Tributes paid at graves of local WW1 heroes

Somme pilgrimage
Somme pilgrimage

Councillor Mark Baxter has spoken of visiting the graves of local men who died in the First World War during a poignant trip that marked the 99th anniversary of the battle of the Somme,

Mr Baxter was representing the council on the Somme Pilgrimage, which was organised by the Somme Association, Newtownards.

“Before leaving for the tour of the western front I did a little research on a few of the men from this area who fell there and found where they were buried.

“I was pleased to be able to visit some of the graves and place a poppy cross there on behalf of the council.

“There were just a few that I had the time to visit, but to all those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the great war we owe a great debt.”

Visiting the grave of Lieutenant Colonel Holt Waring of Waringston, Mr Baxter said: “Probably the most well-known locally, his headstone reads Major as he was ‘promoted’ during battle and in death went back to his substantive rank.

“He led the 9th bttn Royal Irish Rifles and fell in 1918.

“His brother Lieutenant Commander Ruric Waring died in action in 1914 when his boat was sank by a U-boat. He has no known grave.

“Both brothers of the Waring family are remembered on Waringstown war memorial.”

Rifleman Christie Ogle left Donaghcloney with his brother Joseph, but only Joseph returned.

Councillor Baxter said: “I was humbled as I stood at his grave side in Vlamertinghe New Military Belguim. He was killed at Passchendaele.”

Another poppy cross was placed at the grave of Pte Jack Baxter in Ypres. Although no known relation of the councillor, Mr Baxter was nonetheless intrigued, sharing the same surname.

“He was the son of Donacloney School principal Francis Baxter and was a noted cricketer,” said Mr Baxter.

“He was killed during the August 1917 Battle of Langemark while serving as part of a stretcher party collecting the wounded.”

Another grave visited was that of Sargent John Brown, who lived in Waringstown and is named on the village war memorial there.

Sargent Brown served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers and died on the first day of battle of Somme. He is buried in Ancre.

Mr Baxter, who has a great-uncle named on the Theipval Memorial, also attended the annual Somme Commemoration service to the missing, held at this memorial.

“Directly after that there is a service at the Ulster Tower where I laid a wreath on behalf of the council in remembrance of the 36th Ulster division,” he said.

“The Ulster Tower is a replica of Helen’s Tower at Clandeboye where the men trained before coming out to fight.

“It was a real honour and a privilege to attend the 99th commemoration of the Somme this year,” he said.