Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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1035372   Leading Aircraftman William James Bleeks
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 16/01/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (British Air Force)
Date Of Birth: 28/05/1918
Died: 20/06/1942 (Died by accident)
Age: 24
Summary      
William James Bleeks was the eldest son of Robert and Elizabeth Anna Bleeks. He was born on 28th May 1918 in the Stewartstown area. The family lived at Hawthorn Cottage, Stewartstown. William married and lived in Portdown with ih two children. Prior to enlistment William worked in the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown. William served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in Orkney. He was killed in a motor accident on 20th June 1942.
Leading  Aircraftman William James Bleeks
Further Information
William James Bleeks was the eldest son of Robert and Elizabeth Anna Bleeks. Robert Bleeks and Elizabeth Anna Wright were married on 1st December 1914 in the district of Cookstown.
William James Bleeks was born on 28th May 1918 in the Stewartstown area. The family lived at Hawthorn Cottage, Stewartstown, Co. Tyrone.
Known family: Robert Bleeks, Elizabeth Anna Bleeks, Margaret Bleeks (born 4th March 1916), William James Bleeks (born 28th May 1918).
His uncle, Private William Thomas Bleeks, was killed in action on 17th October 1918 while serving in world War One.
William became the husband of Mary Jane Bleeks (nee McCann). They lived in Portadown, County Armagh. They had two children.
Known family: William James Bleeks, Mary Jane Bleeks (nee McCann), Roberta May Bleeks, William James Bleeks.
Photo of William Bleeks
Prior to enlistment William worked in the Seagoe Hotel, Portadown.
William served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. A 24 yr old William James Bleeks is registered in Kirkwall district of Orkney during 1942.
Leading Aircraftsman William Bleeks was on active service at RAF Skeabrae on the Orkney Islands when he was involved in a motor accident on 20th June 1942. He suffered severe head injuries, an extra dural haemorrhage and cerebral compression.
Leading Aircraftsman William Bleeks died at 10:30 that night in the Military Hospital at Kirkwall in the Orkneys as the result of his injuries.
Leading Aircraftsman Bleeks’ remains were returned home to Portadown.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 27th June 1942:
BLEEKS – 20th June (as the result of an accident), Leading Aircraftman William James Bleeks, in his 24th year, eldest son of Robert and Anna Bleeks, Hawthorn Cottage, Stewartstown. Deeply regretted by his sorrowing mother, father, sister and brother.
‘At the river’s crystal brink,
Christ shall join each broken link.’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 27th June 1942:
BLEEKS – 20th June 1942, in Scotland, as the result of an accident, William James Bleeks, of the Royal Air Force, eldest son Mr and Mrs Robert Bleeks, Hawthorn Cottage, Stewartstown.
‘You are not buried here,
Why should we mourn,
All that we cherish dear,
Heavenward hath gone.
Off from that world above,
Look down to this,
Breathing in strains of love,
Unto us bliss.’
Deeply regretted by his uncles and friends. North Street, Stewartstown.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 27th June 1942: Stewartstown
Mrs Robert Bleeks, of Hawthorne Cottage, Stewartstown, has received notification that her eldest son, William James Bleeks, of the Royal Air Force, has been killed in a bomber crash in Scotland. Young Bleeks, who was 24 years of age, was six years on the staff at the Imperial Hotel, Portadown. He joined the Royal Air Force shortly after the outbreak of war. He leaves a widow and one child.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 4th July 1942: Leading Aircraftman W J Bleeks
Much sympathy is felt for the relatives and young widow of Mr William J Bleeks, Leading Aircraftman, Royal Air Force (eldest son of Mr and Mrs Robert Bleeks, of Hawthorne cottage, Stewartstown), who was killed in Scotland on 30th June. His death cast a gloom over Stewartstown and Portadown, where he has resided with his wife and baby before joining up shortly after the outbreak of war. He was on tnhe staff of the Imperial Hotel for six years, where he was well liked by his employers and colleagues alike, and his demise has left a blank in those who loved him best.
His remains were brought to Portadown station from Scotland on Thursday, accompanied by his chum, swathed in the ensign, and brought to his own home where his loved ones had the satisfaction of having him one night, and was laid to rest in Seagoe Cemetery on Friday 28th June. Six pall0bearers and a Commanding Officer carried him to his resting place, and the concourse of friends and neighbours following the hearse bore simple testimony to the esteem enjoyed by the deceased, who was loved by everyone who knew him, and his loved ones have the consolation of knowing that he gave his life for his country, just as if he had fallen on the battlefield, that we, behind, might enjoy freedom of speech, religion and liberty. He di his bit – what more could he do? He was just another innocent victim of this cruel war.
Divine services in the home, in the church and at the graveyard were conducted by Rev J W Applebe, M.A. of Seagoe and Rev F B Worrall of Stewartstown. The chief mourners were:- Robert Bleeks (father), Winthrope Elliott Bleeks (brother), Hamilton Wright and Edward Dickson (uncles), Sergeant J McCann (father-in-law), J McCann, T McCann and G McCann (brothers-in-law), George Bleeks, Jim Bleeks, Harry O’Neill and Jim O’Neill (cousins); J Hayes and other relatives.
Beautiful wreaths laid on the grave were:-
bullet In loving memory of my darling husband, from his sorrowing wife and child.’
bullet ‘In loving remembrance of our darling Willie, from his sorrowing mother, father, sister and brother.’
bullet ‘With deepest sympathy, from all his colleagues on the Motor Transport Section.’
bullet ‘A token of respect and sympathy, from the Officer Commanding and all ranks, R.A.F. Station.’
bullet ‘With deepest sympathy, from all the Directors of the Imperial Hotel Ltd.’
bullet ‘In affectionate remembrance, from aunt Margaret, uncle Edward and children.’
bullet ‘In loving remembrance of Billy, from Lila.’
bullet ‘With deepest sympathy and deep regret, from members of the British Legion, Portadown Branch.’
bullet ‘With deepest sympathy, from the neighbours.’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 4th July 1942: Leading Aircraftman W J Bleeks
BLEEKS – Mr and Mrs R Bleeks and family wish to thank all the kind friends and neighbours who sympathised with them in their great sorrow; to all who sent letters, telegrams and wreaths; to Rev F B Worrall for his untiring attention; Rev J W Appelbe of Portadown; Constable McKeown of Stewartstown; Mr H Newell of Tamneylennon; the Constabulary of Portadown Barracks; Adjutant and Mrs Deacon. Portmore Street; the Adjutant, Lieutenant and all ranks R.A.F. stationed at Kilcomain Castle; also his pall-bearers and officer in command, and his chum, Sergeant F Grahame, who accompanied his remains from Skesbrae; also Fred Pearson. They hope this will be accepted by all. Hawthorne cottage, Stewartstown.
Leading Aircraftsman Bleeks is buried in Seagoe Cemetery, Portadown. His inscription reads ‘FOR EVER WITH THE LORD’
William James Bleeks gravestone
From the Mid-Ulster Mail, date unknown:
'Yes, I heard an Angel whisper, he is here the one you love;
Just a little while before you, in our Father’s home above.
He will rise to walk in Heaven’s own light.'
Submitted by his family
William James Bleeks commemorated locally on Stewartstown War Memorial and on Stewartstown Church of Ireland Roll Of Honour.
William Bleeks is also commemorated on Portadown War Memorial.
The CWGC record Leading Aircraftsman William James Bleeks as the son of Robert and Elizabeth Anna Bleeks. He is also recorded as the husband of Mary Jane Bleeks of Portadown.
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References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 FindAGrave.com Photo of Aircraftman William Bleeks' grave
2 Lurgan Ancestry Brief details of Aircraftman William Bleeks
3 Portadown War Memorial William James Bleeks commemerated on Portadown War Memorial - WW2
4 Private William T Bleeks Uncle of Leading Aircraftman William James Bleeks
5 RAF Commands More details on cause of death
6 Seagoe Parish Church, Portadown William James Bleeks Commemerated on Headstone Inscription at Seagoe Parish Church
7 War Graves Photographic Project Photo of Aircraftman William Bleeks' grave can be purchased here
8 Wartime NI Death due to head injuries received in car accident
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2020