From Duke Street to Kammel, Belgium and Back…
Born on 18 Mar 1895 he was the fourth son and seventh child of nine born to Samuel Starrett and Ellen Neely Beattie. William, most commonly known as Willie; is my 1st cousin 2x removed. His mother, Ellen, is my great grand aunt and sister to my great grandmother Charlotte.
Willie was born, and spent the first years of his life; at 1 Derry View Terrace where the family resided. Sometime between Dec 1898, the birth of his brother Edward; and the 1901 Census being recorded the family had moved to 25 Spencer Road; where they still lived in 1911. On 28 Sep 1912, and the signing of the Ulster Covenant, I discovered Willie, a printer; had noted his address as 34 Spencer Road. This little tidbit of information I found quite interesting; and upon researching the 1911 Census Record for 34 Spencer Road found a Hunter family! It would seem I had discovered another Twisted Limb of my Hunter/Wilson family line!
After unearthing a Military Record, entitled “Proceedings on Discharge”, I discovered Willie, at the young age of nineteen; had enlisted with the 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 8 Sep 1914. These records confirmed that he was a printer by trade and once again showed his home address as 25 Duke Street.
An article published in the Londonderry Journal on 22 Sep 1916 stated: “Mr. Samuel Starritt, 25, Duke Street, has been notified that his son, Private William Starritt, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, has arrived at an English hospital from France. Private Starritt enlisted shortly after the outbreak of the war.”
A “Medical Report on an Invalid”, from the Ontario Military Hospital, Kent, England; dated 3 Aug 1917 revealed that on 29 Apr 1917 in Kammel, Belgium Willie was injured. “Patient stated that a piece of shrapnel struck his left hand, causing much damage to his ring and little fingers. At the same time he received a GSW to his upper lip which is now healed completely. He was taken at once to the 53rd Field Ambulance where his wounds were dressed and the ring and little fingers amputated above the metacarpo-phalanged joint.” The noted “opinion as to the causation of the disability” indicated “G.S.W. Left Hand” caused by “active service in presence of the enemy”.
The record also revealed that Willie had several ailments. His respiratory system and expansion of his lungs was somewhat “deficient”; he also suffered from chronic bronchitis. The record goes on to state: “Ring and middle fingers of left hand missing. Middle finger partially flexed and bound down by contracted scar tissue. Wound on ulna border of hand almost healed. Slight discharge from small area on surface. Patients condition not likely to improve appreciably”.
Accounts show that Willie was of “Very Good Military Character – A very good man who served his country well and was wounded in its defenses”. He was of “fresh complexion”, 5’ 10 ½” tall with grey eyes and light brown hair. On 22 Aug 1917 and only 21 years of age Willie received a medical discharge.
Willie’s life, like many of his siblings; was not to be a long one. At 25 Duke Street on 3 Mar 1919 and in the presence of his brother Samuel, Willie passed away. His Death Record revealed that he suffered from chronic pleurisy for two years and six months and septic pneumonia for nine days.
Private William Starrett of the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers is interred at the Glendermott Church of Ireland Graveyard. He is Remembered with Honour and Commemorated in Perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. He is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial located in the Diamond in Londonderry.
A Memorial published by his family on the first anniversary of his death read:
“One year ago to-day the voice we loved was stilled
And in our hearts remain a place
That never can be filled
Someday we’ll hear that voice again
Someday we’ll see his smile
If only we wait in patience here
For just a little while”
Willie is another member of my family whom I have never met – one I will never forget – one who has stolen a little piece of my heart.