Calderwood, Thomas (Tom)
No. 17392, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Died of disease on Monday 10 June 1918 (aged 26)
Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany (Grave XVII. B. 32)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Ballyblack Presbyterian Church
Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for
Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards
Family grave headstone in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church Graveyard
Thomas Calderwood was born on 9 December 1891 in the townland of Ballyblack, Newtownards and he was the youngest son of Robert and Margaret (Maggie) Calderwood (nee McCallion, sometimes McCalion, sometimes McCallum) who were married on 28 May 1883 in Newtownards Registry Office. Robert Calderwood from Hill Street, Holywood was a son of Robert Calderwood, a labourer. Maggie McCallion from Ballyblack was a daughter of William McCallion, a farmer.
The Calderwood family lived at 157 Greenwell Street, Newtownards and at 5 Brownlow Place, John Street, Newtownards.
Robert Calderwood worked as a general labourer and he and Maggie had at least seven children:
Jane (Jeannie died 24 May 1909 aged 25)
Robert Geddis (born around 1887 died in Chicago, USA 7 November 1954)
William Charles McCallion (died in Dolton, Illinois, USA 27 April 1967)
Thomas (born 9 December 1891 in Ballyblack)
Eleanor Elizabeth (born 19 November 1894 in Ballyblack, died young)
Susanna Ewart (born around 1896)
Mary Morgan (born around 1899 died 26 November 1980)
The older children, including Thomas, were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards and the younger children were baptised in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church.
Their father, Robert, died on 27 February 1921 (aged 57) and their mother, Margaret, died on 25 October 1941 (aged 77).
Shortly after the outbreak of war, Thomas Calderwood enlisted in Newtownards and joined the 1st County Down Volunteers. He proceeded to the front in October 1915 and served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade in the 36th (Ulster) Division. He was reported missing in action after the advance at the Somme on 1 July 1916 and then it was officially confirmed that he had been captured by the Germans. He was held prisoner for almost two years and he died in a German Prisoner-of-War Camp on 10 June 1918. His parents, brothers and sisters placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle with a request for the American papers to carry it. It contained the verse:
His weary hours and days of pain,
His troubled nights are passed;
His ever-patient, worn-out frame
Has found sweet rest at last.
News of Tom’s death reached his mother in a letter dated 15 June 1918 from the British Help Committee, Prisoners of War, Rennbahn Camp near Munster in Westphalia Germany. The letter stated that, despite every attention in the Camp Hospital, Tom had succumbed to a lung infection on the evening of 10 June. Tom was interred on 15 June in the Allied Prisoners of War Cemetery near Munster City and the grave number was 933. The letter continued, ‘There was a beautiful floral offertory and we are sending you the ribbons from it and a photograph of the cemetery. If you want it you can ask for a photograph of the individual grave.’
The letter informed Mrs Calderwood that, ‘In accordance with regulations the effects of the deceased (excepting small mementoes which will be sent to you after the war) have been disposed of and the sum realised, 343 Marks 60 Pfennigs, will be remitted to you by the authorities’.
Rifleman T. Bennett of the 8th City of London Rifles who was a prisoner in the same camp also wrote to Tom’s mother, ‘Your son’s death took place at 7.00 pm on Monday. I had the pleasure of knowing Tom for two years and Rifleman Quigley of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and I used to visit him in hospital. Tom never appeared to suffer and always had a smile on his face whenever we entered his room. The English medical corporal in whose charge Tom was placed assured me that Tom’s end was peaceful’.
At the close of the morning service in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church on Sunday 21 July 1918 the congregation conveyed a resolution of sympathy to Robert and Maggie Calderwood on the death of their son. Tom’s name had been among the first to be entered on the Roll of Honour in Ballyblack Church.
A week after Tom’s death the Rev R. Graham BA received a postcard from Tom that he had written shortly before he died. In it Tom thanked the members of Ballyblack Church for the last parcel that they had sent to him.
There is an inscription on Rifleman Thomas Calderwood’s CWGC headstone:
Still loved and remembered at home
Rifleman Thomas Calderwood (No. 17392) was buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany and he is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial; in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church; in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards and on the family grave headstone in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church Graveyard.