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  • Christina Drummond

Captain The Honourable Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill, 2nd Battalion, the Life Guards

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Captain The Honourable Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill, 2nd Battalion, the Life Guards, was killed in action at Klein Zillebeke Ridge during the First Battle of Ypres.

The second son of Edward O'Neill, 2nd Baron O'Neill, he was educated at Eton, and joined the 4th militia battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders before transferring to the Life Guards in 1897. He was promoted to lieutenant the following year, saw active service in South Africa during the Second Boer War, 1899-1900, and was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with three clasps. In January of 1902 he was promoted to captain. As an Irish Ulster Unionist Party member, he was elected to the House of Commons for Mid-Antrim in 1910, and was the first Member of Parliament to be killed in the Great War.

In 1902 he had married the daughter of the 1st Marquess of Crewe; they had five children, the youngest, Terence, being only eight weeks old at his father’s death – he later was known as Baron O’Neill of the Maine and was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1963 to 1969.

One account of his death recorded: “He fell while leading his men in a most gallant attempt to save a situation. He was shot on the Klein Zillebeke Ridge, near Ypres, and shouting to his men to line the ridge he was being carried out when he received another wound, and then begged his bearers to leave him and save themselves. He did not know what fear was.”

Captain O’Neill is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres, as well as on the Parliamentary War Memorial in Westminster Hall, along with twenty-one other MPs who died in that war, and he is one of nineteen MPs commemorated by heraldic shields in the Commons Chamber.

Arthur of Shane’s Castle, County Antrim, was 38 years old.

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