Ref ID: 1279
Newspaper Photograph of Robert Coates
Name: Robert Coates.
Service Number: 8205.
Battalion: 2nd Battalion.
Regiment: Royal Irish Rifles.
Born: 28th August 1886, Shankill, Belfast.
Died: 7th July 1917.
Address: 64 Carnan Street, Belfast.
Robert (Bob) Coates, son of William and Margaret Jane Coates, lived at 64 Carnan Street, Shankill Road, Belfast.
The 1901 Ireland Census has Robert living at 48 Riga Street, Shankill Road, Belfast with his father, occupation, Machine Work at Works, his mother and sister Agnes, 12 years of age.
The 1911 Ireland Census has Robert living at 28 James Street, Shankill Road, Belfast with his mother, Winder In Mill, sister Agnes, Winder In Mill, and niece Edith, 3 years of age. Roberts occupation at this time is given as labourer In Iron Works.
His mother later moved to 24 Argyle Street, Shankill Road, Belfast.
Robert joined the Royal Irish Rifles.
He was posted as part of the British Expeditionary Forces to France on the 20th of September 1914
On the 9th of July 1916 Robert was wounded at Vimy Ridge during Battle of the Somme.
Robert was a Rifleman in 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles when he was Killed In Action on the 7th of June 1917 at Messines Ridge, Belgium, aged 30 years,
A Postcard sent to his family describes Robert as having served his country for 2 years and 10 months and also as being Faithful Unto Death.
A newspaper article states.
ULSTER AND THE WAR.
THE ACTION OF THE 16TH INST
In a letter sent to his mother at 64 Carnan Street, Belfast, Rifleman Robert Coates has given the following graphic account of the action which took place of the 16th inst.
It will be seen that on that day the Rifles were associated with the Liverpool Scottish, and it was in the same engagement that Lieutenant R A Lloyd, the famous Ulster Rugby footballer, was wounded. Coates, who has been at the front since August without receiving a scratch, says :- We got to a position at 1am, and there were no trenches, so we had to start and dig ourselves in before it would daylight. We were in support the Liverpool Scottish and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Our artillery started to bombard the German trenches about two o'clock on Wednesday morning. I could not describe what it was like. They had many big guns going at once, and then the Germans started to our trenches with their bog guns. It was something awful. At 3 o'clock we were to make a charge. The first men out of the trench when the time came were the Liverpool Scottish. We were not supposed to charge at all except they were beaten back, but as soon as our chaps saw them jumping out of the trench the officers could not hold them back. They let one wild Irish yell, and jumped over the parapet and charged over the field like madmen, and of course I went with the rest. I do not know how I got up into the German trenches, but I got there all right. The Germans were running like rabbits. We captured 500 prisoners. The charge was a great success. We had to hold the trenches all day, and it was something awful. They shelled us for about 18 hours with hundreds of guns, but they could not shift us. We were relived next morning about 1 o'clock, and I never was as glad in my life. Our regiment had about 300 killed and wounded, so thank God I got out safe once more. I think I am the luckiest man in the world.
This letter later also featured in Professor Richard Grayson's (2009) book Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in the First World War
Another local newspaper states
Rifleman Coates, Royal Irish Rifles, has been killed in action. His widowed mother lives at 64 Carnan Street, Belfast.
Bob Coates is especially valued by S.A.S.H as he is the first soldier our group came across while reaching out to our community and asking for materials to scan and stories to archive
Mrs Margaret Hill (Peggy), wife of the late Billy Hill from Crimea Close, Shankill, invited us to her home so that we could scan her old photographs, and amongst them were a couple of Bob her great uncle, including one of him in army uniform, sitting on a chair with a Police Officer in an old RIC uniform next to him, an intriguing caption on the back reads simply, Soldier Only, Policeman's Life Taken Away. Another photograph featured Bob just after he was wounded at Vimy Ridge (he sits furthest left on a step outside a hospital with nurses and other wounded soldiers).
SASH also had the pleasure of being able to photograph his medals.
Margaret still remembers her mother talking about her Uncle Bob, and believes she would be so proud to have seen him included within the Shankill Great War website.
SASH would like thank Mrs Margaret Hill for her valuable donation. Her photographs of her Great Uncle Bob, and his Ultimate Sacrifice, will forever play a part in educating the next generations concerning the Bravery and Sacrifice, of him and all those 6000 men who marched down and off the Shankill Road, over 100 years ago.
Thank You Peggy.
Further local information
In August 2022 the William Sterritt Memorial Flute Band from Banbridge advertised within Facebook that they would be making a pilgrimage of Recognition And Remembrance to France and Belgium, and that they would in fact have the pleasure of playing at the very Menin Gate Memorial where Peggy's great uncle Robert is remembered
On behalf of Mrs Hill SASH reached out and asked if it would be possible to have a photograph taken of Roberts name.
The William Sterritt Memorial FB then got back to SASH during their visit and sent the photographs that we had asked for.
On behalf of Mrs Margaret (Peggy)Hill, and SASH, I would not only like to thank the William Sterritt Memorial FB for this kind act of Remembrance, but also congratulate them for the moving part they played at the nightly Memorial Service at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.
Your kindness and generosity around this issue has been greatly appreciated
Thank You on behalf of Margaret Hill And SASH.
Roberts Soldiers Effects were also left to his mother.
His Pension Application Forms show his mother Margaret, born 1849, as claimant.
Robert received the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914 Star.
Records show us the Robert served within the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles, while the engraving at the back of his 1914 Star shows R.I.F also.
He Is Remembered at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.
To Remember Is To Honour
Shankill Roll of Honour
Photograph, Life Story, Newspaper - Belfast Telegraph