No. 4/7173, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Wednesday 23 August 1916 (aged 19)
Vermelles British Cemetery, France (Grave VI. D. 35)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Robert Stratton was born on 25 February 1897 in Windmill Row, Newtownards and he was a son of Henry (Harry) and Sarah Stratton (nee McCullough) who were married on 7 November 1896 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s). Henry Stratton from Carrickfergus was a son of David Stratton, a labourer. Sarah McCullough from Newtownards was a daughter of Robert McCullough, a weaver. One of the witnesses was Isabella Boal.
The Stratton family lived in Victoria Avenue; in Windmill Row and later at 66 East Street in Newtownards.
Harry Stratton worked as a general labourer and he and Sarah had at least thirteen children:
Robert (born 25 February 1897 in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
David (born 28 February 1898 in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
Isabella Boal (born 22 February 1900 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Edith (born 2 April 1902 in East Street, Newtownards)
Wilhelmina McCullough (born 20 February 1905 in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
Joseph (born 22 March 1906 in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
Alexander Andrew (born 8 November 1907 in East Street, Newtownards)
Elizabeth (Lizzie, born 21 January 1910 in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
Harry (born 1 July 1911 at 2.00am in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
James (born 1 July 1911 at 2.30am in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
Henry (born 8 March 1913 at 2.00am in East Street, Newtownards)
Lydia Ann (born 8 March 1913 at 2.15am in East Street, Newtownards)
James Alexander (born 4 September 1914 in East Street, Newtownards)
Robert Stratton died on active service and his father, ex-Rifleman Henry Stratton, died on 10 November 1929.
Robert Stratton was the eldest son and prior to the outbreak of the Great War he worked in a mill. He enlisted in Newtownards, went to France on 3 June 1915, served with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and was 19 when he was killed in the trenches on 23 August 1916 during an enemy attack.
Rifleman Robert Stratton was buried in Vermelles British Cemetery, France and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
HE IS SAFE
IN THE ARMS OF JESUS
When Rifleman Robert Stratton was killed in action, both his father Henry and his brother David were also on active service. Later David was taken Prisoner-of-War. In September 1916 Robert’s grandmother, aunts, uncles and immediate family placed For King and Country notices in the Newtownards Chronicle and the one from his parents contained the verses:
He marched away so bravely,
His young head proudly held;
His footsteps never faltered,
His courage never failed.
Short was thy life, my darling son,
But peaceful is thy rest;
Father and mother miss you most,
Because they loved you best
Now his earthly fight is o’er,
And in perfect peace he sleeps;
With the angels he is waiting
Till his loved ones he shall meet
The news was sad, the blow was hard,
God’s will, it shall be done;
With manly heart he done his part,
My dear, beloved son.
The one from his grandmother, Margaret McCullough, of 85 East Street, Newtownards contained the verse:
We think of him in silence,
No eyes may see us weep,
Yet deep within our hearts
His memory we will keep.
There was also a notice from his ‘sincere friend B.B.’ and this contained the verse:
He died at his post like a soldier brave,
He has answered his Captain’s call;
He sleeps far away in a hero’s grave,
For his country’s cause he did fall.
In the 25 August 1917 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle there was an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice from his father, mother, brothers and sisters at 66 East Street, Newtownards and it contained the verses:
Sleep on, dear Robert, in a foreign land,
In a grave we may never see;
But as long as life and memory last
We will remember thee.
We little thought his time so short
When he on furlough came,
When to the front again he went,
Never to return again.
Often there my thoughts do wander
To that grave so far away,
Where they laid my dear son Robert,
Just a year ago today.
He fought for home and those he loved,
And for his country’s rights;
Until we meet in Heaven above,
Our darling son, good-night.
There was also a notice from his uncles William James, Samuel and David McCullough at 308 Spruce Street, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, USA and it contained the verses:
Just as manhood days were dawning,
On the lad we loved so well,
He was taken from amongst us,
To his Heavenly home to dwell.
His King and country called him,
So he only took his chance;
To show his grit he did his bit,
And fell somewhere in France.
One year has passed since that sad day,
When one we loved was called away;
His heart was good, his spirit brave,
His resting place a soldier’s grave.
Some day we hope to meet him,
Some day, we know not when;
We shall clasp his hand in a better land,
And never part again.
There was also a notice from his uncle and aunt, Willie and Maggie Bell, of 102 East Street, Newtownards and it contained the verses:
He sleeps beside his comrades,
In a hallowed grave unknown;
But his name is written in letters of love
In the hearts he has left at home.
He was a comrade true and fond,
A friend both kind and true;
A better comrade never lived,
His equals were but few.
There was also a notice from his ‘loving friend B.B.’ and it contained the verse:
He fought for the cause of justice,
From duty he ne’er turned back;
Bravely he faced the cannon roar,
And died ’neath the Union Jack.
In the 24 August 1918 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle there was an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice from Bella and it included the text:
Greater love hath no man than this.
There was also a notice from his parents, sisters and brothers (including David who was a Prisoner-of-War in Germany) and it included the verses:
Faithful unto death – a crown of life
Two sad and dreary years have passed
Since this great sorrow fell.
The shock that we received that day
We still remember well.
He sleeps today in a foreign land,
A father’s and mother’s pride and joy.
He did his part with a manly heart,
Our brave and noble boy.
In the 30 August 1919 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle there was an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice from Bella Boal who described Robert as her ‘dear friend’. She included the text:
One of the unreturned heroes,
One of the glorious dead.
There was also a notice from his father, mother, brothers and sisters at 66 East Street, Newtownards and it contained the verse:
Three years have passed, our hearts still sore,
As time goes on we miss him more.
God took him home; it was His will,
Forget him; no, we never will.
Our thoughts often wander to a sad but honoured grave,
Your name is often spoken in the home you died to save,
For our hearts are still united with the same fond love for you,
And loving thoughts are cherished of one so brave and true.
Rifleman Robert Stratton is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial.