Tribute to East Antrim soldier who sent Christmas card from the front

David Fullerton at Belfast City Hall. INCT 47-754-CON
David Fullerton at Belfast City Hall. INCT 47-754-CON

A century on from sending a Christmas card from the Western Front, an East Antrim man has been remembered at a Belfast ceremony.

David Fullerton, whose father Samuel served with the Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War, placed a poppy cross in the Belfast City Hall Field of Remembrance, in November.

As the Times reported previously, among one of Mr Fullerton’s most treasured possessions is a festive greeting card sent from France in 1915.

The memento, which dates from 1915, has flags and the letters RIR embroidered on linen on the front. On the rear of the card is a handwritten festive greeting from a son, serving in France, to a father wishing him “a merry Christmas 1915 and a bright and happy New Year”.

David’s father - and uncle George - both came back from active service with Samuel returning to the linen mill between Larne and Glynn, where he had worked before the conflict, eventually rising to the post of managing director.

But it is of Samuel’s work with the British Legion that David is especially proud.

“He always looked out for ex-personnel on their return and would advise and help them when he could,” explained David.

Long service with the Royal British Legion led to Samuel Fullerton being awarded the organisation’s prestigious Gold Badge of Honour in 1954.

Recipients, according to RBL guidelines, “must have served with distinction and have played an outstanding part in the conduct of legion affairs”.

David, originally from Larne, remembers accompanying his father to attend the annual service in front of the Queen - and it was only in London that they learned of the honour.

He vividly recalls the moment his father was told by a RBL representative about the badge: “One of the men asked; ‘Is this your son?’” (Continuing) “‘Very, very few people get this award. It’s a British Legion Gold Badge. You are getting it tonight.’”

Describing his father as a modest man, he said he was “surprised” at the recognition.

It was a similar response from David when a letter arrived from England recently informing him of the ceremony in Belfast on November 2. However, he stressed the need for such tradition to continue.

“I think it is very, very important that anybody who has done a lot for the Royal British Legion should be remembered. He did an awful lot of work for ex-service personnel. That’s why he got the Gold Badge.”

As well as attending the service led by the legion’s chaplain for Northern Ireland, Rev Canon Samuel McVeigh. David had an opportunity to speak with the Deputy Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Guy Spence.

“I was delighted to have been invited,” added a grateful David.