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Co Down hero of the Somme to be honoured on centenary of battle's end

Soldier died of wounds in hospital hours before great battle drew to close

By Ann W Schmidt

Published 17/11/2016

William Samuel Montgomery
William Samuel Montgomery
William Samuel Montgomery's grave

The Last Post will be sounded at the Co Down graveside of a forgotten hero of the Somme for the first time in a century on Friday.

Lance Corporal William Samuel Montgomery died in a military hospital just hours before the last day of the bloody battle.

His body was brought back to Killyleagh for burial.

Reveille will be played close to his grave on the 100th anniversary of the end of the bloodiest battle of the First World War and a poppy wreath will be laid.

Rev Hiram Higgins, Killyleagh's Presbyterian minister, and Church of Ireland rector Rev Colin Darling will be officiating at the ceremony.

A spokesman for organising group, Killyleagh Remembers the Great War, said: "This is a unique ceremony as few of those wounded at the Somme were brought back to Ireland for burial.

"We are grateful to surviving members of his family who have given the go-ahead for a short act of remembrance at his grave, which is marked with a Commonwealth War Graves headstone in the town's Presbyterian graveyard."

Cpl Montgomery enlisted on Boxing Day 1915 and was worried he wouldn't get to the Western Front in time to fight. He served with the 16th Royal Irish Rifles (Co Down Pioneers) and sustained a chest wound on the Somme battlefield.

He was taken to a Sheffield's Wharncliffe War Hospital and died after an operation on the eve of the last day of the battle, while the fighting continued on Flanders field.

Ten days before his death on November 17, Cpl Montgomery wrote his sister a letter from his hospital bed.

He told her he was "able to walk about 30 yards with the aid of a stick".

"My wound is beginning to heal up and nurse says a fortnight will make it a deal better. She also told me I had recovered from the pneumonia. I don't suppose you knew I had that complaint but really I have been very ill," he wrote.

He added that he was desperate for "a good drink of buttermilk but it can't be got here".

"I wonder could you send me a pint anyway, the sourer it would be the better," he added.

The soldier also asked for some local bread to be sent to him - "one small piece of soda, one potato oaten, one slim, one wheaten".

Wishing his sister and her baby well, Cpl Montgomery requested no currants in his bread "as I don't think they agree with me".

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