Updated: Oct 7, 2019
I was intrigued to read the story in last month’s edition of the Shankill and East Belfast Extra of the Campbell College and Bloomfield Collegiate cadets who had taken an interest in Second Lieutenant William Moore, an ‘Old Campbellian’ who fell in the First World War. Moore had come to my attention previously when researching Campbell College, but also because of another interesting coincidence.
Educated at Campbell College and Queen’s University, ‘Willie’ served with the 10th (Reserve Battalion) Royal Irish Fusiliers having received his commission in January 1916. The Belfast News Letter reported that he ‘took part in the suppression of the Sinn Fein rebellion’ of April 1916, although we know it better today as the Easter Rising. Then, while stationed at Newtownards, William assumed the role of ‘bombing instructor’ before travelling to France and entering the theatre of war in June 1917. William wrote to his mother on 15 June 1917 from the 36th (Ulster) Division Base Depot at Le Havre (France) where he suggested that he would soon be going to the front with the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. The last letter that he wrote was to his father, dated 14 August 1917, where he suggested that it might be difficult for him to write as much and that ‘Whatever happens, don’t worry’. Sadly, Second Lieutenant William Moore was Killed In Action on 16 August 1917 during the Battle of Langemarck, he was just 24 years old.
William’s brother Archibald also served in the First World War. Like Willie, ‘Archie’ was also educated at Campbell College and he was a prominent member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, having been a Company Commander of the Mountpottinger Battalion before the outbreak of war. Upon the formation of the Ulster Division in 1914 Archie received a commission with the 8th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (East Belfast Volunteers) and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant soon afterwards at the age of just 22. He was described by the Belfast News Letter as ‘one of the youngest officers of his rank in the army’, also as a ‘popular and efficient officer, keenly interested in his profession’. While out with a working party on 24 November 1915 Archie was shot and wounded in the left shoulder. Then, in October 1916, he was wounded for a second, this time shot in the face, though luckily for him it was not as serious as it might have been. Despite his two injuries, Archie managed to survive the war. He even felt compelled, in November 1918, to make a monetary donation to the initial stages of the ‘Ulster Division Monument’, which later became the Ulster Tower as we know it today.
After the war and his subsequent demobilisation, Archie returned to the family home at Ashley House on the Albertbridge Road as a wounded veteran (despite only being in his mid-twenties) and without a brother. Their father, Dr Archibald Moore, a ‘well known medical practitioner’ (a GP) and a former President of a Unionist Club in the area, saw two of his sons go to war, while only one of them returned with a broken body.
However, in what might be regarded as strange coincidence, Ashley House is at 174 Albertbridge Road, which today is the constituency office of Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen MBE, himself a wounded veteran of the British Army. Andy served with the Royal Irish Regiment in the Afghanistan war of 2008, a very different conflict to the Great War of 1914-1918 in which Archie and Willie participated. He endured horrific injuries as a result of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Helmand Province which left him partially sighted and with a double above-knee amputation at the age of just 20. Two very different wars, in different locations, almost 100 years apart, and yet their stories have intertwined almost as if fate had a hand.
So, the next time you pass Andy Allen’s constituency office, think of the Moore brothers, Archie and Willie, who lived there as young men before war intervened and cruelly changed their lives forever. I like to think that they too would appreciate the quirk of Andy Allen making good use of their home in 2019.