Webb, Gilbert Watson

Webb, Gilbert Watson (Gilbert)

Captain (Pilot)

22nd Squadron, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Irish Rifles           

Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 26)

Buried:

Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, France (Grave IV. Q. 5)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour

North of Ireland Cricket Club Memorial Plaque

Campbell College

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) War Memorial

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) Book of Remembrance

BIOGRAPHY

Gilbert Watson Webb was born on 1 March 1890 in the townland of Milecross, Newtownards and he was a son of Richard Thomas Webb and Blanche Louise Webb (nee Stromeyer) who were married in 1880 in Romford, Essex.

The Webb family lived in Greenisland, Co Antrim; in Milecross, Newtownards; in Knock Avenue, Belfast and in Rath House, Shandon Park, Belfast.

Richard Webb was a linen manufacturer and he and Blanche had eight children:

Melanie Louise (born 10 March 1881 in Greenisland, Co Antrim)

Ethel Maria (born 26 March 1883 in Greenisland, Co Antrim)

Richard Randall (born 14 November 1884 in Greenisland, Co Antrim)

William Henry Stromeyer (born 18 May 1886 in Greenisland, Co Antrim)

Hermann Watson (born 9 February 1888 in Greenisland, Co Antrim)

Gilbert Watson (born 1 March 1890 in Milecross, Newtownards)

Karl Watson (born 11 December 1892 in Knock, Belfast)

Blanche Rosa (born 28 December 1900 in Knock, Belfast)

Gilbert’s father died at Rath House, Shandon Park, Belfast on 5 May 1909 (aged 65).

At least three of Gilbert’s brothers worked in the family linen manufacturing business – Messrs Webb, Ards Weaving Co. Ltd., Newtownards.

Gilbert Webb was educated at Campbell College Belfast and he was a member of the Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) Officers’ Training Corps (OTC).  He played rugby for the North of Ireland Football Club.

Gilbert Webb moved to Canada where he worked for a few years before returning to Ireland to enlist.  On 9 October 1914 he obtained a commission in the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.  He served with the 2nd Battalion on the Western Front and was wounded in the head on 8 May 1915.  When he recovered he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and on 4 May 1916 he flew his plane across the English Channel to France and was attached to a flying squadron.  Aerial reconnaissance provided essential information about the layout of enemy trenches.

Initially Captain Webb was reported as missing in action at the Somme on 1 July 1916.  His death was confirmed in a letter written on 6 July by his observer Lieutenant W.O. Tudor-Hart of the Northumberland Fusiliers and Royal Flying Corps.  Lieutenant Tudor-Hart was being held as a prisoner of war and in the letter he stated that Captain Webb and he were flying about six miles over the German lines when they were attacked by a number of German aeroplanes.  Captain Webb was hit in the groin by a bullet and died within two minutes.  With great difficulty Lieutenant Tudor-Hart crash-landed the plane behind enemy lines and in the process suffered extensive injuries.

Captain Gilbert Watson Webb was buried in Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, France and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:

GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS

Captain Gilbert Watson Webb is commemorated in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 652); on the North of Ireland Cricket Club Memorial Plaque (includes those members of the Club who played Rugby Football); in Campbell College; on the QUB War Memorial and in the QUB Book of Remembrance (Page 54).

[The North of Ireland Football Club (members played Rugby Football as opposed to Soccer) was founded by members of the North of Ireland Cricket Club and the North of Ireland Cricket Club Memorial Plaque commemorates members of both Clubs.  Members of the Football Club were also members of the Cricket Club but not all members of the Cricket Club were members of the Football Club.]

Captain Gilbert Watson Webb’s brother, Sergeant Randall Webb, was serving at the Front with the Signals Headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Brigade.

Gilbert’s mother died at Rath House, Shandon Park, Belfast on 7 November 1941.