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Monday, 7 March 2022

Hamilton, John

[Ballymena Weekly Telegraph - August 1916
- courtesy of Great War Ulster Newspaper Archive]

[Fermanagh Times - January 1917 - courtesy of Great War Ulster Newspaper Archive]

2nd Lieutenant John Hamilton
was born at Ballyrobin, Stranocum on 20th February 1886 to James Hamilton, Farmer and Lily Hamilton nee McCracken. They had married on 3rd March 1881 at Carncullagh (Dervock) Presbyterian Church.

In 1901 John (15) was living in house 15, Ballyrobin, Stranocum with his parents and 3 siblings; Margaret (17), Wm S (13) and James B (5). A servant, John Kone was also present in the property.

Probably around 1906, John joined the Belfast Banking Company and served in Ballyshannon and Coleraine branches.

Belfast Bank, Ballyshannon branch

Belfast Bank, Coleraine branch

The 1911 Irish Census records John as boarding with the Ward family in house 19, Cabra Park, Phibsborough, Glasnevin, Dublin. His occupation is recorded as a Bank Clerk. [Thanks to Nigel Henderson for identifying the Irish Censi records].
His family were living in house 15, Ballyrobin, Stranocum. His parents and 2 siblings; Margaret and James.
John volunteered and enlisted into the 12h Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers with Service Number 14748. A promotion to Lance Serjeant followed. His Medal Index Card records his first theatre of war as France. John's address is recorded as c/o his sister, Mrs W Stirling (formerly Miss M Hamilton), 72 Cooke Street, Denvir, Colorado, USA.

J Hamilton - Medal Index Card

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website records one John Hamilton having the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and serving in the 11th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who was killed in action on 1st July 1916.
The Belfast News Letter of 9th May 1917 reports:

John Hamilton is commemorated on the Theipval Memorial. Hamilton is mentioned in ‘Bushmills Hero’s 1914 - 1918’ by Robert Thompson, Coleraine, published privately, 1999.

The same picture appeared in the Belfast Evening Telegraph, Ballymoney Weekly Telegraph and the Fermanagh Times in addition to the Belfast Banking Company War Memorial.

J Hamilton - Ireland's Memorial Record

John is remembered in Carncullagh Presbyterian Church.

The website '36thulster' records an excellent obituary for John Hamilton. The text and a further photograph are copied below:

John had been a leading sportsman in the years before the 1st World War and was prominent in athletics as well as being a member of Bann Rowing Club. He rowed number two in Jack Lowry’s senior four in 1913. He was a son of Mr John Hamilton, of Woodview, Stranocum, and before enlisting worked in the Belfast Bank in Coleraine. He enlisted on the outbreak of hostilities, joining the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. At first, training took place at Finner Camp, in County Donegall, starting on 20th September 1914. 
Finner Camp had originally been used to provide training facilities for soldiers during the Boer War and was known locally as the Boer War Camp. Much progress was made in the early stages as the men had already been in training for other reasons. In early January the battalion marched to the hutted camp at Shanes Castle, near Randalstown, and remained there. In February John Hamilton was sent on a course of instruction to Chelsea Barracks and received his commission on 19th April. On the evening of Wednesday 7th July 1915 they embarked at Dublin on their way to Bramshott, in Surrey. Much intensive training now took place and on 5th October they sailed for France. At Folkestone they embarked on the St. Oriel trans- port vessel and arrived at Boulogne at 3.00am. They immediately marched to Ostrohove rest camp and remained there all next day. Soon after this they were moved up to the area close to the front to help with trench digging and for more training. 
On the 1st of July, as the attack began at 7.30am and the 11th battalion left their trenches, they were immediately hit by machine-gun fire and rifle fire. John was with Captain Myles as they crossed No Man’s Land and it was after they had left the sunken road and were approaching the Crucifix that Capt Myles was injured. John then took command of the Company and led them on towards the German positions. It was as they approached the German wire and were searching for a way through that John was hit in the neck by machine-gun fire. He was reported missing. Much later, and long after the news that he was missing had reached home, his sister Margaret applied for a court order presuming his death in action. 
A letter from the Chaplain, the Rev J J Wright of Ballyshannon, told how 2nd Lieutenant Hamilton had been struck by a bullet in the left side of the neck and killed. The Judge granted the application.
Three other young Ballymoney men serving with the 11th battalion were killed on this day. Samuel McClelland is buried in the nearby Mill Road Cemetery. John Reid of Finvoy, and Alex Kirkpatrick, both killed as they attacked the Schwaben Redoubt, were never seen again.

See Comments section below for further commentary from a couple of relatives.


  1. Thank you for honouring my Great Uncle John. His sister Margaret is my maternal grandmother. I am a "yank" and served with the US Air Force for 25 years, retiring as a Lt Col. I've been researching what happened to John and it's wonderful to find such a lovely tribute to his service and sacrifice. Warmest regards, Kent.

  2. It is 100 years today. Thank you so very much for caring about all these soldier's lives. It is bittersweet to know what happened to John that day and so many others. John's sister, Margaret, had two children, a boy and a girl. Kent Dukes, who authored the previous post is a son of her daughter and my husband is the son of her son. Margaret named her son "John" for her brother. Gwen Stirling

  3. I had a grandfather named John Hamilton who was killed in the Great War. My grandmother was Jean Hamilton and together they had 3 daughters, Agnes, Jean or Jane and Irene. I am wondering if this John Hamilton was my grandfather? Any further information would be appreciated. Thanks, Bill

  4. Hello Kent,

    I just read your comments on the Northern Bank War Memorials. I had a grandfather named John Hamilton that was killed in the Great War. I am wondering if your great uncle is the same person. My Grandmother was Jean Hamilton and together they had 3 daughters, Agnes, Jean and Irene. I also just placed comments on the website. Thanks for your service, I am ex US Navy. Look forward to hearing from you. Bill


Please add any verifiable information to assist me in building on the biographical information already detailed. Thank you.