No. 6078, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Died of wounds on Sunday 17 January 1915 (aged 24)
Loker Churchyard, Belgium (Grave II. E. 2)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for
Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church
William Vance was born on 29 July 1890 in Movilla Street, Newtownards and he was a son of James and Annie Vance (nee McMillan) who were married on 14 April 1884 in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards. James Vance from Newtownards was a son of William Vance, a labourer. Annie McMillan from Newtownards was a daughter of Alexander McMillan, a labourer.
The Vance family lived at 19 Greenwell Street and before that at 12 George’s Street, Newtownards.
James Vance Senior fought in the South African War and then he worked as a labourer. He and Annie had at least eleven children:
Robert (born around 1881)
Mary (born 4 July 1884 in George’s Street, Newtownards; died 29 December 1884)
Mary (born 11 December 1885 in Queen Street, Newtownards)
Isabella (Bella, born 18 April 1888 in Queen Street, Newtownards; died of tuberculosis 9 September 1916)
William (born 29 July 1890 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)
Alexander (born 11 July 1892 in Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards)
James (born 6 June 1894 in Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards)
John (born 25 July 1896 in George’s Street, Newtownards; died of tuberculosis 31 October 1913)
Eliza Jane Warden (born 15 July 1898 in Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards; died of tuberculosis 20 January 1909)
Patrick (born 24 July 1900 in Greenwell Street Newtownards)
Annie (born 26 May 1903 in Greenwell Street Newtownards; died of tuberculosis 1 July 1918)
Three brothers served during the Great War and only Alexander survived. He was discharged from the Army after suffering gas poisoning and being severely wounded – part of one foot was blown off in an explosion and he needed a series of operations to remove shrapnel from his leg. Alexander Vance died in 1965 and was buried in Movilla Cemetery Newtownards alongside his father who died in 1937 and his mother who died in 1938.
William Vance was the first of the two brothers to be killed during the Great War and, during the war, at least four of his siblings, his widow and his daughter died of tuberculosis.
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, William Vance worked in a factory. Before that he had served for nine years in the 4th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Royal North Downs). He and Mary Jane McCullough were married on 17 July 1914 in Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church and they had one child, a daughter named Mary Catherine (Kathleen, born 2 October 1914 in West Street, Newtownards; died of tuberculosis 26 March 1916).
William Vance was a Reservist and at the outbreak of war he was recalled to the colours. He went to France on 9 November 1914, served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and died of wounds on 17 February 1915.
His widow Mary Jane and their daughter Mary Catherine lived at 8 West Street, Newtownards. Mary Jane placed a Killed in Action notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
It is hard to break the tender cord,
When love has bound the heart;
It is hard, so hard, to speak the words,
‘Must we for ever part?’
No more on earth we’ll clasp his hand,
But, oh! what joy in store,
To know we’ll meet in that bright land
To which he’s gone before.
His parents, sisters and brothers also placed a notice and it contained the verse:
We do not know what pain he bore,
We did not see him die;
We only knew he passed away,
And never said ‘Good-bye’
Though our hearts may break with sorrow
By the grief so hard to bear,
We shall meet him some bright morning
In our Father’s mansion fair.
Official notification about the death of Rifleman William Vance came in a letter addressed to his widow from the Infantry Record Office in Dublin. The Officer in Charge of No.11 District informed Mary Jane that William had died at 7 Field Ambulance in Locre after having been shot through the head. He expressed to her ‘the sympathy and regret of the Army Council at her loss’.
Rifleman William Vance was 24 when he died and he was buried in Loker Churchyard, Belgium.
A year later, his parents, sisters and brothers placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
One year has passed since that sad day,
When one we loved was called away;
Thy purpose, Lord, we cannot see,
But all is well that is done by Thee.
He is gone to rest, his troubles are o’er,
He is free from all sorrow and pain,
The ills of this life he so patiently bore
Shall never distress him again.
A year after William died, his widow, Mary Jane Vance, died of tuberculosis on 28 February 1916 (aged 24) and a month after that his daughter, Mary Catherine, died of tuberculosis on 26 March 1916 (aged 17 months).
Rifleman William Vance is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the PCI Roll of Honour for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.