Royal Irish Rifles
Newtownards and District War Memorial
The name William Campbell is listed on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the booklet produced for the Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony held on Saturday 26 May 1934 he is described as a Rifleman in the Royal Irish Rifles. The organising committee of the day decided to include the names of ex-servicemen who died up to that date from what they considered to be war related causes, whether as a result of wounds or disease.
Desk searches and public appeals to date have not confirmed the identity of this casualty; below is a summary of the information collected to date (January 2020):
The name William Campbell is listed in the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland Roll of Honour for the Great War 1914 – 1919 for Masonic Lodge No. 198 in Newtownards. Described as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, this William Campbell is recorded as having survived the war. Masonic records show that he joined the Union Star Masonic Lodge No. 198 in Newtownards on 8 August 1919.
Army records show that Rifleman William Campbell (No. 17352) of ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles was transferred to the Royal Engineers (No. 307106). He lived at 184 Mill Street, Newtownards and was associated with Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church. Rifleman William Campbell (No. 17352) survived the war.
Army records show that Rifleman William Campbell (No. 18899) of ‘D’ Company,13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (aged 20) who was killed in action on 1 July 1916 was a son of Mrs Annie Campbell of Hayes’s Row, Warrenpoint, Co Down. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Masonic records show that a William Campbell joined Masonic Lodge No. 443 in Newtownards in 1941; he was working as a patrolman and died in 1942.
A great grandson of William Robb Campbell from Newtownards has provided the following family details which have been corroborated by official records:
William Robb Campbell was born on 28 July 1887 in the townland of Ballycullen, Newtownards and he was a son of Arthur and Mary Campbell (nee Robb) who were married on 23 September 1886 in Regent Street Presbyterian Church, Newtownards. Arthur Campbell (aged 24), a farm servant from Greengraves, Newtownards was a son of Hugh Campbell, a farmer. Mary Robb (aged 23), a mill worker from Ballycullen, Newtownards was a daughter of Hugh Robb, a stonecutter (then deceased).
Arthur Campbell worked as a labourer and carter and he and Mary had two children:
William Robb (born 28 July 1887 in Ballycullen)
Margaret (born 3 June 1889 in East Street, Newtownards)
Their father, Arthur Campbell, died from congestion of the lungs on 12 February 1891. Arthur’s mother-in-law, Margaret Robb, was with him when he died.
Their mother, Mary Campbell, died of phthisis on 8 March 1892. Mary’s mother, Margaret Robb, was with her when she died.
After their parents died, William and Margaret Campbell were reared by their maiden aunt, Lizzie Robb, in East Street, Newtownards.
William Robb Campbell worked as a labourer, lived in East Street, Newtownards and he and Jane McClement (sometimes McClements) were married on 2 October 1909 in Regent Street Methodist Church, Newtownards. Jane McClement from William Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Hugh McClement, a labourer.
William and Jane Campbell (nee McClement) had at least four children:
Mary Elizabeth (born 17 December 1909 in East Street, Newtownards)
Maggie (born 25 February 1911 in East Street, Newtownards)
William (born 7 May 1913 in Mill Street, Newtownards)
Annie Young (born 1920)
William Robb Campbell died on 3 July 1942 and his great grandson has provided the following additional information as recounted to him by his grandmother but not yet officially corroborated: ‘William Robb Campbell joined the Army at the start of The First World War and sometime later his wife was informed that he had been killed. William Robb Campbell returned home after the war saying that he had been held as a Prisoner-of-War (POW). After the war William Robb Campbell worked as a caretaker in Newtownards Masonic Hall’. William Robb Campbell’s regiment and service number are not known by surviving family members.
The name William Campbell is included in some Prisoner-of-War (POW) records but without any confirmation yet of any connection with Newtownards.
Since William Robb Campbell didn’t die until 1942 it is unlikely that his name was inscribed on Newtownards and District War Memorial which was unveiled on 26 May 1934 – unless it was simply inscribed on the memorial in error.
Army service records for Rifleman William Campbell (No. 13/82) who served with the 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles require careful interpretation; anomalies therein suggest that a page relating to another soldier has been incorrectly associated with his papers.
Rifleman William Campbell (No. 13/82) enlisted at Clandeboye on 29 September 1914 and in March 1915 he was posted to the 20th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He went to France in August 1916 and was posted back home in December 1916. In July 1917 he was transferred to the 664th Home Service Employment Company, Labour Corps (No. 231676) and then to the 460th Company Royal Defence Corps (No. 83745). He was discharged from the Army on 25 February 1919 (aged 32) because of sickness (Neurasthenia and Rheumatism) and was issued with a Silver War Badge (No. 466258). He was later awarded a pair of service medals – the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. His address on discharge was 14 Thomas Street, Newtownards. Army records also show that he married Jeannie Hawkins on 27 January 1913 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s) and that Jane already had a daughter, Euphemia Hawkins, born on 5 August 1910. His pension, payable from 26 February 1919, was 8/3 per week with allowances for three children of 4/9 per week.
Civil records confirm that William Campbell and Jane (Jeannie) Hawkins (sometimes Hawkens) were married on 27 January 1913 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s). William Campbell, a fisherman from Donaghadee was a son of John Campbell, a chief boatman. Jane Hawkins from Newtownards was a daughter of Edward Hawkins, a labourer.
Jane Hawkins already had a daughter, Euphemia Campbell Hawkins, who was born on 5 August 1910 in West Street, Newtownards.
William and Jane Campbell (nee Hawkins) had at least three children:
Mary (born 15 November 1913 in Frederick Street, Newtownards; died of bronchopneumonia 24 December 1913 in Hunter’s Lane, Donaghadee)
Mary Jane (born 24 November 1914 in Hunter’s Lane, Donaghadee)
William (born 3 October 1916 in Thomas Street, Newtownards)
No information has been found to date concerning the deaths of Rifleman William Campbell (No. 17352) from Newtownards and Rifleman William Campbell (No. 13/82) from Newtownards.