwin – died 16/8/1917

7th Royal Irish Rifles

William was born on 18th January 1897, at Glenbana, Cregagh Road, Belfast.

After Inst, he was working as a cattle trader, before enlisting, on 5th February 1915, with the 18th Royal Irish Rifles.

William was killed on 16th August 1917 as part of the Ulster Division attack at the Battle of Langemarck (3rd Ypres).

His father received a letter on 3rd October 1917, from 2nd Lt Mitchell, 10th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who said that he had been speaking to William at about 11pm on the night of the 16th August, in a recently captured enemy trench known as Capricorn Support. He was not wounded.

Corporal Coughlin of the 7th Royal Irish Rifles, was also in the attack and said that he was five yards away from William when he saw him hit in the head and fall. He believed the wound to be a mortal one.

Private Matthew Scott of the 16th Royal Irish Rifles claimed to have seen William killed instantly by a sniper shot through the head, although he was later found to have been hospitalised at Le Treport from 9th August to 13th September, so was believed to be mistaken.

William is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial (panel 138 to 140), Flanders, Belgium.

Private Balfour Jackson – died 31/7/1916

24th Royal Fusiliers – service number SPTS/2102

Balfour was born in Belfast, the son of William and Jane Jackson of 28 South Parade. Belfast, and brother of George, below. He was a member of the Ulster Cricket Club and played rugby for the Knock club. 

Balfour was killed on 31st July 1916, at the age of 24, four days after his brother was killed. At the time, the battalion were in the vicinity of Bernafay and Trones Woods.

Balfour is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial (pier and face 8C, 9A and 16A), Somme, France.

Private George Jackson - died 27/7/1916

23rd Royal Fusiliers - service number SPTS/274

George was was born in Belfast, the son of William and Jane Jackson of 28 South Parade, Belfast, and brother of Balfour, above. He was a member of the Ulster Cricket Club.

George was killed on 27th July 1916, four days before his brother was killed. The battalion attacked Delville Wood on that day, suffering almost 300 casualties, including 56 deaths.

George is buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery, Colincamps (ref I CC 7), Somme, France.