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Monday, 21 January 2013

O'Kane, Paul

Newspaper photo courtesy of Nigel Henderson

Lieutenant Paul O’Kane
was born in 1895.

He was the son of Joseph Patrick O'Kane J.P. and Kate O'Kane. 

In 1901 the family were living in house 18, Castle Street, Ballycastle.  By 1911 the property is known as house 19, Castle Street, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. 
O’Kane would have joined the Belfast Banking Company around 1912 / 1913.  He was first posted to Newry branch.

Photo courtesy of Newry History Tour facebook group (via John Henning)
Following the start of the war, he volunteered and enlisted into the army.  

The London Gazette dated 28th June 1916 records P O'Kane as being confirmed in his rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

Lt. O’Kane was serving with 4th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles and was attached to 1st Bn. Royal Irish Rifles when he was killed in action on 21st March 1918 aged 23. 

The Belfast News Letter of 25th March 1918 reports:

The Glen is highlighted on this map of the Limestone Road area of Belfast.  The former Limestone Railway can be seen between The Glen and the Limestone Road.

Thanks to Richard Graham for this map.

The London Gazette dated 18th May 1918 records P O'Kane as being promoted to Lieutenant as of 1st July 1916 with a note that he had 'since died of wounds'.

O’Kane is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.  Immediately below his name is an inscription of a famous Comber Victoria Cross holder – Edwin de Wind VC.

O'Kane is also remembered on the Ballycastle War Memorial.  He is also recorded on the find a grave website.

Courtesy of the (former) Facebook group War Graves Ulster Project, Nigel Henderson and Jacqueline Haugseng, I was sent a photo of the family grave in the Saints Patrick and Bridget Roman Catholic Cemetery in Ballycastle.  The gravestone bears an inscription to Lt. Paul O'Kane.

Knox, Samuel Wright

Captain Samuel (Sam) Wright Knox
was born in Coleraine in 1869.
Knox joined Northern Bank in 1885.  In 1901, Knox is living in house 11, Clifton Street, Dock Ward, Belfast.  By 1911, the family had moved to house 9, Somerton Road, Duncairn Ward, Belfast.  His occupation is described as a Bank Director. 
Knox was based in Head Office when he volunteered and enlisted into the 16th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles.  He served with the British Expeditionary Force and was then attached to Royal Artillery at Flamertigue (Ypres) 1917.  Knox saw action at the Somme 1916 (Thiepval), Messines 1917 and Ypres 1917 (Passchendaele).  He was wounded twice and then invalided out of the service in February 1918. 
He resigned his commission to resume civic duties and was granted the honorary rank of Captain on 14th March 1918. 

The Belfast News Letter of 14th March 1918 reports:

In 1921 he was serving as a Director of Northern Bank.

When the Ulster Tower was opened in 1921 at Thiepval, France, trees were planted in memory of the officers and men who died there.  Tree markers were made and erected with the trees.  At a later date, after the trees had died out, the markers were disposed of in a skip.  Some were rescued and are now in the Albert Museum, France.  This marker records a tree planted on behalf of the 'British Legion' by Capt S W Knox.

Picture courtesy of Valerie Quinn & John McCormick

Lyness, William James

An article based on this biography appeared in the Ulster Star.

Captain William James Lyness MC and 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre
was the son of William John Lyness and Frances Mary Lyness.

He was known as Jimmy.

In 1901 the family lived in house 15, Tullyard, Moira, Co. Down.

On 28th September 1912, members of Lyness' family, Isaac, James and Thomas signed the Ulster Covenant at the Moira Demense and Market House.

Lyness served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers and attained the rank of Temporary Lieutenant (1916), Captain and Adjutant (1918). 

The Belfast News Letter of 20th January 1917 reports:

He embarked for France on 19th March 1917 and as part of the 36th (Ulster) Division, saw action at Messines, Langemak, Cambrai and the Somme (1918).

The Belfast Banking Company 'Roll of Honour' booklet details Lyness as serving with the Royal Irish Rifles and taht he had been awarded 'military honours' with his last known address as 'in France'.

The Belfast News Letter of 1st August 1917 reports:

The Belfast News Letter of 19th August 1917 reports:

The London Gazette of 17th September 1917 records his 1st citation as:

T./2nd Lt. William James Lyness, K. Ir. Rif.

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when clearing a wood with his platoon.  In spite of the! very strong resistance which he met, his dispositions and leadership were excellent, and after heavy fighting at various points he captured a large number of prisoners and guns of various calibre. His splendid gallantry and coolness proved invaluable as an example to his men."

The London Gazette of 18th October 1917 records Lyness as being awarded a bar to his Military Cross with the citation to this 2nd award being published on 7th March 1919:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  When visiting his outpost line he was fired on by the enemy at forty yards range, whereupon he obtained a Lewis gun, stood up in full view of the enemy and fired it from his shoulder until it jammed.  He then rushed the enemy post with two bombers, and cleared them out.  He had already led a successful attack on the two preceding nights, and it was entirely due to his initiative and personal courage, in spite of three days without sleep, that his posts were established and our position made secure.”

The Belfast News Letter of 19th October 1917 reports:

The Belfast News Letter of 9th March 1918 reports:

The Belfast News Letter of 13th September 1918 reports:

The Belfast News Letter of 8th October 1918 reports:

The London Gazette of 10th January 1919 records a 3rd citation as:

T./Lt. (A./Capt.) William James Lyness, M.C.; 12th Bn., R. Ir. Rif.

"When the right flank of the brigade war held up he went forward to reconnoitre and unexpectedly met with a nest of machine guns and about fifty of the enemy, who opened very heavy fire. With great difficulty he made his way back, got a Lewis gun and a man with a supply of magazines and went

forward again, engaged the strong point, firing eleven magazines, killing the majority of the enemy, and capturing a machine gun.  He then led the flank forward about 500 yards and straightened out the line.  The man with him was killed and he was wounded.  He showed great gallantry and determination.

(M.C. gazetted 17th September, 1917.)  (1st Bar -gazetted 18th October, 1917.)

The Belfast News Letter of 31st January 1919 reports:

The London Gazette of 19th June 1919 records Lyness as being awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

Lyness was demobilised with effect from 28th March 1919.  The London Gazette describes it as 'relinguishes the acting rank of Captain on ceasing to be employed'.  A further entry in the London Gazette states 'Temp. Lt. W. J. Lyness, M.C. relinquishes his commission on completion of service, 6th November 1920, and is granted the rank of Captain.

Lyness worked in the College Green, Dublin branch of the Belfast Banking Company prior to the war.

The Lisburn Standard of 13th September 1918 records:

"Captain and Adjutant W. J. Lyness, M.C.. Royal Irish Rifles, wounded, is a son of Mr. W. J. Lyness, Tullyard House, Moira, and nephew of Mr. R. Logan, Belfast Bank, Bangor.  Before the war Captain Lyness was on the Belfast Bank's Dublin staff.  He was a cadet in Colonel Shannon-Crawford's battalion prior to receiving his commission.  Captain Lyness, who has been adjutant of his battalion since 22nd March, has a fine record of service, having won both the Military Cross and a bar thereto.

His brother, Lieut. I. Lyness, of the Tank Corps, also holds the Military Cross.  Captain Lyness has been wounded in the shoulder by a bullet, but his injury is not serious."


On 30th July 2014, I met with Richard Lyness of Messrs R & J Lyness.  Richard is the nephew of Jimmy Lyness.  Richard told me that Jimmy returned to banking after the war but may have changed banks from the Belfast Banking Company to the Royal Bank of Ireland.  He retired as an inspector.

Richard also advised that the medal group and other military gear was presented to the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum in Waring Street, Belfast.

A visit to that location on the same date found the medal group to be displayed in a cabinet on their wall. My thanks go to them for allowing me to take the photograph of the medal group.

Collier, Reginald John C

2nd Lieutenant Reginald John C Collier

was born on 15th October 1898 in Belfast.

He was the son of William Francis Collier and Marion F Collier.

In 1901 the family were living in house 11, Evelyan Gardens, Clifton Ward, Belfast.   By 1911 the family have moved to house 140, Hamilton Road, Bangor, Co. Down.   He was not present in the house on census day, but was recorded as being at school as a pupil in house 1.2, Blackhall Place, West Side, Aaron Quay, Dublin.  He was then known as Reginald.

On 28th September 1912, Collier's parents signed the Ulster Covenant and Women's Declaration at Dufferin Memorial Hall, Bangor giving their address as 123 Hamilton Road, Bangor. 

Collier joined the Belfast Banking Company from where he enlisted.   He was serving in Markets (Cromac Street, Belfast) branch at the time.

Collier was serving with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) as a 2nd Lieutenant when he was accidentally killed in action (while flying – crashed) on 12th February 1918 aged 19.  His Service Record is transcribed with 'Killed as Result of Aero Accident'.  The accident occurred at RAF Yatesbury.

The Belfast News Letter of 14th February 1918 reports:

He is buried in Bangor Cemetery and commemorated in St. Comgall’s Parish Church, Bangor.   The memorial consists of a new organ that has been erected as a thanksgiving for victory and peace, and in proud and grateful memory of those members of the congregation who laid down their lives in the Great War.

Thanks to Nigel Henderson of Great War Belfast Newspapers ( for this image.

The following information comes from the RAF Museum:

Breene, Thomas Frederick

2nd Lieutenant Thomas Frederick Breene

was born in Belfast on 17th May 1888.

He was the son of Thomas John Breene and Mary Breene of 99 Fitzroy Avenue, Belfast.  The family were of Church of Ireland faith.

The 1901 Irish Census records the parents and sons, John (Jack) G, Nicholas, Thomas F, Richard S, Walter, Harold (Hal) and daughter Aileen C.  A servant, Bridget Turbridy was also present.

On 1st March 1906, Breene joined Northern Bank in Head Office.  Transfers followed to Balbriggan (1908), Londonderry (1910) and Kingscourt (1911).

Northern Banking Company Limited, Londonderry

In 1911, Breene was not present on Census Day.  However, his brother, John George Breene (20) is recorded as a Bank Clerk.  John was eventually to emigrate to USA where  he died in 1945.  A further son, Cyril had been born in 1903.
Further transfers followed to Cushendall (1912), Head Office (1912), Dungloe (1912) and Head Office (1914).

Breene was a member of Queens’ University Officer Training Corps (OTC) in 1915.  On 10th May 1915, Breene volunteered and enlisted into the 1st Bn. Royal Warwickshire Machine-Gun Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant.

This website records a diary entry that mentions the death of T F Breene.

"... At 9:10 am the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which had already experienced the front-line horrors of gas attacks in the last week of June, received orders to move up from its reserve position and towards the battle zone.  Just after 1:00pm, reports were received that British troops had been spotted in the German forward trenches, and a patrol belonging to the 1st RWR set off into No Man's Land under Lt R R Waters of 'A' Company.  Pinned down by machine-gun fire from Beaumont Hamel, the sortie was forced to withdraw having suffered a number of casualties, including the death of Lt T F Breene,  In the ranks, Gloucester born A/Cpl Albert Henry Boucher (No. 8609) had also fallen. ..."

Breene was killed in action on 1st July 1916.

He was awarded the British Victory Medal and the British War Medal and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

The Belfast News Letter of 7th July 1916 reports:

The Belfast News Letter dated 19th July 1916 reports:

The Belfast News Letter of 8th January 1917 reports:

Administration (with the Will) was granted at Belfast to Mary Breene, Married Woman.  Breene's effects were £31 16s 0d.

On ‘Ulster Day’, Saturday, 28th September 1912, Breene’s sister, Aileen Claire Breene signed the Women’s Ulster Declaration (Covenant) at All Saints School, Belfast.

T F Breene is remembered on the Queen's University Officers' Training Corps War Memorial.

A former official of Northern Bank, Peter Breene (PTSB) has kindly let me use two photographs of brothers of T F Breene.

Richard Simmons Breene and Harold (Hal) Breene

Richard was to become Chancellor Breene, rector of St Peters parish, Antrim Road, Belfast.

Hal was also a member of the Warwickshire Regiment.  He had been badly effected by gassing during the war and was never in good health afterwards.  He died aged 72 on board a ship to Madiera and was buried at sea.

McFall, Thomas Lamont

Lieutenant Thomas Lamont McFall MM
was born in 1895.

He was the son of John McFall and Elizabeth McFall (nee Nevin), of Magherintendry, Bushmills, Co. Antrim. 
Thomas joined the Belfast Banking Company and served in Portaferry and Maghreafelt branches. 

McFall volunteered and enlisted into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  His Service Number was 12/24513.  Promotion to Lance Corporal, Corporal, Sergeant followed and then 2nd Lieutenant came in 1916.  

The Belfast News Letter of 3rd September 1916 reports:

During November 1916, the RBAI Inst website reports the following:

Capt. Alexander M Reilly ..... was severely wounded on November 22 1916.  The battalion were in the front line just to the south of where the Spanbroekmolen Mine would be blown 6 months later, south of Ypres and suffered heavy bombardment.  The war diary states:

"A direct hit was secured by the Boche on No 3 Company resulting in the deaths of 3 other ranks and Capt A M Reilly, Company Commander,  2nd Lieut T L McFall and 2 other ranks being wounded. Captain Reilly afterwards died from his wounds in No 2 Casualty Clearing Station".

The Belfast News Letter of 14th December 1916 reports:

McFall was serving with 9th Bn. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as a Lieutenant when he was killed in action on 7th August 1917 aged 22.  McFall is buried in the Potijze Chateau Grounds Cemetery, leper West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.   He had originally been buried in a smaller area of the cemetery with a wooden cross with badge identifying the grave.  On 10th July 1919 his remains were re-interred in his current location.

He is also remembered in Dunluce Parish Church, Bushmills.

The Belfast News Letter of 20th August 1917 reports:

He was awarded the Military Medal in addition to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.  According to the Medal Roll, the latter two were awarded on 31st October 1922.

Additional photographs from LennonWylie:

Aggie McFall, James Nevin McFall and Tillie McNeill

Front centre Aggie McFall and front right Tillie McNeill

Thomas's father and two of his three brothers
James, their father John and Robert