No. 18238, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Monday 7 February 1916 (aged 22)
Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, France (Grave G. 4)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s)
David McConnell was born on 6 February 1894 in Movilla Street, Newtownards and he was a son of Robert and Mary Elizabeth McConnell (nee Cassidy) who were married on 12 July 1892 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s). Robert McConnell (aged 21) from Wallace’s Street, Newtownards was a son of Hugh McConnell, a weaver. Mary Elizabeth Cassidy (aged 20) from Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards was a daughter of William Cassidy, a weaver.
The McConnell family lived at 22 Wallace’s Street No. 2, Newtownards.
Robert McConnell worked as a hand loom weaver and he and Mary Elizabeth had at least seven children:
Maria (born 12 August 1893 in Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards)
David (born 6 February 1895 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)
Anna (Annie, born 16 December 1897 in Wallace’s Lane, Newtownards)
Robert (born 27 January 1901 in Wallace’s Street, Newtownards; his father was on service in South Africa)
William John Cassidy (born 7 April 1904 in Wallace’s Street, Newtownards)
Mary Elizabeth (born 6 June 1907 in Wallace’s Street, Newtownards)
Eveline (born 8 October 1910 in Wallace’s Street, Newtownards)
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War David McConnell worked as a cloth lifter and he was a member of the Newtownards Branch of the Ulster Volunteer Force. He enlisted in Newtownards and served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. David’s father Robert, who had served in the South African War, also enlisted and he served as a Corporal with the Royal Irish Rifles (No. 18143).
Rifleman David McConnell (No. 18238) was one of four Ardsmen who were killed in action together on 7 February 1916. They were all members of the 13th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles (1st Co Down Volunteers). The others were Rifleman James Calvert from the townland of Tullycore, Killinchy; Bandsman Charlie Newell of 54 South Street Newtownards and Rifleman Jack Tate of Frances Street and North Street, Newtownards. Rifleman Hugh McClure from Newtownards survived but died at home on 22 October 1916 after being invalided out of the army. David McConnell had been a member of the No. 5 Platoon football team and a short time before his death he had played in a match in the platoon competition.
The officer in charge of the platoon was Lieutenant Elliott Johnston, a son of Samuel Johnston JP, Glen Printing and Finishing Works in Newtownards. Lieutenant Johnston described the circumstances of their deaths. He said that during a heavy bombardment a shell from the German lines exploded in the midst of a party of men killing four and wounding three. James Calvert and Charlie Newell were killed outright; David McConnell and Jack Tate died later from their injuries. The four men were laid to rest together and the burial service was conducted by one of the brigade chaplains, the Rev Charles Campbell Manning, Rector of Comber. On that occasion Lieutenant Johnston escaped injury but he was killed in action five months later on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
After David’s death the McConnell family placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle. Rifleman David McConnell (No. 18238) was killed in action the day after his 22nd birthday.
In 1918 and 1919 the McConnell family placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the Newtownards Chronicle and they contained the verses:
Called from the earth so swiftly,
Plucked like a flower in bloom;
So bright, so fair, so loving,
Yet called away so soon
Oh darling son, I little thought,
When I first cradled thee,
That on the battlefield of death
You’d lie so far from me.
God’s will be done
Rifleman David McConnell (No. 18238) was buried in Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, France and he is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).