GALLERY: Mid-Antrim Somme members remember Great War hero

THE actions of a little known World War One hero have been remembered by members of the Mid-Antrim Branch of the Friends of the Somme Association.

A large party of members travelled to the North Antrim village of Derrykeighan to lay wreaths at the gravestone of Pte. John Meeke - widely credited as being the Ulster Division stretcher bearer who helped carry mortally wounded Irish Nationalist MP, Major Willie Redmond, from the tortured battlefield of Messines.

Pte. Meeke carried out his act of compassion on June 1917 and it was fitting that members of the Mid-Antrim Somme group travelled to his last resting place to mark his memory.

It was through a campaign led by veteran World War One researcher, Robert Thompson that a gravestone was erected on the Military Medal winner's plot. Money for the stone, erected beside the Commonwealth War Grave of his brother, Pte Samuel Meeke, was raised by public subscription.

David Gourley, events officer of the Somme Association, noted that Pte. Meeke and Willie Redmond had come from opposite ends of the political spectrum but, like their comrades in the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Division, both had advanced that day with out a thought of orange or green in mind.

"The attack by the 36th and 16th Divisions near Messines was a tremendous success in Great War terms. Yes there were casualties, Redmond being one of the best remembered, but the attack was one of the best organised operations of the war."

After treating Redmond's shrapnel wounds, Meeke made sure the major was taken back to the dressing station when the fighting subsided. Despite his gallant efforts, for which he was awarded the Military Medal, Major Redmond died of his wounds.