Face of battle was local man’s WW1 grandad!

Ballymena man Bobby Allen with the poster in Poperinge. His grandfather is one of the men in this photograph. Pic Kenny Allen
Ballymena man Bobby Allen with the poster in Poperinge. His grandfather is one of the men in this photograph. Pic Kenny Allen

A Ballymena man was staggered to come across a picture of his own grandfather during a trip to to the battlefields of the First World War.

Bobby Allen was among a party from the Mid-Antrim Friends of the Somme branch who were visiting France and Flanders during the recent Somme centenary ceremonies.

William Allen - Royal Engineers.

William Allen - Royal Engineers.

But while those commemorations were poignant enough it was a chance glance at a roadside poster which brought the emotional reality of that conflict right home to Bobby and his sister Isobel Selwoood.

Ahoghill man Kenny Allen, who was recording the visit in pictures, takes up the story.

“We were returning to Ypres after visiting the cemetries at Brandhoek and Poperinge when, on turning a corner, Bobby shouted for

us to stop. He was pointing at a large ‘then and now’ style poster on the roadside and telling us that his grandfather was in the picture!

Isobel Selwood

Isobel Selwood

“Everyone in the van thought that Bobby must have been having a dream, as he had been dozing on and off during the drive, but he was adamant about his identification so we all stopped to look.

And there, on the wall of a cemetery was a large sign containing a photograph of WW1 Soldiers on horseback turning the actual corner we had just come around - but back in 1917,” explained Kenny.

The accompanying group were amazed as Bobby pointed out that one of the riders in the picture was, in fact, his Grandfather.

Bobby’s sister, Isobel Selwood, confirmed the identification because that very picture had been in the family’s possession after all these years.

Bobby said: “Whilst being shown the picture as a young child we always assumed that my Grandad was the lead rider in the photograph but on speaking to my Mum we now know that Grandad is the sixth horseman in the parade. The shock of seeing a photograph that we’d last seen as children in our house was so emotional and it is a moment in time I will never forget.”

Isabel said: “ Bobby’s reaction was so sudden that I thought he was having a bad dream, but he was adamant that my Grandad was in the photograph.

“True enough, on looking at the pictures given to me last night and my Mum confirming that it was indeed him we are overjoyed at the amazing co-incidence.”