Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
17201   2nd Lieutenant Alexander McCrea
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 28/08/2021
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 58th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 18/04/1875
Died: 27/06/1917 (Killed in Action)
Age: 42
Alexander McCrea was the eldest son of Alexander and Margaret McCrea. He was born on 18th April 1875. He was the oldest of at least seven children, all born in the Clogher area. Alexander enlisted in Royal Horse Artillery and is believed to have served in the Boer War. He was in the landings at Gallipoli. Alex was promoted to substantive 2nd Lieutenant. Alex was killed in France on 27 June 1917 aged 42 years. A fellow officer, Lt Sanders, was wounded by a shell and Alex went out to bring him in but a second shell killed them both.
Further Information
Alexander McCrea was the eldest son of Alexander and Margaret McCrea. Alexander McCrea and Margaret Ramsay were married on 31st December 1872 in the district of Dungannon.
Alexander McCrea was born on 18th April 1875. He was the oldest of aleast seven children, all born in the Clogher area.
Known family: Alexander McCrea, Margaret McCrea, Alexander McCrea (born 18th April 1875), James McCrea (born 16th December 1876), Margaret McCrea (born 13th December 1878), John Jack McCrea (born 28th March 1881), Annie McCrea (born 19th April 1883), William McCrea (born 13th September 1885), Mary McCrea (born 10th November 1890).
Newspapers also report there was also a Thomas McCrea and a Robert McCrea (youngest son). These cannot be found on GRONI, nor in the census.
Alexander’s mother, Margaret McCrea, died on 20th March 1893 in the Clogher area, aged 44.
Alexander enlisted in Royal Horse Artillery which later became Royal Field Artillery.
He is believed to have served in the Boer War. It seems from a postcard sent to his sister Margaret that Alex was serving in Plymouth Devon in 1904. The following is transcript of a post card sent to his sister Margaret (Postmark Plymouth 1904):
”Dear M, Arrived here all right on Tuesday, had a good passage across, and a couple of nice girls to look after, as far as London weather very wet here this last two days. Remember me to George and tell him I was sorry I could not see him before I left. What do you think of the new Plymouth. Remain Yours Alex.”
A postcard sent on 18th July 1906 seems to indicate that Alex had just been home on leave and had arrived back in Plymouth the previous evening. Postmark Plymouth 18 July 1906 Mrs G Latewood Mark Street, Dungannon, Tyrone, Ireland:
”I arrived all safe last evening: was sick on boat. and very pleased to get back to Plymouth. Box arrived by different line, had 6/2 to pay, through trying to save 6 at Dungannon. will write at weekend, love to Lucy and Jim weather is fine here. Yours Alex”
Another postcard to Margaret on 14 September 1906 indicates that he and one of the other brothers were still at Plymouth and would be going home on leave the next day. Post mark Plymouth 14 September 1906:
”We are both leaving here at 3 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) will be at Dungannon D.O. on Monday morning Alex”
Postmark Southampton docks 12 February 1907 :
“Just got on board we sail wed Morning. Tom leaves for India on 20 Feb Love to all. Alex”
A letter from brother Tom to sister Margaret indicates that Alex was probably in Malta on 04 July 1907.
From a letter sent by brother Robert to sister Margaret it seems likely that Alex had married Janey Palmer and had a child before 10 December 1909. It also implies that both Janey and the child were with Alex in Malta on this date.
Alex and Janey were married in England They had a son Alexander and a girl Eileen.
They were stationed at Dover during Christmas 1913.
Sergeant Alexander McCrea arrived in the Balkans with the Royal Garrison Artillery / Royal Field Artillery on 24th July 1915.
Medal card
From the Tyrone Courier dated 22nd July 1915: Fine Dungannon Record
Mr Alexander McCrea, Glenadush, Dungannon, has just got news from his youngest son Robert to the effect that he has been promoted to master gunner (warrant officer) at Pembroke Dock. Mr McCrea has given his five sons to the Army. Two of them, James and Thomas, have already laid down their lives in the service. James was all through the South African War and was wounded four times in it. He got the South African medal with eight bars on it and was killed by a native while serving in India the day after he had won £60 and a silver medal for being best horseman in the district. Thomas also served in India and South Africa and died there. Trooper Jack McCrea is at present in France with his regiment, the 5th Irish Lancers, while Warrant Officer Alexander McCrea of the Royal Garrison Artillery has received a commission and is at the Dardanelles.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 23rd July 1915: Five Sons in the Army
Mr Alexander McCrea, Glenadush, Dungannon, has given all his sons, five in number, to the British Army. His eldest son, Warrant Officer Alexander McCrea, has received a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery and is at the Dardanelles. The second son, James, served throughout the South African War and was afterwards killed in India by a native. Thomas also served in India and South Africa, and died in the latter country. Trooper John McCrea, 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers, is with his regiment in France, and the youngest son, Robert, has just been promoted a master gunner (warrant officer) at Pembroke Dock.
The following is a transcripts of letters sent by Alex to his sister Maggie 32. on 24 September 1915:
”Dear Maggie, I was very pleased to receive your welcome letter today and to hear you were all well and to get so much news from you letters are always acceptable out here and we are always on the look out for mail boats. Well I also am in the best of health and strong and hardy, I think I am about the only one in the battery who has not had to see a Dr since I came out, still of course there is always a chance of having to see him in a way that we do not want to. I was wondering if McKinstry was out here, as I have seen his Regt. and could tell you where they are and several interesting stories about them, if I was allowed to. Was surprised to hear Mary was up seeing you as I have not heard from her or about her for a long while. I have just written to Janey and I was telling her she should go over to see you, so if she brought her son and daughter with her it would just about complete a decent noise; I know Alex is very anxious to see that donkey. Was glad to hear John had a leave however short it was about time. by the way the McCrea's do not seem much to blame for the low birth rate I was reading about in the papers. Yes a courier would be very acceptable as papers are all eagerly read by all hands. Yes there seems to be plenty away from about Dungannon. Strange about you mentioning it as I heard a chap say in a place I was in about 10 days ago, that all the Orangemen were still at home and that he was a Home Ruler from Drogheda. He did not say it to me, he was talking to some chaps, but for some reason I told him he was a "liar". He was inclined to show fight; so I had to hand him over a "dream tablet" on the jaw with the left and right. Some of his chums got him a drop of brandy from the doctor and carried him away quietly. Some of my chums said they were expecting to see some sport when I stopped talking to listen to the chap's conversation; but it did not last long. of course you might not have thought I would say anything being such a home ruler myself, but I suppose after all, it is different having a friendly family row; to letting outsiders interfere in private affairs. In any case I think the gentleman will make sure next time that all the company present are friendly. I think I have told you all the news I am allowed to. Was glad to hear father was in good form so with best wishes to George and all the children and hoping to hear from you soon again I will remain Your Bro Alex”
The 24 September 1915 saw Alex as a Sergeant. in the 42 Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison of the Artillery British Expeditionary Force in the Mediterranean. He was in the landings at Gallipoli.
Alex was promoted to substantive 2nd Lieutenant with effect from 18 December 1915.
On 11 April 1916 he wrote that he had arrived somewhere in France:
“Dear Maggie, I expect there is a letter of yours following me around again as I am writing this "somewhere at sea" so they may not reach me for some time. Well I am still in the best of health and when you write put 42(S) Battery R.G.A. B.E.F. France on your letters as I think that will find me all right. We are seeing a bit of the world during this war in any case, so I suppose they want us to finish up the argument in France. We are having a very nice trip so far and it is much nicer travelling 1st Class on a troopship than 3rd. I have no news of an exciting nature so with love to all I will now Remain Your Brother Alex. P.S. Could not post above until now. Have arrived safely "Somewhere in France" Weather very different from Egypt as it is pouring rain today. By the way it is my Birthday today 18th April. No more news now love to all Yours – A”
Alex was killed in France on 27 June 1917 aged 42 years. The circumstances of his death were that a fellow officer, Lt. Sanders, was wounded by a shell and Alex went out to bring him in but a second shell killed them both. He is buried in Belgium
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 3rd July 1917:
Second Lieutenant Alexander McCrea, Royal Garrison Artillery, killed in action on 28th June, was the second son of Mr Alexander McCrea, Savingsbank Street, Dungannon. This officer, who had served in the Boer war, had seen a good deal of fighting in the present campaign. He took part in the operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula, including Suvla Bay, and gained his commission on 18th December 1915. He went to France some months ago. The deceased was one of five brothers serving with the colours.
From the Tyrone Courier dated Thursday 5 July 1917: Lieutenant A. McCrea
Intimation has been received of the death in action on 28th June of Lieutenant Alexander McCrea, Royal Garrison Artillery R.G.A, second son of Mr Alex McCrea, Savingsbank Street, Dungannon. The deceased, who was one of five brothers with the colours, had seen considerable service both in the Boer war and in the present campaign, having come through the Suvla Bay and Dardanelles operations. He gained his commission in 1915 and went to France some months ago.
2nd Lieutenant Alexander McCrea is buried in Ferme-Olivier Cemetery in Belgium, next to Lieutenant Saunders, the man whose life he was attempting to save. His inscription reads: TO MEMORY EVER DEAR FROM HIS WIFE & CHILDREN DEEPLY MOURNED
Alexander McCrea's gravestone - next to Lt Saunders.
The following is a transcript of his In Memoriam card
The Last Call :
The call was sudden, amidst shot and shell,
While soothing another's wounds,
We cannot, Lord, thy purpose see,
But all is well that's done by Thee.
The bitter blow was hard to bear,
To part with one we loved so dear,
Our loss is great, we'll not complain,
But hope in heaven to meet again.
In Loving Memory of Alexander McCrea Lieut. R.G.A.
The Dearly Beloved Husband of Janey McCrea
Killed in France June 27th 1917
Aged 42 years
In the midst of life we are in death
The following is a transcript of a press cutting
”Lieut Alexander McCrea R.G.A., killed in action, ,was the eldest son of Mr A McCrea, Dungannon. He served in the Egyptian campaign, took part in the Suvla Bay and the Gallipoli operations, and was about two years in France.”
Another in memory card reads:-
In Loving Memory of Lieutenant Alexander McCrea (56 Siege Battery, R.G.A.) Killed in France , June 27th, 1917 Aged 42 years Deeply mourned by Wife and all his Relatives
No wife's care did him attend,
Nor o'er him did a father bend,
No sister by to shed a tear,
No brother by his words to hear,
Wounded, dying, in a foreign land
No father by to take his hand,
No wife near to close his eyes,
Far from his native land he lies.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. -Psalm XXIII.,4.
The following is a transcript of a letter sent to his father.11a and 12 Mercer St, Dublin 7.7.17 Mr A McCrea:
”Dear Sir, I heard from my son Bomber Thomas Purcell 58 Siege Bty R.G.A. on yesterday and he told me the sad news of your dear son being killed in action. I cannot express to you the sorrow I feel for you in your sad bereavement. I know (by the way my son writes) that your son was a noble officer and well beloved by all his men, and they all feel his death keenly he asked me if Lt. McCrea's Photo was in any of the papers to be sure and send a few , as he would like to have it at all costs, i got a weekly Irish times, and there read his name amongst others in the Roll of Honour list but in today's Independent. I see his photo and will send him a few copies. It was only last week when writing to my boy, I told him I missed Lt. McCrea's signature on his letters. He very often signed them as you will see by the one I enclose. I hope (being a stranger to you), you will pardon the liberty I am taking in writing to you, but I feel I must do so to offer you my condolences I trust you are bearing this trouble bravely knowing your dear son gave his life in a good cause. Again assuring you of my deepest sympathy I am dear sir. Respectfully yours Katie Purcell."
"McCREA- In proud and loving memory of our dear brothers, Lieut. A/Captain Alexander McCrea, Royal Garrison Artillery, killed in Action in Belgium July 1917: also of James and Tom McCrea, 9th Queens Lancers, who are buried in India and South Africa. Inserted by their brothers and sisters, Maggie Latewood, Annie McKinstry, Mary Rea, John McCrea (late 5th Royal Irish Lancers) and Master Gunner Bob McCrea (Royal Artillery). "You are always in our thoughts."
2nd Lieutenant Alexander McCrea is commemorated locally on Dungannon War Memorial.
Read more
Relevant Dungannon Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Glenadush, Derrygortrevy Castlecaulfield Newspaper report places family in Glenadush 54.507205 -6.799815
GRONI References
TYPE - B:Birth M:Marriage D:Death | GRONI | SIBLING: brother or sister | NOTES: spelling inconsistencies, etc.
Date Type Surname First name Relationship GRONI Ref Notes
31/12/1872 M Ramsay Margaret Parent M/1872/T1/1438/1/156b
31/12/1872 M McCrea Alexander Parent M/1872/T1/1438/1/156a
25/04/1875 B McCrea Alexander Casualty U/1875/111/1026/3/371
16/12/1876 B McCrea James Sibling U/1877/111/1026/4/94
13/12/1878 B McCrea Maggie Sibling U/1879/111/1026/5/68 Ramsey
28/03/1881 B McCrea John Sibling U/1881/111/1026/6/39
19/04/1883 B McCrea Annie Sibling U/1883/111/1026/6/233
13/09/1885 B McCrea William Sibling U/1885/111/1026/6/419
10/11/1890 B McCrea Mary Sibling U/1890/111/1026/7/324
20/03/1893 D McCrea Margaret Parent D/1893/111/1026/5/492 died age 44
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 census lists McCrea family Does not list Alexander as living with te family at house 2 in Broole Street, Dungannon, Tyrone
2 1911 census lists McCrea family Does not list Alexander as living with the family at house 7 in Miltown Street (North), Dungannon, Tyrone
3 2nd Presbyterian Dungannon Alexander McCrea, killed in action.
4 Photo of Alexander McCrea's headstone
5 Geneology Page Comprehensive information on Alexander McCrea
6 National Archives UK Medal Card can be purchased here
7 War Graves Photographic Project Photo of Alexander McCrea's headstone can be purchased here.
Dungannon District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2015-2023