WW1 hero's grandchildren find his grave

Published Wednesday, 20 August 2014
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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.

© UTV News
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4 Comments
Robert Thompson in Bushmills, N Ireland10743 wrote (120 days ago):
Now you know why I was the means of putting up that headstone in Derrykeighan old cemetery.
John Meeke in Sydney, Australia wrote (121 days ago):
Richard Meeke who posted above kindly alerted me to this article. I can confirm that John Meeke from Ballymoney is definitely my Great Uncle as I have been conducting extensive family tree research and now have an on-line family tree with 249 Meekes, their spouses and children etc. I also have WW1 era postcard type photographs of John Meeke and his brother Samuel that were passed down by my father, Thomas Meeke, John Meeke's nephew. If any of the ladies mentioned in the article would like to contact me (hopefully UTV will be able to let you know my email address) I would be very happy to communicate with them and send them a link to my on-line family tree where they will no doubt discover many more unknown relatives. Well done UTV.
Richard Meeke in Greenisland wrote (121 days ago):
There is an outside chce I MAY(?)be related with the two MEEKE brothers from Derrykeighan. Have liaised in the past with Robert Thompson (local historian). Have been in contaith MEEKE's America and more recently in Australia, JOHN MEEKE who possibly has a better chance of being related to the Derrykeighan MEEKE's. Will be letting him know via your web page to update him for whatever action he may wish to take!
doublebrandy in ards wrote (121 days ago):
Bravest of the brave. Makes you proud to be an Ulsterman reading articles like this. Also shows the idiots who do not respect the fallen that German bullets didnt discriminate as to whether youre an Orangeman or nationalist
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