Wreath laid in memory of Ulster Division’s youngest WW1 soldier

Harry Whiteside, Belfast Junior County Master lays a wreath at Carrick War Memorial. INCT 12-024-PSB
Harry Whiteside, Belfast Junior County Master lays a wreath at Carrick War Memorial. INCT 12-024-PSB

The youngest soldier killed in World War I while serving with the Ulster Division has been remembered in Carrickfergus.

The Junior County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast laid a wreath at the town’s War Memorial in memory of Samuel Williamson, who died 100 years ago to the day of the parade, March 29, 1916.

Sammy Williamson was born January 23, 1900. His dad also called Sammy was an iron turner by trade and his mum was called Mary. He had two sisters Lizzie and Bella and two brothers Willie and John.

The family lived for a while at Mervue Street in Tigers Bay before moving to Alexander Park Avenue. Although it is believed they also lived at Mountcollyer Street and at Dee Street in east Belfast.

Sammy’s older brother Willie joined the Army and Sammy decided to follow in his footsteps. The only problem was he was underage, but that didn’t stop him falsifying his age and he enlisted in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (West Belfast Volunteers). He was 14 years of age.

Sammy trained with his regiment and on October 4, 1915 at the age of 15 years and nine months he landed in France as part of the 36th Ulster Division.

Sammy was involved in engaging the enemy with his regiment on several occasions over the winter months. In March 1916 he was part of a patrol that was surprised by a large party of Germans.

During the fighting that followed Sammy Williamson was killed, at 16 years of age.

Writing to Sammy’s mother, a Presbyterian chaplain said: “He was a good soldier, and died bravely while performing a very difficult and dangerous duty. His death is much deplored by all his comrades and officers.”

As a footnote, Sammy’s younger brother John also joined the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, but was discharged in 1916 when they discovered he was only 14 years old.

Samuel Williamson is buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery at the Somme just a few miles north of Albert. His headstone reads:

2789 Rifleman S Williamson, Royal Irish Rifles. 29th March 1916 Age 16.