Article by Harold Gordon
"When I heard that Down
County Museum was mounting an exhibition about
Down men who served in the First World War, 90
years after the outbreak of that terrible conflict
I took the opportunity to share
the story of my three uncles, William John Peake
(known as Jack), Reuben Herbert Peake and Joseph
Hadden Peake, who all joined up in Newtownards" Harold
uncles were the sons of John and Elizabeth Peake.
John came from Glasgow to Downpatrick in the 1880s
and eventually settled on the estate of Lord Dunleath
at Ballywalter. John was a cabinet maker and French
polisher, and survived to the grand old age of 93.
He died on 25 June 1954 and was buried in Whitechurch
John and Elizabeth had 8 children:
Jack was the oldest, born in 1892, then came Dora,
Mabel (my mother), Reuben and then Eddie, who died
young. Next came Joe and Bobbie, who were twins,
born on 11 January 1900 at the very beginning of
the new century, and finally Kathleen arrived in
When the First World
War began, Jack was old enough to join up. He
joined the 13th Battalion, 36th Ulster Division
of the Royal Irish Rifles, becoming a Corporal.
Reuben, only 17, grew
a moustache and succeeded in joining the 7th
Battalion of the Royal Irish
Jack arrived in France
in October 1915, and on 8 December he sent
still survives, to his sister Mabel. After
basic battle training, his unit headed for the Somme
area, where it sheltered in the Avelvy
from Jack Peake to his sister Mabel,
1915 (Courtesy of Harold Gordon)
Peake's First World War medals
of Harold Gordon)
On the fateful 1 July,
the opening day of the battle of the Somme, Jack
was called into action. The battle commenced
at 7.30am along a 20-mile front.
himself by leading his men over the top after
his sergeant was killed, and for that he
earned the Military Medal. He was killed in
same day, aged 24, and he was buried at Thiepval.
Two of his friends from
Ballywalter, Edward Curry and Robert Regan,
died alongside him.
prized medals were passed on to me by my
aunt Kathleen, who died in 1985.
Reuben Peake was wounded in action on the Western
Front, and spent some time
convalescing in a hospital in England before
returning home for a short time in 1917.
surviving photograph of him (right), with
two fellow soldiers from the Leinster Regiment,
probably taken at the hospital where he was
He later returned to
Flanders and fought in the Third Battle of
Ypres. He was killed
Ypres on Wednesday 8 August 1917, when
the military hospital where he was lying wounded
was bombed by the enemy.
His name is inscribed
on the Menin Gate, Ypres, with a total
55,000 names of those lost or killed in
Menin Gate is one of four memorials
to the missing in Belgian Flanders, which cover
the area known as the Ypres Salient.
Jack's names are also inscribed on
the War Memorial monument in their
home village of Ballywalter.
Peake (right) and two soldiers of the
Leinster Regiment in a military hospital,
The Menin Gate,
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