Gilford brothers served their country

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 three brothers from the McCart family in Gilford enlisted and served King and Country with great honour.

Thursday, 6th November 2014, 10:25 am
© Edward Byrne Photography INBL

One of the brothers, Joseph, did not return from the Great War and his name is etched on the war memorial in Gilford so that future generations can remembers his sacrifice.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the McCart family resided at Drumarrin, Tullylish, Gilford.

The head of the family John, aged 71, was a widower, his wife having died before the turn of the century.

The family consisted of four sons and two daughters, three of the sons were to serve in the war.

Two of the three served with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, both surviving the war.

William went to France in August 1914 with the initial draft of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and rose to the rank of corporal. On 2 May 1915, the battalion was in the front line at St Julien near Ypres when they were subjected to a gas attack by the Germans.

The first gas attack of the war by the Germans had taken place ten days previously and British protective measures were rudimentary to say the least, and consisted of a piece of cloth soaked in sodium bicarbonate held over the mouth. The battalion War Diary stated:

Heavy bombardment. Enemy attacked with gas which came on in thick clouds of a sulphur colour. B Company suffered heavily from it with many men being completely incapacitated, but they did not leave their trenches. The German infantry attack was half-hearted and easily repulsed.

William suffered badly from the gas which necessitated him being hospitalised at Boulogne.

In the same month, Private John McCart was wounded having been shot in the arm. This was a ‘blighty’ wound and John was taken to hospital in Oxford to convalesce. He recovered and served with the battalion for the remainder of the war, being demobilised in 1919.

The third brother, Joseph, was serving with the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in France, having gone there with the initial draft in August 1914. On the evening of 15 May 1915, the Inniskillings took part in the first British night attack of the war at Festubert. The Inniskillings lost heavily and Joseph was officially posted as ‘missing’. In a cruel stroke of fate on 26 May, Mrs McCart received a letter from a colleague of her husband, Lance Corporal Fred Lindsay, stating that Joseph had been wounded on 15 May and had died on 16 May.

By the middle of June however, no official confirmation of his death had been received.

Joseph left a wife and two sons under the age of six.

A prominent Orangeman and member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, Joseph has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial for the Missing, on the Gilford War Memorial and on Gilford Presbyterian Church Roll of Honour