No. 18146, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Tuesday 27 June 1916 (aged 33)
Authuile Military Cemetery, France (Sp. Mem. B. 2)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s)
His age is inscribed as 36 on his CWGC headstone.
John McCracken was born on 24 June 1883 in the townland of Ballyblack and he was a son of James and Jane McCracken (nee Conway, sometimes Conoway) who were married on 21 June 1882 in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, Newtownards. James McCracken from Ballycastle was a son of John McCracken, a labourer. Jane Conway (aged 19) from Ballycastle was a daughter of Matthew Conway, a sailor.
John McCracken was seven when his mother Jane died of peritonitis in Court Street, Newtownards on 1 January 1892 (aged 26).
In 1901 John was living at 154 Greenwell Street, Newtownards with his widowed father James McCracken and his widowed grandmother Margaret McCracken. John McCracken worked as a fowl butcher, James McCracken worked as a general labourer and Margaret McCracken worked as a seamstress.
John McCracken, a labourer, and Elizabeth (Lizzie) McCullough were married on 5 August 1904 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s). Elizabeth McCullough from East Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Robert McCullough, a weaver.
John and Elizabeth (Lizzie) McCracken (nee McCullough) had three children:
Maggie (born 27 August 1905 in East Street, Newtownards)
Robert (born 25 August 1912 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)
James (born 20 July 1914 in Windmill Row, Newtownards)
The McCracken family lived in Newtownards at 163 Greenwell Street, 12 Windmill Row and 83 East Street.
Before the war John McCracken was a member of the North Down contingent of the Ulster Volunteer Force and he enlisted in Newtownards. He joined the 1st Co Down Volunteers and he went to the front in October 1915 with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. He was a bass drummer in the 13th Battalion Band. John McCracken was killed in action on 27 June 1916 and, in a letter of condolence to John’s wife, Captain Charles Murland outlined the circumstances of John’s death, ‘He was out with a [raiding] party on special duty and had done splendid work. He had just completed bandaging a wounded man and was going over to attend another one when he was instantaneously killed by a shell’. This was the raid led by Captain Elliott Johnston who was awarded the Military Cross for his conspicuous gallantry.
John McCracken had also been a bass drummer in Lord Londonderry’s Own Church Lads Brigade (CLB) Flute Band and the members placed a Killed in Action notice in the Newtownards Chronicle, as did his wife Lizzie. Her notice contained the verse:
A loving husband, true and kind,
Missed by those he left behind.
Forget him! No, I never will,
As time rolls on I love him still,
He gave his life for his country.
What more could he do
The following year Lizzie placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
Somewhere in France my husband fell,
Amidst the roar of shot and shell;
When the war is o’er, and friends return,
It is then, dear John, for you we’ll mourn.
Dearest children, I have left you
To the care of God above,
Do not let my absence grieve you,
For my sake each other love.
Lance Corporal John McCracken was 33 when he died and his CWGC headstone in Authuile Military Cemetery in France bears two inscriptions:
KNOWN TO BE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY
THEIR GLORY SHALL NOT BE BLOTTED OUT
Lance Corporal John McCracken (No. 18146) is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).