William James Greer was born at Mawillian, Cookstown. He enlisted in Belfast, with the 10th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. This Battalion was raised in Belfast from the Belfast Volunteers and did much of their training at Newcastle, Ballykinlar and Seaford. They landed at Boulogne in October 1915. Their training continued until just prior to the start of the Somme offensive. William James was killed on the first day of the battle as he tried to cross No Mans Land
William John Greer was born at Mawillian, Cookstown about 1885.
The 1901 census lists William J as age 17, working as a farm servant at house 1 in Ballynargan, Coagh for the Gray family. Ballynargan lies between Coagh and Stewartstown.
There is a possibility that in 1901 William and the family were living in Belfast (see references), but both William’s census age and birthplace contradict this.
William John Greer married Sarah Elizabeth Arbuthnot on 20th April 1908 at Great Victoria Street Presbyterian Church, Shankill, Belfast.
The 1911 census lists William John as age 26, living with his family at house 11 in Tullyveagh, Coagh. William was an agricultural labourer. By this time he and Sarah have one child, James, born in Tyrone.
Family (estimated): William John Greer, Sarah Elizabeth Greer, James Greer (born 5th March 1910, Stewartstown), Mary Greer (born 24th September 1911, Stewartstown), William Greer (born 24th December 1913, Belfast), Sarah Greer (born 22nd February 1916, Belfast).
From the children’s birth locations, it seems that the family moved to Belfast in 1912-13.
William Greer enlisted in Belfast.
The 10th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles was raised in Belfast from the Belfast Volunteers and did much of their training at Newcastle, Ballykinlar and Seaford.
They landed at Boulogne in October 1915. Their training continued until just prior to the start of the Somme Offensive.
Rifleman William John Greer was serving with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles when he was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on Saturday 1st July 1916.
William’s wife Sarah received a letter from Captain Glendenning of the 10th Royal Irish Rifles dated 27 July 1916 offering his condolences. It states that he was 'one of the most reliable men in the Lewis Gun team' and was 'killed by machine gun fire when he was going over the top of our front line trench'.
A death notice in a Belfast newspaper records that his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Greer, lived at 24 Majorca Street, Belfast with their ‘little children’.
From the Belfast Telegraph dated 29th July 1916:-
For King and Country. Greer – Killed in action on July 1, 1916, Rifleman Wm. John Greer, R. I. Rifles (South Belfast Volunteers).
The midnight stars are shining, on a face I cannot see,
Where sleeping without dreaming, lies the one so dear to me.
A face still loved, though sadly missed, his smile that was so bright,
he was so thoughtful, good, and kind, time slumbers now in a soldier’s grave.’
Inserted by his sorrowing wife and little children. Sarah Elizabeth Greer, 24 Majorca Street.
Rifleman W J Greer has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Rifleman William Greer is also commemorated on Coagh Presbyterian Roll of Honour.