Lightbody, Robert John (Robert)
No. 23664, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Killed in action on Wednesday 10 November 1915 (aged 21)
Skew Bridge Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey (Special Memorial A. 51)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church
The death of Private Robert John Lightbody (No. 23664) was reported in the 4 December 1915 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and the report included reference to his father, Samuel Lightbody, who lived at 8 Front Shuttlefield, Newtownards. His father’s name is also recorded as Samuel in the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects.
The following week Private Robert Lightbody’s father, mother, sisters and brothers placed a Killed in Action notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
We oftimes sit and think of him,
We cannot think he’s dead;
We little thought when he left home,
It was our last farewell.
One week later, further details about his death were published, including the fact that he was 21 when he died and his brother Samuel was being held as a prisoner-of-war in Germany.
An In Memoriam notice published on behalf of his father, mother, sisters and brothers on 11 November 1916 stated that he was the beloved son of Samuel and Jane Lightbody and it contained the verses:
Now a mother’s heart is aching
For a son she loved so well;
He gave his life for his country,
In honour’s cause he fell.
His warfare o’er, his battle fought:
His victory won, though dearly bought.
His fresh young life could not be saved;
He slumbers now in a soldier’s grave.
We mourn for you, dear brother,
But not with outward show,
For the heart that mourns sincerely
Mourns silently and low.
An Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice published on behalf of his father, mother, sisters and brothers on 10 November 1917 stated again that he was the beloved son of Samuel and Jane Lightbody and it contained the verse:
No loved one stood beside him to hear his last farewell,
No words of comfort could he hear from those who loved him well;
When last we saw him smiling, he looked so strong and brave,
We little thought how soon he’d be laid in a soldier’s grave.
An Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice published on behalf of his father, mother, sisters and brothers on 9 November 1918 stated again that he was the beloved son of Samuel and Jane Lightbody and it contained the verse:
He was taken away in his early youth:
Taken from those he loved;
From serving his king on earth below
To serve his great King above.
Robert John Lightbody was in fact a step-son of Samuel Lightbody.
Samuel Lightbody and Jane Rea were married on 9 March 1897 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office.
Samuel Lightbody, a widower and a labourer, from Church Street, Newtownards was a son of James Lightbody, a labourer.
Jane Rea, a spinster from Thomas Street, Newtownards, was a daughter of William Rea, a labourer.
Jane Rea had two children:
Jane (born 14 July 1891 in Newtownards Workhouse)
Robert John (born 25 April 1894 in Newtownards Workhouse)
Samuel and Jane Lightbody (nee Rea) had at least six children:
William (born 5 October 1897 in Mark Street, Newtownards; died of bronchitis in Mark Street, Newtownards 11 January 1898)
Mary Elizabeth (born 21 January 1900 in James’s Street, Newtownards)
Catherine (born 16 April 1901 in Thomas’s Street, Newtownards)
Sarah Beattie (born 25 December 1903 in Thomas’s Street, Newtownards)
William (born 20 November 1907 in Front Shuttlefield, Newtownards)
Rosalina (born 6 December 1911 in Front Shuttlefield, Newtownards)
Samuel Lightbody had previously been married to Alice Wallace.
Samuel Lightbody (aged 22) and Alice Wallace (aged 21) were married on 20 November 1877 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office.
Samuel Lightbody, a bachelor and a labourer from North Street, Newtownards was a son of James Lightbody, a labourer.
Alice Wallace, a spinster from East Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Thomas Wallace, a labourer.
Samuel and Alice Lightbody (nee Wallace) had at least eight children:
James (born around 1879/1880)
Ann (born 25 April 1881 in Ann Street, Newtownards)
Sarah (born 16 August 1882 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Samuel (born 25 November 1884 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Arthur Alexander Smyth (born 9 December 1886 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Andrew (born 3 July 1888 in Church Street, Newtownards)
John Wilson (born 29 June 1890 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Eliza (born 11 February 1892 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Their mother, Alice Lightbody, died on 8 May 1894 (aged 34)
Robert John Lightbody enlisted in Newtownards and he served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Omagh before being transferred to Londonderry. He left there on 16 October 1915 bound for Gallipoli and, less than a month later, he was killed in action.
Robert’s stepfather received the official news of his stepson’s death from the Record Office in Dublin. He also received a letter from a Military Chaplain, the Rev S.H. Semple of the 7th Royal Scots. In his letter the Chaplain expressed his sympathy and conveyed the news that Robert had been shot and killed instantaneously by a stray bullet near ‘Brown House’. The shooting happened during the night when Private Robert Lightbody was working with a fatigue party about 800 yards behind the firing line. The Rev Semple conducted the burial service at 4.00 pm the following day.
The Rev Semple went on to describe the terrain. He wrote, ‘The ground all over this peninsula is at present brown after summer heat. Winter rains are beginning and spring flowers grow profusely. At Eastertide they will be fresh and beautiful and each year they are renewed.’
When Robert Lightbody was killed in action his brother Samuel, also a Private in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was being held as a prisoner of war in Germany where he had been since August 1914.
Private Robert Lightbody was 21 when he died and he is commemorated in Skew Bridge Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey (Special Memorial A. 51); on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church.