No. 18/160, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Wednesday 14 February 1917 (aged 29)
St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, Belgium (Grave II. A. 13)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for
Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards
In some records his surname is spelt McKitterick and in others McKitrick.
William McKittrick was born on 23 October 1888 in the townland of Ballybarnes, Newtownards and he was a son of Robert and Martha McKittrick (nee Gibson) who were married on 23 May 1879 in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, Newtownards. Robert McKittrick from Ballybarnes was a son of Robert Gray, a labourer. Martha Gibson from Newtownards was a daughter of Hugh Gibson, a labourer.
Robert McKittrick worked as a labourer and he and Martha had six children including:
Mary Ann (born 4 April 1881 in Taylor’s Houses, Newtownards)
Richard Gibson (born 19 December 1885 in Ballyrogan)
William (born 23 October 1888 in Ballybarnes)
Agnes Jane (born 23 September 1891 in Ballybarnes)
Robert Hugh Gibson (born 24 March 1894 in Ballybarnes)
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War William McKittrick was employed by Mrs William Gill of Church Street, Newtownards.
William McKittrick and Jean (Jennie) Johnston were married on 14 November 1910 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Church Belfast. William McKittrick (aged 23) from 34 Craigmore Street, Belfast was a son of Robert McKittrick, a labourer. Jean (Jennie) Johnston (aged 21) from 6 Derry Street, Belfast was a daughter of John Johnston, a labourer. William worked as a labourer and Jennie worked as a machinist in a factory before their sons were born:
Robert Hugh (born 24 August 1913 in Church Street, Newtownards)
William (born 26 November 1915 in Church Street, Newtownards; died of bronchitis 12 February 1916 in Church Street, Newtownards)
Both boys were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards and the McKittrick family lived at 6 Church Street Newtownards.
William McKittrick enlisted in Belfast, he joined the 1st County Down Volunteers in June 1915 and went to the Front the following October with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. William’s father-in-law, Sergeant John Johnston, also served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.
Rifleman William McKittrick was 29 when he was killed in action on 14 February 1917 and the Battalion War Diary shows that he died during a German bombardment which began at 1.00 am. Afterwards Captain G.J. Apperson wrote in a letter of sympathy to William’s widow, ‘He was a splendid soldier and one of the most useful men in the company. No matter how hard things were he never grumbled and always he did more than his share of the work’. In that same attack Rifleman Robert Robinson was wounded and died the following day. At 6.00 pm that day there was another enemy attack during which Lance Corporal Robert Henry Marshall was killed.
William’s family placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the years thereafter. His death was deeply regretted by his wife, son, father-in-law, mother, brother Richard and sister-in-law. In 1917 his widow Jennie inserted the verse:
Too far away thy grave to see,
But not too far to think of thee;
When days are dark and friends are few,
Dear husband how I think and long for you.
I often think of days gone by,
When we were all together;
A shadow o’er our life is cast,
A husband gone forever.
Rifleman William McKittrick’s widow and son moved to 8 Short Street Newtownards. This street joined Front Shuttlefield and Back Shuttlefield.
In 1918 his mother inserted the verse:
God is good, He gave me grace
To bear my heavy cross;
He is the only One who knows
How bitter is my loss.
The news was sad, the blow was hard,
God’s will, it shall be done;
With manly heart he did his part,
My dear beloved son.
In 1919 his widow Jennie inserted the verse:
Some may think that I forget him,
While at times I am apt to smile;
Little they know the grief that’s hidden
’Neath the surface all the while.
In 1919 his brother Richard (Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards) inserted the verse:
This day brings back to our memory,
Fresh thoughts of one who was called to rest,
And those who think of him today
Are those who loved him best.
His cheery, sunny countenance will never from memory fade,
Nor yet will we forget the noble sacrifice he made;
And when our hearts are sore we seem to hear him say:
‘Keep up your heart, dear parents, we will meet again some day.’