| Robert Irwin was the son of Annie Irwin. He was born in Castledawson.
| Robert enlisted in Cookstown about 1908. He was living in Castledawson.
| Prior to going to the war, Private Irwin was with his battalion in India.
| From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 6th February 1915:
| Signaller Edward Harte and Privates Robert Irwin and Matthew J McAnary, all natives of Castledawson and members of the 1st Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers, which has recently returned from India for service in France, were given a few days leave last week and visited their homes in the village. When the three joined the colours eight years ago the first battalion was on the point of leaving for foreign service, so they have been absent from their home for that time, and have been stationed in Malta, Crete, China and India. Signaller Harte has gained a number of proficiency certificates in his special branch, and all three look fit, and are looking forward with the professional soldier’s eagerness to active service.
| Private Robert Irwin was twice wounded at the Dardanelles. He was reported wounded in June 1915.
| From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 5th June 1915:
| Private M J McAnary, brother of Mrs Johnston, Leitrim, Hillhead, both of whom were wounded in a bayonet charge at the Dardanelles with their regiment 1st Inniskilling.
| From the Belfast Newsletter dated 7th June 1915:
| Amongst the latest notifications of me from the Castledawson district who have been wounded are :- Private M J McAnary, brother of Mrs Johnston, Leitrim, and Private Robert Irwin, son of Mrs Irwin, Hillhead, both of the 1st Inniskillings, wounded at the Dardanelles. Private Alex Loughrey ( a well-known South Derry footballer), son of Robert Loughrey, Bridge Street, and Private James Pickering, son of Mr Robert Pickering, Aughrim, are also wounded.
| From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 7th August 1915: Castledawson
| To the Roll of Heroes which the war has made, must now be added the names of two Castledawson men. Privates MJ McAnary (No 9197) and Robert Irwin (No 9214), both of the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, have been recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Private McAnary is a brother of Mrs J Johnston, of the townland of Leitrim, and Private Irwin is a son of Mrs A Irwin, Hillhead. After giving particulars as to the dates and place (Gallipoli Peninsula), the official recommendation states:-
| ‘In face of a very heavy fire these two men ran out of a trench and brought in a Royal Engineer officer who had been wounded in both legs and was unable to move. The officer’s life was saved by their action.’
| McAnary and Irwin were both wounded shortly after landing at Gallipoli, and shortly after their heroic deed, Private Irwin was shot, the bullet lodging near the spine, making it’s extraction difficult. He is at present in hospital in Alexandria, and in a letter to his mother says that he is doing well, and that it may not be necessary to extract the bullet.
| From the Belfast Newsletter dated 11th September 1915
| Private Robert Irwin, of the 1st Inniskillings, who was twice wounded at the Dardanelles, is at present on leave at his home at Hillhead, Castledawson. Private Irwin, who has eight years’ service, was, with Private McAnary, instrumental in saving the life of a wounded officer of the Engineers. The Engineers were out during the night putting up wire, and just at dawn the Turks spotted them and began firing. He saw the officer fall, and ran out to him. McAnary and he arrived at the officer together, McAnary took him by the shoulders and Irwin by the legs, in one of which he had been shot. Just as they got him up, another bullet passed between his arms and severely wounded him in the other leg. It is understood that Irwin and McAnary have been recommended for their heroism.
| While in Gallipoli, Private Irwin and Private Matthew McAnary were instrumental in saving the life of a wounded officer of the Engineers. The Engineers were out during the night putting up wire, and just at dawn the Turks spotted them and began firing. He saw the officer fall, and ran out to him. McAnary and he arrived at the officer together, McAnary took him by the shoulders and Irwin by the legs, in one of which he had been shot. Just as they got him up, another bullet passed between his arms and severely wounded him in the other leg.
| From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 27th November 1915: Castledawson Soldiers Mentioned in Despatches
| Among the names mentioned by Sir Ian Hamilton in his recently published despatch, were those of two Castledawson men, Private (now Lance Corporal) Matthew J McAnary and Private Robert Irwin, both of the 1st Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers.
| ‘On the night of 6th June, a company of Royal Engineers were engaged in putting up wire entanglements in front of the trench occupied by the Inniskillings. Dawn came before the work was completed and the Engineers out there on the coverless knoll at once became targets for the Turks, scarcely thirty yards away. The first man to fall was the officer in charge, and heedless of the murderous fire, Private Irwin leapt from the trench as he fell and ran to his assistance. The only other Castledawson man in the battalion was Lance Corporal McAnary, and it is a remarkable fact that although separated by a number of sections, and without either knowing the other’s intention, these two should so gallantly risk their lives at the same instant. It was only when they reached the fallen officer that they recognised each other. The officer had been shot through the leg, and just as McAnary and Irwin lifted him, a second bullet severely wounded him on the other leg. The official account of the incident says:- ‘In face of deadly rifle fire, these two men ran from the trench and brought in a wounded Royal Engineers officer. Their actions saved the officer’s life.’
| Lance Corporal M J McAnary is a brother of Mrs Joseph Johnston, Leitrim, Castledawson, and had eight years’ service when he came with his battalion from India. Previous to the deed recorded above, he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel; and subsequently while leading his company of bomb throwers, he was shot in the knee, from the effects of which wound he is still suffering. A few minutes before being hit, a bullet passed through his helmet, grazing the hair. He is at present on leave at Castledawson.
| Private R Irwin, who is a son of Mrs A Irwin, Hillhead, Castledawson, also came from India to Gallipoli. He was twice wounded, once in the head by shrapnel and next by a rifle bullet which he still carried embedded in his body. On one occasion he risked his life to succour a German officer who had laid between the trenches for three days. After binding up his wounds, he managed to bring him safely into the British trench as a prisoner. He is at present at the regimental headquarters in Derry City.
| Both Private Robert Irwin and Private Matthew McAnary received the Military Medal for their actions.
| Private Robert Irwin was mentioned in dispatches by Sir Ian Hamilton.
| Private Robert Irwin M.M. was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in France when he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on Saturday 1st July 1916.
| From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 19th August 1916: Castledawson
| Mrs Annie Irwin, Hillhead, is anxious for news of her son, Private Robert Irwin, 1st Inniskillings, who is reported missing. Private Irwin, who was wounded at Gallipoli, was mentioned in dispatches by Sir Ian Hamilton and was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in the peninsula.
| From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 19th August 1916: Castledawson
| Lance Corporal M J McAnary, who took part in the rescue of an officer which won himself and Private Irwin the Military Medal, is on leave at his sister’s, Mrs J Johnston, Leitrim, recovering from a bad wound in the foot. Lance Corporal McAnary was twice wounded at Gallipoli.
| It would seem that Robert Irwin made no Will, so a signed witness statement was required.
| NUNCUPATIVE OR MISSING WILL: I Thomas Lennox of Bridge Street, Castledawson, hereby certify that Private R Irwin, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, made the following statement to me on 7th September 1915. “Uncle, I may be killed, and if so I want you to know that I have between £8 & £9 pounds to my credit in Army accounts. I want you to see that my mother gets this and anything else belonging to me, should I fall”. Signed Thomas Lennox. His mark.
| Witness certificate 1: I H A Macaulay, Schoolmaster, Moyola School, Castledawson, certify that the above statement, signed in my presence, is, in my opinion, a true statement of fact My conversations with the deceased soldier on his last leave from the front would bear out the above. H A Macaulay.
| Witness certificate 2: I have reason to believe that the signed statement of Thomas Lennox above, represents the wishes and intentions of the soldier named. Robert Kirkpatrick, Rector of Castledawson, Co Derry. 12 May 1917.
| Private Robert Irwin M.M. is buried in Y-Ravine Cemetery Beaumont Hamel France. He shares a gravestone with Corporal W G Upton.
| The photo above has been kindly donated by Alan Rosborough of the Mid Antrim branch of the Friends of the Somme Association.
| Private Robert Irwin M.M. is commemorated on Castledawson War Memorial.