We Remember: Private Edward Adams (1890-1916)

My Military Ancestor Challenge

Today I came across a challenge issued by genealogy blogger Patricia Greber to honour our military ancestors in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.  Patricia’s challenge motivated me to write a blog post about one of my own ancestors who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.  I only recently became aware of this particular ancestor’s story, but it’s one that I found quite moving.  His name was Edward Adams.

My Connection to Edward Adams

My own connection to Edward Adams is a very distant one.  According to my family tree, he’s my first cousin, three times removed.  Although I touched on Edward’s story in my previous blog post, I felt that with Remembrance Day approaching, his particular story needed to be told.

Who Was Edward Adams?

Born on November 4, 1890 in Belfast, Ireland, Edward was the youngest of four children born to a Shipsmith named William Adams and his wife Eliza Ann.  Edward’s family lived at 32 Cullingtree Street, in a working class neighbourhood near the centre of Belfast.  This part of the city has long since been redeveloped, and the street no longer exists today.

When Edward was only eighteen, he experienced the loss of his mother and older sister Mary, who died within weeks of each other.  The following year an inquest was held into his brother William’s death, who was apparently in a weakened state of health when he died of a heart attack due to exposure to the cold.  When Edward’s father died of a heart attack in 1911, Edward and his sister Ellen were the only surviving members of their family.

For God & Ulster

Like so many other young men of his generation, Edward enlisted to serve his country during the Great War.  As a young able bodied man, Edward would have felt a strong obligation to do his part for King and Country.   No doubt many of his friends and family members had also enlisted.  Many of them probably thought the war would be over by Christmas.  Then again, the world had never seen a war like this one.

We are fortunate to have access to Edward’s military records, as many records from the Great War have not survived.  Edward likely enlisted and began training in September/October 1914, and we know that he arrived in France on October 5, 1915.

Edward Adams
Edward Adams – Medal Index Card

Edward’s rank was that of a private, and as a non-officer he would have been considered part of what was referred to as the ‘rank and file’.  His regimental number was 14/16158, and he served with D Company, 14th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.  His regiment was part of a larger group known as the 36th Ulster Division.  The Ulster Division distinguished itself early in the war, and the mural at the top of this blog post indicates the different battles they were involved in.

Sacrifice & Devotion

Rifleman Edward Adams was killed in action on May 6, 1916 in Northern France.  Edward’s death was reported in local Belfast newspapers, several of which are included below:

Edward Adams
Northern Whig May 16, 1916


Edward Adams
Death of Edward Adams

A third article regarding the death of Edward Adams appeared in the Northern Whig on May 20, 1916.  It is quite moving in that it provides details of a letter that was written by a Captain Monard to Ellen Adams regarding the circumstances around her brother’s death. The article can be seen below.

Edward Adams
Death of Edward Adams

The picture below of Private Edward Adams was provided courtesy of Great War Belfast Clippings.  A special thank you goes out to Nigel Henderson, Great War Researcher, History Hub Ulster for sharing this.

Edward Adams
Death of Edward Adams

Online records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission indicate that Edward was laid to rest in France at the Authuile Military Cemetery, near Albert.  Pictures of that cemetery along with information about its history can be viewed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.  I have included one of these pictures below.

Edward Adams
Final Resting Place of Edward Adams


Edward’s sister Ellen received the balance of her brother’s pay (2 pounds, 1 shilling and eightpence) along with a War Gratuity of £7 following his death.  Edward’s Medal Entitlement included the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Losing Edward must have been incredibly difficult and would have left Ellen as the only surviving member of her immediate family.  To date, I have not been able to learn what happened to Ellen after Edward’s death in 1916.  It is my hope that one of her descendants may some day read this blog post.  It’s important that we remember Edward Adams and the many just like him who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom.


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