Peake, William John (Jack)
No. 19168, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 24)
No known grave
Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)
Downpatrick War Memorial
Ballywalter and District War Memorial
Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church (Holy Trinity)
Family grave headstone in Whitechurch Cemetery Ballywalter
William John Peake was born on 22 September 1893 in Saul Street, Downpatrick and he was the eldest son of John and Elizabeth Peake (nee Hall) who were married on 15 September 1892 in Down Parish Church of Ireland Church, Downpatrick. John Peake was born in Scotland and Elizabeth Hall was born in County Cavan.
The Peake family lived in Saul Street, Downpatrick before moving to the townland of Ballyatwood, Ballywalter.
John Peake was employed by Lord Dunleath of Ballywalter Park where he worked for more than 22 years. A skilled cabinet maker and French polisher, John Peake was head carpenter and he and Elizabeth had eight children:
William John (Jack, born 22 September 1893 in Saul Street, Downpatrick)
Isabella Dorothea (Dora, born 19 August 1895 in Saul Street, Downpatrick)
Mabel Elizabeth (born 25 May 1897 in Ballywalter)
Reuben Henry (born 11 September 1898 at Springvale, Ballywalter)
Robert Lyman (Bobbie, born 5.30 am 12 January 1900 at Killyvolgan, Ballywalter)
Joseph Haddon (Joe, born 6.00 am 112 January 1900 at Killyvolgan, Ballywalter)
Edmund Lovington (Eddie, born 2 October 1901 at Killyvolgan, Ballywalter; died of meningitis 1 March 1918 aged 16)
Kathleen Florence (born 18 January 1904 at Springvale, Ballywalter)
William John and Reuben Peake were grandsons of the late John Peake of Church Street, Downpatrick and grandsons of Mr and Mrs Joseph Hall of Drumcrow, Arva, County Cavan.
William John Peake was the first of the two brothers to die on active service in the Great War.
Their mother Elizabeth died on 20 June 1937 (aged 70) and their father John died on 25 June 1954 (aged 92).
William John Peake was a member of Loyal Orange Lodge (LOL) No.1076 in Ballywalter and Elijah (Royal Black Preceptory) RBP No.130 in Downpatrick.
William John Peake was a member of the Ballywalter Company of the Ulster Volunteer Force and, when the Ulster Division was formed, he enlisted in Ballywalter. He served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Initially he was reported as missing in action as he had been seen to fall wounded about twenty yards from the German front line. In a letter to his parents his commanding officer informed them that Corporal William John Peake had been awarded the Military Medal for his excellent conduct on 26/27 June 1916 when he commanded a blocking party in the German trench and searched several dugouts getting two prisoners. When he returned to the Sunken Road he displayed great coolness under shell fire and led his party back successfully to the British lines.
In January 1917, it was officially reported that Corporal Peake must be presumed to have been killed in action. He has no known grave. Corporal Peake’s Military Medal was handed over to his mother in June 1917 at the Newtownards Camp by Lieutenant Colonel SW Blacker DSO. In his address Lieutenant Colonel Blacker paid tribute to Corporal Peake and he described how the party of four officers and about 100 men of the 13th Royal Irish Rifles had penetrated the enemy trenches and brought back a captured machine-gun, 13 prisoners and, most importantly, ‘information of the utmost importance which enabled the bringing to perfection of the arrangements for the big Somme push’. This was the raid led by Captain Elliott Johnston who was also killed in action on 1 July 1916.
William John’s medal was presented to his mother and afterwards William John’s father said a few words of thanks. Lady Dunleath also attended the ceremony. In addition to the medal, William John’s mother received a parchment certificate from the Commander of the Division relating the circumstances of her son’s gallant deed.
Corporal William John Peake is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; on Ballywalter and District War Memorial; in Ballywalter Parish Church of Ireland Church (Holy Trinity); on the family grave headstone in Whitechurch Cemetery Ballywalter and on Downpatrick War Memorial.