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Derry City Cemetery Series: The young Derry man who fell on the bloody shores of Gallipoli in 1915
23 May 2019
One hundred and four years ago one of the major engagements of the First World War was already well underway. When it ended after eight months, the Gallipoli Campaign had claimed the lives of over 550,000 combatants on all sides. The Allied Forces-Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand lost over 300,000 men whilst the forces of the Ottoman Empire comprised of the Turks supported by the Germans and the Austro-Hungarians accounted for the other 250,000 deaths. The campaign took place between February, 1915 and January of 1916 and resulted not only in a humiliating defeat for the Allies but set Turkey directly on the path of a fight for independence from empire. Essentially, the entente powers of Britain, France and the Russian Empire had sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire by taking control of the waters that provided a supply route to Russia. As a result they launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula to capture the Ottoman capital-Istanbul. The naval attack was repelled and the Allied forces were defeated on land after the many months of fighting. Eventually, the campaign was abandoned leaving nothing but a trail of slaughter behind. On April 28, 1915 about two months into the campaign, Lieutenant William Major Gilliland was killed at Krithia. He was just 20-years-old and the only son of William Louis Gilliland and Elizabeth Major Gilliland of Brook House in Derry. Lieutenant Gilliland joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on February 25, 1914 and went to France with them as part of the Expeditionary Force. Wounded at the battle of Le Cateau, he took a bullet in his right wrist and a shrapnel wound in the leg. After he recovered from that, in August 1914 he was attached to the 3rd battalion of his regiment until February 1915 when he joined the 1st battalion and went with them as part of the Mediterreanean Expeditionary Force towards Turkey. On Thursday, June 3, 1915 at All Saints' Church, Clooney a memorial service was held for Lieutenant William Gilliland, his cousin Captain VK Gilliland and Captain John Goold Adams. It was reported that there was a large congregation present including a number of the officers of the 3rd battalion of the Inniskilling Fusiliers and that the service itself was also very impressive. The Holy Table, chancel and pulpit were draped in black which was broken up by the use of white lilies. The service began by the recital of Chopin's 'Dead March' and the hymn 'For All The Saints Who From Their Labours Rest' was sung. After this. Rev Mr Garstin M.A. who was an army chaplain read the opening lines from the burial office. Psalm 23, 'The Lord Is My Shepherd' was sung next, after which the hymns 'Oh, How Bright These Glorious Spirits Shine' and 'O God, Our Help In Ages Past' were also heard as were lessons from the burial office, the Lord's Prayer. The minister then paid tribute to the dead officers during which he said: "'We are met within these sacred walls, to honour the memory of men who had given the surest proof of the existence within them of the purest and strongest, the most sacred tie which could bind friend to friend. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. "In response to the call of King and country, William Miller Major Gilliland, a son of this parish; Valentine Knox Gilliland, his cousin; and John Goold Adams, son of the Archdeacon of Derry, our late beloved and much respected rector, arose and, with others, their comrades-in-arms, went their way along the path to which duty pointed them with a tread that was firm and full of resolution. "Their step was resolute; but who will say the path which they elected to follow was one upon which they entered without pain or suffering. He before Whom we gather together today, the one and only perfect Man, pursued calmly and resolutely the way of service and of suffering, but not without effort.He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. "It is not possible that the men who hold the chief place in our thoughts today could enter upon the same path without suffering similar to that which He endured, Who is far above the best of us. They, too, as they entered upon that way were called upon to brace themselves to steadfastly set their faces. The parting from loved ones, the prospect of suffering and of death, which the step they were taking involved, all acted as chains to hold them back. "They were, however, men who could not be holden: the voice of duty called, they arose and forsook all and followed it. How closely they followed the way of service and of sacrifice; how fearlessly they performed their duty to this the hallowed mounds on foreign shores which mark the last resting places of all that of them is mortal bear undisputed testimony. "It seems but yesterday that William Gilliland, bearing upon him the marks of service rendered in the battlefields of Flanders, was amongst us pursuing the daily round of duty with his fellow officers and men in barracks, worshipping his God on Sunday in this church. "Now for him and Valentine Gilliland and John Goold Adams, men full of life and hope, the day of service here, service well and faithfully performed, is ended. "They have fought a good fight and are lost to the vision of our eye of flesh, having advanced through suffering and the gate of death further than we along the way which leads upward. Bereaved of the sensible touch of their companionship, their nearest and dearest who are left behind are conscious of an exceeding painful, aching void which Time, though it might ease, can never wholly heal. "Towards these lonely ones upon whom the nation's peril has made such a tremendous demand our hearts go out in deepest gratitude and truest sympathy. Our prayer for them is that they may have faith to look beyond the present and see the glory that lies ahead, and that the vision of that which is yet to be may fill their hearts and minds with the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and enable them to pursue their life strengthened and supported by the confidence that 'He which hath begun a good work in those whom they love will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,' that day when 'Father, sister, child, and mother meet once more,' and be united in unclouded and enduring fellowship." William Louis Gilliland, the father of Lieutenant Gilliland had died back on May 16, 1904 aged just 47. He had been part of the solicitors firm of Messrs Knox, Gilliland and Babington. This left his wife Elizabeth and daughter Louise as the inhabitants of Brook Hall at Culmore. During the Siege of Derry in 1689, Brook Hall was the headquarters of King James' Army and was occupied by the Duke of Berwick who was the commander of the forces. The grounds of the hall slope towards the River Foyle and situated around two miles from Derry city. The original house was replaced around 1780 by a villa and was completed with extensive planting and landscaping-a feature of the house to this day. The new house was altered around 1816 when its balcony was added giving it the appearance of a Regency house. The house and its demesne were bought by the Gilliland family in 1852. Five generations later, the estate is still the centre of the family and have developed a model biomass farm on part of the estate. Back on Sunday, December 5, 1915 a brass tablet in memory of Lieutenant William Major Gilliland was unveiled at All Saint's Church Clooney by Lieutenant Colonel JK McClintock, officer commanding the 3rd battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Present at the event were several more officers, relatives of the deceased and members of the public. The inscription on the tablet reads: "To the glory of God, and in loving memory of William Millar Major Gilliland, Lieutenant Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, only son of William Louis Gilliland, of Eschol, and of E. Catherine Major, his wife. "Brave, debonair, chivalrous, true, greatly beloved, he trusted in God, and was Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end." When he was killed at Gallipoli, Lieutenant Gilliland was buried at Pink Farm Cemetery, Helles near the battleground. It contains the remains of 602 of the soldiers who were killed during the campaign. Both his parents are buried in Derry City Cemetery. Elizabeth Catherine Major Gilliland outlived her husband William by almost 17 years and died on February 10, 1922 aged 59. The couples other child Louise Elizabeth Frances Gilliland married Cyril Bland of Bournemouth in June 1922 at St James' Episcopal Church in London's Piccadilly just a few months after her mother's passing. However, Lieutenant William Gilliland is commemorated on his parents grave in his native Derry with an inscription that reads: "Their only Son, Lieutenant William Millar Major Gilliland. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Killed in action at Gallipoli/Dardanelles on April 28, 1915." He is also commemorated on The Diamond War Memorial in Derry city centre. CAPTION: A rare rest period on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.
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