WITH the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One looming next year, the Canadian grandaughter of an adoptive Dromore man is calling for even greater recognition of his battlefield deeds.
Freda Graham believes the wartime deeds of her medal-winning late grandfather John Coey, who moved from Loughbrickland to set up home in Dromore, are worthy of nothing less than the Victoria Cross.
“John was awarded four medals,” she said, “and I know there were only nine Victoria Crosses handed out in UK, four going to the Royal Ulster Rifles. I wonder, is it too late for a Victoria Cross to be posthumously awarded?”
Freda has kept a newspaper clipping about her grandfather which she believes appeared in the Leader. of the day.
In it, her grandfather is described as a “gallant soldier”, awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The article tells how Corporal Coey, while home on leave, gave a very graphic account of the circumstances under which he won the coveted honour.
He is quoted saying, “The Rifles, went into action at Guiliemont on the 8th ult. One of the officers got badly wounded and was lying helpless in ‘No Man’s Land’ over which swept a murderous fire of German rifles, machine guns, and artillery. “Nothing daunted, four gallant riflemen who went to the assistance of the officer, were immediately killed. Others made a further attempt to return.”
The article continues, “In spite of all, however, Lance Corporal Coey went over the parapet, and reached the first man, whom he carried on his back into the trenches.
“He continued his work until all the men and the officer were brought in, and, marvellous to relate, did not receive a scratch in the course of any of his daring journeys.”
Freda says Lance Corporal Coey joined the Rifles shortly after the declaration of war and was at the Front from November 1914; he was twice wounded, on the first occasion seriously.
She added, “My Grandfather was also a champion boxer for the Army and when he returned from the war spent the rest of his life working for Harland & Wolff at the shipyard.
“He used to ride a bicycle from Dromore to the shipyard every day, which prompted their move to Belfast.
“John was married to Catherine Boyle from Gallows Street.
“Both their names appear on the Honor Roll in Dromore Cathedral and both are buried there.”