McConnell, Robert (Bertie)
No. 2313, ‘A’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Died of disease on Friday 8 March 1918 (aged 20)
Bangor Cemetery, Newtownards Road, Bangor, Co. Down (Grave 5S. 70)
Bangor and District War Memorial
Royal British Legion (Bangor Branch) Memorial Plaque
Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum
Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Comgall’s)
Bangor Grammar School
Robert McConnell was born on 26 February 1898 in Herdstown, Donaghadee and he was a son of David and Mary Ellen McConnell (nee Strain) who moved from Donaghadee to Bangor where they lived in the townland of Corporation, Bangor and then at 53 Church Street. They were married on 8 September 1890 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office.
David McConnell Senior worked as a farm labourer and he and Mary had eleven children:
George (born 1 August 1891 in Herdstown)
Aggie (born 4 January 1893 in Herdstown; died of measles 11 May 1894)
Jane (Jenny, born 30 June 1894 in Herdstown)
David (born 24 September 1896 in Herdstown)
Robert (born 26 February 1898 in Herdstown)
Stephen Henry (born 17 November 1900 in Herdstown)
Samuel (born 3 October 1902)
Mary Ellen (born 3 January 1905 in Herdstown)
Joseph (born 22 February 1908)
Maggie Agnes (born 27 January 1910 in Portavo)
Emily (born 31 January 1912 in Bangor Demesne)
Jane, David and Robert were baptised in Donaghadee Parish Church of Ireland Church.
On 14 September 1914 David McConnell Senior enlisted in Bangor and he stated his age to be 40 years and 2 months. Before that he was employed by Hugh Morrow as driver of a dust cart for Bangor Urban Council. He joined the Royal Irish Rifles (No. 18141). His wife Mary was ill for several weeks and she died of cancer at 53 Church Street, Bangor on 22 October 1914 (aged 42). A report in the 23 October 1914 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle stated that six of her ten children ‘were totally unfit to provide for themselves’. In relation to their mother’s death, the report writer expressed the opinion that ‘a woman in humble circumstances could not, with the delay in the Government remittances, have received nourishment requisite to her delicate condition’. In these circumstances her husband David was discharged from the Army on 25 November 1914.
David McConnell Senior appointed a Guardian for his children and he re-enlisted on 27 September 1917 in Belfast. It was noted in his attestation papers that he was 5 feet 7 inches tall. David McConnell Senior served as a Gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery (No. 178259) before being transferred to the Labour Corps (No. 476419). On 28 June 1918 Private David McConnell (No. 476419) was compulsorily transferred from the Labour Corps to the Durham Light Infantry (No. 106166) and he was demobilised on 18 February 1919 because of aggravated rheumatism. Private David McConnell was discharged from the 28th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (No. 106166) on 21 February 1920. Overall, David McConnell Senior served from 27 September 1917 to 26 December 1917 on the Home Front, from 27 December 1917 to 30 April 1918 in France, from 1 May 1918 to 17 February on the Home Front and from 18 February 1919 to 21 February 1920 in the Army Reserve after demobilisation. He was entitled to the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.
Robert (Bertie) McConnell attended Bangor Grammar School and, prior to the outbreak of the Great War, he worked as a van-man. Bertie McConnell enlisted on 20 November 1914 in Belfast and served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. In late 1916 Rifleman Bertie McConnell was hospitalised in the Canadian General Hospital Boulogne after contracting bronchitis in the trenches and on 21 January 1917 he was transferred to a hospital in England and from there he went to Forster Green Hospital in Belfast. On 7 April 1917 he was discharged from the Army when he was deemed no longer physically fit for war service.
Rifleman Bertie McConnell (No. 2313) was 20 when he died on 5 March 1918 in Forster Green Hospital (8 March 1918 in CWGC records) as a result of a pulmonary haemorrhage; he had been suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis for 16 months. Robert’s brother George registered the death.
Rifleman Bertie McConnell (No. 2313) was buried in Bangor Cemetery, Newtownards Road, Bangor, Co. Down and, on the grave, there is a memorial plaque commemorating his mother.
Rifleman Bertie McConnell (No. 2313) is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; on the Royal British Legion (Bangor Branch) Memorial Plaque; in the Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum; in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Comgall’s) and in Bangor Grammar School.