Private William Blakes

 

 

William Blakes was born in Belfast around 1895, the third of six children, and only son, of railway porter George Blakes and his wife Margaret (nee Gildea). His father died of pneumonia in 1903.

By 1911 William was living with his family at Springwell Street, Ballymena, and working as an apprentice fitter in an iron foundry.

He enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 3 or 4 September 1914 (No.1128) and was sent to France on 20 January 1915 with a group of reinforcements for A and C Squadrons.

Blakes was later attached to No.20 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. On 7 May 1917 he was flying a two-seater FE2d on a bombing mission with Lieutenant Arthur Martin when they were attacked from behind by an Albatros flown by Leutnant von B├╝low of Jasta 18. The engine and controls were shot up and Blakes was forced to land at the Jasta 18 aerodrome at Bissighem. He and Martin were made prisoners of war.

Blakes was initially reported as missing in action, but his family soon received a report of his fate. According to the Ballymena Observer:

News is anxiously awaited by Mrs. Blakes, High Street, Ballymena, concerning the whereabouts of her only son, Trooper William Blakes, North Irish Horse, who has been officially reported missing since May 7th 1917.
(25 May 1917)

Mrs. Blakes, High Street, Ballymena, has received a letter from her son, Trooper Wm. Blakes, North Irish Horse (attached Royal Flying Corps) who was recently reported as missing, informing her that he is a prisoner of war in Germany. Trooper Blakes enlisted in September 1914 prior to which he was employed by Messrs. Morton and Simpson Ltd. Church Street. He was a member of the Ballymena Company 1145 of the Church Lad's Brigade.
(8 June 1917)

Blakes was repatriated in November 1918 and on 14 March 1919 was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve.

 

The extracts from the Ballymena Observer are sourced from Des Blackadder's Ballymena 1914-1918: Carved in stone...but not forgotten. Image of Blakes, from the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph of May 1917, kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com).