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A WORLD WAR I SOLDIER FROM BALLINODE
Private Robert Hamilton from Kilmore East in Ballinode is one of the thousands of Irishmen killed in World War I whose stories were forgotten for nearly 100 years. Now to coincide with the centenary of the start of the Great War in August 1914, his story was recalled in a talk by local journalist Michael Fisher at St Dympna’s hall in Ballinode on Friday evening.
According to his obituary in the Northern Standard in May 1918, Private Hamilton was a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force in County Monaghan. He had signed the Ulster Covenant in Ballinode in September 1912. The UVF ranks joined the British Army to fight in World War I and became part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, headed by a Cavan man, Major General Oliver Nugent.
Robert Hamilton enlisted in Monaghan in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (the ‘Faugh-a-Ballaghs’) when a recruitment party came to town in February 1915. The Johnston and Madden Memorial Orange Hall on North Road was one of the places used by the British Army, along with the Town Hall. The recruits were sent to a barracks in Belfast and then to England for training. In October 1915 the regiment was on the move from Southampton across the English Channel to France.
Robert fought at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 but was invalided with a fever at some stage and appears to have been sent back to England to recuperate. He left Ballinode on Easter Saturday at the end of March 1918 and returned to his unit on the western front. Three weeks later he was killed in the fighting during a German offensive in the Ypres Salient at Kemmel Hill in Belgium. He was 26, not 24 as some records show. His body was never identified, so he has no grave, but his name is included in the vast Tyne Cot memorial near Ypres.
There is also a plaque in his memory at St Dympna’s Church in Ballinode, which provided the springboard for the talk. It would not have been possible without the interest shown by Marie McKenna and her research along with two distant Hamilton relations, Ruby Heasty and Heather Stirratt. Ruby still has the three war medals awarded to Private Hamilton.