One year ago, on 6th September 2015, my parents and I visited the Thiepval Memorial in the Somme. The memorial bears the names of 72,244 men from the UK and South African forces who died in the Somme and have no known grave.
One of the name recorded was that of Sergeant Joseph Porter, 7th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 16th Irish Division who died on his 21st birthday on 6th September 1916.
Joseph Porter was born on 6th September 1895 in Aghintain, County Tyrone and according to church records was baptised 49 days later on 25th October in Aughentain Presbyterian Church. His parents Samuel Porter and Isabella Porter (nee Keys) were married on 9th August 1894 at St. Margaret’s Church of Ireland, Clabby. Joseph was the youngest of five siblings that we know about and his father Samuel died on 7th February 1899 7 months before Joseph’s fourth birthday. His mother and siblings moved to the Cromac area of Belfast sometime between the 1901 and 1911 census as the 1901 records their residence in Tyrone whilst the 1911 census records their address as 9 Wansbeck Street, Belfast.
It is not known when Joseph enlisted, what company he was in or indeed any significant details his service in the army. We do know from the regiment’s war diary that they were close to a village called Guillemont and Leuze Wood on the day he died, 6th September 1916.
We took some time on our trip to visit the area and took some photographs:
The 16th Irish Division are also remembered at other locations in France and Belgium.
Joseph’s left all of his property to his sister Mary ‘May’ Porter.
It is interesting to note a discrepancy in the family’s Belfast address listed here in the will as 5 Wansbeck Street whereas the 1911 census recorded it as number 9.
May Porter went on to marry Christopher Gardiner just 4 months later at St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast on 8th January 1917. They had 4 sons (James, Christoper, Robert and Alex) and 2 daughters (Elizabeth and Mary). Elizabeth was my paternal grandmother making Joseph my great-great Uncle.
I never knew Joseph Porter yet the sacrifice that was made 100 years by all those who fought in the ‘Great’ War is hard to comprehend. I can only say that I am thankful that they did what they did – I’m not sure I would have had their courage to do the same. I am reminded of the final lines of Wilfred Owen’s well known war poem:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.