William James Gillespie

Fusilier William James Gillespie of Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone died on 19th May 1940 while serving in Belgium with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, BEF.


William James Gillespie


Fusilier William James Gillespie died on 19th May 1940 in Belgium. By mid-May 1940, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers were already in retreat, an action that would lead the regiment to take part in the historic Dunkirk evacuation.

Fusilier William James Gillespie (6975630) served in 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers during the Second World War. Born on 17th March 1907, he was the 5th son of the late Thomas Gillespie and the late Alice Gillespie of Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone, and the husband of Margaret Gillespie of Belfast.

William was “Billy” to family and friends. His father worked as a tailor in Co. Tyrone and his mother Alice died when Billy was 11 years old.

He died on 19th May 1940 aged 33 years old. At the time, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers were part of the rear-guard during the British Expeditionary Force retreat to Dunkirk. That day, the Luftwaffe carried out bombing and strafing of the Fusiliers’ position along a 5,000-yard front north-east of Ninove near the River Dendre.

William James Gillespie’s grave is in Section 12, Row A, Grave 6 of Heverlee War Cemetery, Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium. His name is on the Fivemiletown War Memorial, Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone. His headstone in Belgium bears the inscription:

Silent stars watch o’er honoured dust.