Wednesday, 28 June 2017

APPERSON, George Johnston

Major, 13th Batt., Royal Irish Rifles
Died: 13/06/1950
Age: 59

Interred in Bangor cemetery

George Johnston Apperson was born in Wellington Place, Dundalk on the 6th January 1891. He was the eldest son of Francis Apperson, then a drapers assistant and his wife Margaret nee Johnston.

Shortly after, the family moved to Belfast were they resided in Jocelyn Avenue and, as his fathers prospects improved, to Bangor where they are recorded in the 19i1 census living in Sheridan Drive.

On leaving school George became a clerk in the firm of Messrs. W. and R. Barnett, grain merchants in Belfast and played Rugby football for North of Ireland.

On the formation of the UVF, he became a member of A Company, 1st Battalion, North Down Regiment and on the outbreak of war enlisted in the 13th (1st County Down Volunteers) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in November 1914 and received his training at Clandeboye and Seaford before going to France with his battalion.

In April 1916 he was wounded in several places when a bomb exploded prematurely.

On his return to duty in August 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant but was wounded again two months later. He received his promotion to Captain in January 1917.

In March 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross: "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He, single-handed, attacked a party of five of the enemy and shot two of them with his revolver. He has at all times set a splendid example of courage and determination."

In September 1917, he was promoted to Major.

When the 13th Battalion was disbanded, he served with the 12th (County Antrim) Battalion and was in command of the cadre of the 1st Battalion on their return to England in May 1919 and returned to Belfast in June.

After the war he returned to W. & R. Barnett, Ltd., the Belfast grain importers, and in October 1921 he married Dorothy Boyd. He became Barnett's manager in South America until 1925 and eventually became a director of the firm.

On the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered again, and after serving at several home stations was appointed to command the Queen's University Senior Training Corps, holding that post until 1940. He was made an honorary M.A. of the University.

Major Apperson was very active in the ex-Service community. He was chairman of the Ulster Division ex-Officers’ Association and of the British Legion’s Club in Chichester Street. He was a member of the Council of the Royal Ulster Rifles Association and vice-chairman of the Belfast branch of the British Legion.

APPERSON – June 13, 1950, in Hospital, George Johnston, Major, M.C., M.A., dear husband of Dorothy Apperson, 151, Malone Road, belfast. House and funeral strictly private. No flowers, please.
Northern Whig, 14th June 1950

Thursday, 22 June 2017

OSWALD, Oswald Charles Williamson

Brigadier-General, Royal Artillery
Died: 25th August 1938
Age: 74

Interred in Bangor cemetery

Charles Williamson was born in Meerut, India, in 1864, the son of Colonel James Williamson (formerly Oswald)† of the 29th Punjab Infantry.

Educated at St. Peter's School, York, and Woolwich, Charles enlisted with the Royal Artillery in 1883 with the rank of Lieutenant and promoted Captain on 1 January 1892.

He served in the Burmese expedition of 1887-89 were he was slightly wounded and awarded Medal with two clasps.

He had a further award for service in the Waziristan Expedition of 1894-95; served with the Chitral Relief force under Sir Robert Low in 1895 (Medal with clasp); saw action in the the campaign on the North West Frontier of India under Sir William Lockhart in 1897-98 with the Tochi Field Force in command of No 6 (Bombay) Mountain Battery (clasp); fought in the South African War, receiving the Queen's Medal; and later saw action in Persia.

He was promoted to Major in 1901, Lieut.-Colonel in 1911 and Colonel in 1914.

He served throughout the Great War in Belgium, France, Macedonia, and Palestine. He was twice wounded and mentioned in despatches and received his appointment as Brigadier-General in 1917.

In 1919 he was G.O.C. Kantara (Suez area) and acted as Brigadier-General Royal Engineers in Egypt and Palestine, retiring with the rank of Hon. Brigadier-General in 1920.

He was made a Companion of the Bath in the Kings Birthday Honours in 1917 and awarded the Order of the Crown of Italy later that year. He also received the Order of St. Michael and St. George and the Order of the Nile (3rd Class) in 1918.

In 1908 he married Margaret (Meta) Carson, a daughter of Mr. William Carson, J.P., of Carnalea House, Bangor.

Brigadier-General Oswald wrote several publications including "61, or How Some Wheels Went Round,"‡ and contributed to several newspapers.

Oswald -- August 25, 1938, Brigadier-General Charles Williamson Oswald, C.B., C.M.G., F.R.G.S. (late R.A.), of Breathtulla, Helen's Bay, Co. Down.
Belfast Newsletter, 26th August 1938

†: I would be interested if anyone was able to enlighten as to why Col. Williamson was "formerly Oswald" or why Charles adopted the surname Williamson-Oswald later in his career.

‡: "61, or How Some Wheels Went Round" was a unit history of the 61st Heavy Artillery Group in the Great War. The unit, which was mainly composed of men enlisting under the 'Derby Scheme' midway through the war, served at Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium, on the Macedonian front and in Palestine. Oswald was the 61st's commander.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

PATON, Norman Giles

Sub-Lieutenant, HMML No. 403, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Died: 22/08/1918
Age: 32

Recorded on Chatham Naval Memorial
Recorded on family memorial Bangor cemetery

Norman Giles Paton was born in 4 Osborne Terrace, Belfast, on 2nd October 1886. He was the son of John Paton, a commission agent (who hailed from Scotland) and Maggie Paton nee Brown. The family moved to Bangor some time before 1911 where the census shows them living in Seaforth Road.

He attended Methodist College in Belfast before working as a Manufacturers Agent in the linen trade with his father and a brother, Frank, in Linenhall Street.

Norman received a commission as Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 31st May, 1918, and served on HMS Hermione and ML 403. He was killed when ML 403 was torpedoed in the North Sea on 22nd August, 1918. He is recoded as buried at sea.

PATON, NORMAN GILES, Sub-Lieut., Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, eldest s. of John Paton, of Ardmore, Bangor, Linen Merchant, by his wife, Maggie, dau. of Francis Brown; b. Belfast, 2 Oct. 1886; educ. Methodist College there; was associated with his father in business; appointed Sub-Lieut. Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve 31 May, 1918; served on H.M.S. Hermione and M.L. 403, and was killed when M.L. 403 was torpedoed in the North Sea 22 Aug, 1918. Buried at sea. He was an enthusiastic and skilful yachtsman; unm.
Du Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, vol. 4


SUB-LIEUTENANT NORMAN G. PATON, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, killed on the 22nd August, was the eldest son of Mr. John Paton, Ardmore, Bangor. Deceased, who was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast, was in the linen business with his father in Linenhall Street until he obtained his commission about three months ago. His brother,
    Mr. Frank Paton, was invalided out of the Army after three year' service with the Royal Irish Rifles.
Belfast Newsletter, 24th August 1918


ML 403 was stationed at Whitby, and was called upon to recover and defuse a German torpedo that had been fired at a northbound steamer on 21st August 1918. The steamer's crew watched the torpedo miss, and run into the rocks on the western side of the bay without exploding.

On 22nd August, it was decided to recover the torpedo, and ML 403, commandered by Lieutenant Arthur Whiting, RNVR was tasked with the recovery. ML 403 sailed out of Whitby with a crew of ten, plus two torpedo experts. A large crowd of locals gathered on the cliff above to witness the recovery.

The torpedo was safely lifted out of the water, but it would seem that around 14:00, while the torpedo experts attempted to defuse it, it exploded, setting off the depth charges and the petrol tank aboard ML 403. The explosions broke windows, brought down ceilings, and damaged roof tiles in the village of Runswick. The bow of ML 403 was blown close to the shore.

Miraculously, the coxswain, who had been feeling unwell, and who was lying in the crew fo'c's'le, survived.
Information found on the Great War Forum.


His Majesty's Motor Launch (HMML) 403 was destroyed by explosion whilst trying to salve a German torpedo in Runswick Bay 22nd August 1918.

These launches were extremely dangerous and some were lost by fire before the fuel for their petrol engines was reduced to 1 part petrol to 2 parts parrafin. Forty of these boats were delivered to the French. They were mostly built in Canada and were 46 tons gross, 75 x 12 x 4 feet, petrol engined 440 bhp giving 19.5 knots. Most of the crews were ex Motor Boat section. MBs were used in all theatres.
Information from Dittmar and Colledge.

Portrait photo from A History of Methodist College Belfast by J.E. Henderson, courtesy of Nigel Henderson.