WW1 hero's grandchildren find his grave

WW1 hero's grandchildren find his grave

The English grandchildren of a First World War hero from Co Antrim have found his grave - almost 100 years on from his act of bravery.

Ballymoney man John Meeke risked his life to go out into No Man's Land to rescue a badly wounded comrade during the Battle of Messines in Belgium in June 1917.But it wasn't just any soldier that he tried to rescue.His surviving family in England only found out about his bravery recently after conducting research online which led them to Ballymoney Museum.For years, the trail of their family history had been cold.John Meeke's daughter had been sent to an orphanage as an infant after both her parents died.Grand-daughter Susan Hughes told UTV: "I just can't believe what my grandfather did, so brave in such dire circumstances."What he did he actually went out and tried to save a Major and he got shot twice and still refused to leave him and even when the bearers came to take the major off, he still carried on and got shot a third time before he was taken off."It's just amazing that we knew none of this."It wasn't just any major.It was the Irish MP William Redmond, brother of John Redmond MP, that their grand-father had saved.A stretcher bearer in World War One, John Meeke was the rescuer, saving a man who was his political opposite on home soil.The pair were united on the battlefield.John Meeke - an Orangeman who helped a Nationalist - later died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the war, but won a military medal for his actions.Local historian Robert Thompson said: "They were fighting a common war - they were against a common enemy."And that enemy would have killed them both anyway. So he decided to do his best."Earlier this month, his grand-daughters travelled from Birmingham to visit his grave for the very first time.Grand-daughter Lillian Allan said: "It's been just something that we never thought would happen and it has and it's been an emotional day but it's been absolutely wonderful."For his remaining relatives in the Ballymoney area, meeting John Meeke's grandchildren was a memorable experience.Niece Avis Murphy said: "As I look at each one [of them] and the photos that they showed me - the resemblance of my family, it's unbelievable."As well as a war hero for a granddad, the sisters have also found new extended family and friends.


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