McKee, John (Jack)
No. 4637, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Died of wounds on Monday 29 April 1918 (aged 18)
New Irish Farm Cemetery, Belgium (Grave II. E. 6)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
In the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Debt of Honour Website it is recorded that Lance Corporal J. McKee (No. 4637) was 18 when he died, he was a son of Bernard McKee of Armagh and he was the husband of Cecelia McKee of 51 Greenwell Street, Newtownards, Co Down.
In the Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919 database and in Ireland’s Memorial Records 1914 – 1918 it is recorded that Lance Corporal John McKee (No. 4637) was born in Barrow-in-Furness, England.
John McKee was a soldier stationed at Clandeboye Camp when he and Cecilia (Cissie) Maxwell were married on 28 March 1918 in Newtownards Roman Catholic Church. John McKee (aged 19) was a son of Bernard McKee, a labourer. Cecilia Maxwell (full age) from 87 Movilla Street, Newtownards was a daughter of James Maxwell, a dealer.
In the 1911 census, Bernard McKee (aged 36), a widower and a labourer, was living with his widowed mother, Ann McKee (aged 75) in the townland of Annacramph, Loughgall, Co Armagh. Also living there were Bernard’s children – Annie (aged 15) and John (aged 12). In the 1901 census Bernard’s children – Annie (aged 6), Mary (aged 4) and John (aged 1) were living with their grandparents John and Ann McKee in Annaclamph.
Bernard McKee and Catherine McKernan were married on 17 June 1894 in St Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church, Armagh. Bernard McKee from Annacramph, Armagh was a son of John McKee, a labourer. Catherine McKernan from Banbrook Hill, Armagh was a daughter of Henry McKernan, a labourer. Their daughter, Ann (Annie) McKee, was born on 1 July 1895 in Annacramph and their daughter Mary was born on 2 April 1897.
Bernard’s father, John McKee, died of chronic cystitis on 10 December 1902 (aged 54) in Annacramph.
On 29 April 1918, one month after he got married, Lance Corporal John McKee (No. 4637) died of wounds sustained during the German Spring Offensive. When John died, Cissie was living at 87 Movilla Street, Newtownards (the Maxwell family home). Captain W.H. Hutchison, Chaplain to the Forces, wrote to Cissie McKee to express his sympathy and to tell her that her husband was ‘a brave soldier, a loyal comrade and friend and a true man’.
Captain Hutchison explained that most of the Battalion records, including the next-of-kin lists, had been lost during the retreat from St Quentin and that he had only been able to trace her because of a letter from her that was found in Jack’s pocket. Cissie placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
I hope he rests in Heaven,
A member of the fold;
My loving prayer will ever be,
Have mercy on his soul.
Lance Corporal John McKee (No. 4637) was buried by his comrades and his body was subsequently exhumed and reinterred in New Irish Farm Cemetery, Belgium. There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
ON HIS SOUL SWEET JESUS HAVE MERCY R.I.P.
According to CWGC records Lance Corporal Jack McKee was 18 when he died.
Lance Corporal John McKee (No. 4637) is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial.