AFTER months of extensive research and collaboration with members of the general public, a book compiled by Castledawson and District Branch of The Royal British Legion was launched in the parish hall lastFriday night.
Entitled “They Didn’t Come Home” the publication tells the story of the fallen heroes of the district who made the ultimate sacrifice not only in two World Wars, but in subsequent conflicts, who were either born, lived worked, or in whose families had connections in the area of Castledawson, Bellaghy and Knockloughrim.
There is no distinct boundary, and in general, the book includes names uncovered rather than the details lost.
In an introduction, President of the local branch, Mr Norman Hood, says that the desire to compile this book stems from standing at the War Memorial in the Bell Park, Castledawson, wondering who were the men behind the names, what were they like, where and when did they die?
There are a list of names available on a tablet within the Memorial Hall of 1929 , but this is far from complete. When, in 1994, the new memorial was erected, the then chairman Mr. Ronnie Curry carried out extensive research through local churches etc. to make a list as inclusive as possible. However, the development of the internet has allowed freer access to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission amongst others.
The initial idea was to have the book ready for the 90th anniversary of the ending of World War 1 in 2008, but once research had started, the enormity of the task soon became evident. Apologies are offered for any omissions or inaccuracies while there are no details of locals killed during the Boer War in South Africa, Korea or other conflicts on foreign lands.
This could be a matter for a future project with the possibility of the setting up of a web site to contain these, and further details. Anyone who can help here, should contact Mr. Sam Hudson, or any member of the local branch.
Of course, without local help “They Didn’t Come Home” would have been far from complete and thanks is offered to the very many who came forward with some sad, if vital information. Indeed, there was contact from people as far away as Malta and Australia.
And, the very first name and photo listed in the book is that of Private John Anderson, who served in the Australian Infantry, and is buried in Bailleul, Nord, France. He was son of William and Margaret Anderson, Toberhead Cottage, Knockloughrim, and a native of Castledawson. Others listed include Manus Alexander Costello of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He was born in Bellaghy, son of Patrick and Jane Costello ( nee Scullion), killed in action and buried in La Laiterie Military Cemetery, Belgium. As for Second World War casualties, noted is one Gerriet Yan Pijl , nationality Dutch, father of William Pijl of Knockloughrim, Alexander Cusick a gunner in the Royal Artillery Unit, buried in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Churchyard, Bellaghy, and William Church Mann, Flying Officer (pilot) Royal Air Force Volunteer Force, son of John Kelly and Nellie Mann of Castledawson, buried in Naples War Cemetery, Italy.
These are just a few of the many fallen locals who are recorded in the 140 page strong book . Not only is it a fitting memorial, but a significant historical reference and one which will prove very poignant for many in the community.
Copies of “They Didn’t Come Home” are available from Mr Sam Hudson, 21 Main Street, Desertmartin, Magherafelt, BT45 5LW, the local post office, and various other outlets. Cost is 6 per book.Thanks is offered to everyone, and there are many, who helped with the publication, also assistance from the Awards For All programme.