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  • Christina Drummond

Captain John Percy Whelan, 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Captain John Percy Whelan, 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Rifles, was killed by a sniper on the Ypres Salient.

He came from an old Irish family, which held estates in County Carlow and County Wicklow; his father was the agent of the Bank of Ireland in Donegall Place in Belfast, and his uncle was the Assistant Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Educated at Loretto College, near Edinburgh, he had served in the Militia, and in August of 1902 was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery, being promoted to Lieutenant the following year. In 1905 he transferred to the Royal Irish Rifles, becoming Captain in 1910, after which he served for two years as Adjutant in the Territorial Force. In 1914 he became ill and was invalided home from Aden - once his doctor deemed him fit for active service, six weeks after the outbreak of the Great War, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment in Flanders.

On the day of his death, a colleague made this report: “Captain Whelan was hit in the chest yesterday and died in about two hours. He was out scouting round with a dog and a rifle. I hear he walked right in rear of the German trenches, and returned safely, and he was hit whilst walking about behind his trench, and in full view of the Germans.” He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres in Belgium.

John, from Osbourne Park in Belfast, was 35 years old and married with a seven-year-old daughter.

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