Semple, Robert James (No. 16998)

Semple, Robert James (Robert)


No. 16998, ‘A’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Killed in action on Saturday 8 December 1917 (aged 20)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)

Donaghadee and District War Memorial

Shore Street Presbyterian Church Donaghadee

Family grave headstone in Donaghadee Parish Church of Ireland Graveyard

Brother of Rifleman William Semple (No. 16999)

Cousin of Rifleman William Semple (No. 18/775)


Robert James Semple was born on 4 January 1897 in East Street, Donaghadee and he was a son of George and Eleanor Jane (Ellen) Semple (nee Niblock) who were married on 21 June 1882 in Shore Street Presbyterian Church Donaghadee.  George Semple from Ballywilliam was a son of Samuel Semple, a gardener.  Ellen Niblock from Shore Street, Donaghadee was a daughter of William Niblock.

The Semple family lived in the townland of Ballywilliam and at 27 East Street, Donaghadee.

George Semple worked as a general labourer and he and Eleanor Jane had nine children including:

Samuel (born 19 November 1882 in Ballywilliam)

William (born 8 August 1884 in Ballywilliam)

Ellen (born 11 December 1886 in Ballywilliam)

Mary Bell (born 2 April 1889 in Ballywilliam)

Eliza Ann (born 18 June 1891 in Ballywilliam)

George (born 25 February 1894 in Ballywilliam)

Robert James (born 4 January 1897 in East Street, Donaghadee)

Lydia (born 23 May 1902 in East Street, Donaghadee)

Seven of the children, including William and Robert James, were baptised in Shore Street Presbyterian Church Donaghadee.

Their mother, Eleanor Jane Semple, died of cancer on 14 April 1916 (aged 54).

Robert James was the second of the two brothers to be killed in action.

Robert James Semple enlisted in Donaghadee and he served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.

In early May 1916, Rifleman Robert James Semple was home on leave from the Front, shortly after his mother’s funeral had taken place.

Rifleman Robert James Semple was 20 when he was killed in action on 8 December 1917, shortly after the 13th and 11th Battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles were amalgamated.

Rifleman Robert James Semple has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

Rifleman Robert Semple and Rifleman William Semple are both commemorated on Donaghadee and District War Memorial; in Shore Street Presbyterian Church Donaghadee; on the family grave headstone in Donaghadee Parish Church of Ireland Graveyard.

Robert and William Semple were cousins of Rifleman William Semple (No. 18/775).  Their father George and William’s father Samuel were brothers.