October 1 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of one of Lisburn’s war heroes, Captain Walter Charter Boomer, and a local flute band have been paying tribute to the fallen soldier.
For several years the Pride of Knockmore Flute Band in Lisburn have been holding a remembrance parade each November and they have always made a point of honouring Captain Boomer, who came from the Knockmore area.
“The Pride of Knockmore Flute Band have had an interest in their history and have felt that it was very important to remember members of the Armed Forces that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” explained bandmaster Ian Gilbert. “Around the time of the centenary of the Ulster Covenant in 2012 the band began to look more into our local history and what took place in the build up to World War One. During their research one name stood out and that was Captain WC Boomer as he was from the Knockmore area.
“The band have held an Act of Remembrance parade since 2014 to remember Captain Boomer and all service personal killed in both wars and other campaigns. Members of the band have been fortunate to meet relatives of Captain Boomer’s family and hear personal stories.”
Captain Boomer was a pupil of Friends School and his family home was Knockmore House, which was situated on the site of Ronnie Thompson Funeral Directors on the Ballinderry Road in the city. He was the only son of Mr Richard Boomer and Mrs Jane Boomer, who were of Huguenot decent.
Before the war Captain Boomer had decided to fight against Home Rule and joined the 1st Lisburn Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force where he served as a company officer. When the call to arms came to fight a much bigger enemy he did not hesitate and men from the 1st Battalion were recruited into the British Army, forming the 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim Volunteers).
Captain Boomer joined as a Private but was soon promoted and was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on July 2 1915.
He embarked for France from Bordon with D Company 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles 36th Ulster Division in October 1915.
The Lisburn man saw much fighting and a lot of active service at the front and was wounded three times. It was reported that he had been home on sick leave following an attack of malaria and despite having a certificate of leave, he was eager to return to the front. It later emerged he had been given a longer stay of leave but unfortunately Captain Boomer was killed shortly after returning to the front.
He died of his wounds at the age of just 27 on October 1, 1918. Just over a month later the war would end.
Captain Boomer was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion when in command of his company, and it was reported that when the assaulting troops were falling back he rallied them under heavy fire, collecting parties of other units and reorganising the defence of the front line.
“He was the bravest of the brave,” said Pride of Knockmore Flute Band’s Ian Gilbert. “This is just one story of the many men who made the ultimate sacrifice and we remember all of them.”
Members of Pride of Knockmore Flute Band felt that it was important to pay a personal tribute to the local man to mark the 100th anniversary of his death this year, and over the summer, members travelled to Belgium, where the bandmaster laid a wreath at the Captain’s grave.
“The band has felt it was on a journey over the last number of years at it was with great pride the band travelled to Captain Boomer’s grave in Belgium to lay a wreath and pay their respects,” explained Mr Gilbert,
“It was very emotional to finally visit his grave and knowing here lay a young man thousands of miles from his home but gave his life for our freedom.”
Once again this year, the band, together with Lisburn District LOL No 6, will hold an Act of Remembrance in Lisburn city centre on Saturday November 10. “This year will be especially poignant as it will be 100 years after the guns fell silent and the band would like to invite members of the public to join them at the Lisburn war memorial,” added Mr Gilbert.