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Commemoration to honour Irish sailors who lost their lives at sea in the Great War

By Linda Stewart

Descendants of Irish sailors will gather at Alexandra Dock on Tuesday for a commemoration marking their role during the First World War.

The event will also mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland - and witness the official opening of HMS Caroline.

The cruiser is the last remaining vessel that took part in the pivotal World War I sea battle which saw thousands of sailors lose their lives.

Descendants of sailors from the Royal Navy and Mercantile Navy will coming from Australia, America, Canada, Spain, Britain and the rest of Ireland on May 31 for the commemoration.

The Royal Navy and Irish Naval Service will stand side by side to mark all from the island of Ireland who served at sea and wreaths will be laid. Senior political and military representatives from the UK and Ireland will be in attendance, alongside a German Naval Admiral.

The ports of Ireland, Irish Lights and maritime emergency services will also gather with families of those who served, and Belfast City Council will host all attendees for a civic lunch on completion of the ceremony.

Irish naval ship LE Ciara and British Naval Ship HMS Ramsey will be in port this weekend and open to the public as part of Belfast's Maritime Festival.

The Battle of Jutland involved 100,000 men in a 36-hour sea battle in which time Britain lost 14 ships and 6,000 sailors and Germany lost 11 ships and 2,500 sailors. More than 350 of the men lost were from Ireland.

Karen O'Rawe, chair of History Hub Ulster, said: "The commemoration to the Irish Sailor is a significant all-island event, the contemporary relevance of which should not be underestimated.

"The event is a timely reminder that 1916 is not all about the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme." In 1918 at least three Irishmen were lost on HMS Ascot, the last warship lost to enemy action in the First World War, and at least 14 were lost on the first in 1914, HMS Amphion. More than 1,500 Irishmen were killed in action serving at sea in the years between.

"Battlecruiser HMS Invincible was blown in half, killing all but six of its crew of over 1,000 men. At least 34 were Irish, including two 17-year-old Belfast boys, John McCullough and John Cleland Carlisle. The Battle of Jutland claimed the life of Stoker Peter Kennedy, Royal Naval Reserve, from Ballymena, lost on HMS Queen Mary.

"Peter, a member of Cavehill Orange Lodge, lived at Ritchie Street in Belfast. Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce (15) from Downhill, Derry, was one of 10 cadets lost on HMS Monmouth and five more Ulster teenagers were lost - Belfast boys Stoker (2nd) John McAteer, Boy (1st) William Connell, Able Seaman William AJ Wilson, Ordinary Seaman Herbert Kelly and Ordinary Seaman Henry McNally, from Draperstown."

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