Edward (Ted) Workman was born at 32 College Gardens in Belfast on 4th August 1886 into a family of substantial means – the only son of Frank Workman, one of the founders of the Workman Clark shipyard in Belfast, and Sara (nee McCausland). He had a younger sister – Florence (known as Sis), who was born at College Gardens on 8th July 1888. Ted was initially educated at St Clare, a private school at Walmer in Kent, from 1897 to 1900. He then went on to Charterhouse School, where he was a member of the First X1 hockey team and of the Charterhouse Cadet Corps, leaving in 1905. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge on 26th June 1905 and he played for the Trinity Hornets First XI hockey team. Despite his prep school master’s initial concerns about his “Irishness”, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Engineering in 1908. Ted’s career is dealt with elsewhere in this chapter but it is worth noting at this stage that his mother compiled a personal tribute by which to remember her only son (The Edward Workman Archive is currently held by his great nephew, David Lindsay). This important archive contains a mixture of family photographs, school reports, newspaper cuttings, Ted’s letters home from France and letters of condolence received by the family from individuals and institutions with which the family was connected. There are also letters relating to Ted that were passed to the Workman family.

Click here to view a selection of items from the Edward Workman Archive at full size.

Below is a montage of some of the items relating to Ted’s childhood.

The family had moved from a 14-room terraced house in College Gardens to ‘Drummena’, a 16-room detached house at Bladon Park, by 1901. By 1904, the family had again moved to ‘The Moat’ in Strandtown – the property was recorded as being on the Holywood Road, but it was located on what is now the Old Holywood Road. The new family home, with 30 rooms and seven outhouses, reflected the increasing social and economic importance of the Workman family. ‘The Moat’ lay vacant after the death of Sara Workman and was converted into six residential units in the late 1930s. Although the house survives, it now contains numerous private apartments and the once extensive grounds have been taken up by many private dwellings.

Ted was a well-known yachtsman, being a member of three clubs – County Antrim, Royal Ulster and Royal North of Ireland and regularly competed onboard the family-owned yachts Nysa and Eriska in Belfast Lough. He was also a member of the North of Ireland Cricket and Football Club and a member of the Ulster Club, the latter being located at Castle Place in Belfast. In the 1911 Census of Ireland, Ted was recorded as being the Head of Family for “House number 401 in Holywood Road”, as his parents and sister were staying at the Royal Hotel & Baths at Matlock Bath in Derbyshire. He, somewhat modestly, as the only son of the senior partner of the Workman Clark shipyard, listed his occupation as “Apprentice Shipbuilder”. His future brother-in-law, Cecil Lindsay, was recorded as a visitor in the 1911 Census.

By 1914, Ted was a Director of Workman Clark and was managing the firm’s South Yard and, as such, was clearly destined for greater things. Ted Workman was a staunch Unionist and opponent of Home Rule. He signed the Ulster Covenant at Belmont Presbyterian Church Hall and was a keen member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, with which he had been connected from its inception. He was company commander in the 6th (Strandtown and Knock) Battalion East Belfast Regiment UVF, and his example and enthusiasm did a great deal to promote the interests and efficiency of the organisation in that part of the city. In commiserating with the family following Ted’s death, his UVF Battalion Commander, Harold Vivian Edmund Coates, wrote, I came into very close touch with Ted at the time of the gun running, and he carried out important duties then, and afterwards, in a most through manner. A rifle firing range was set up in the grounds of the family estate, which was used as a training location by the UVF.


At the very outbreak of the “war to end all wars”, Ted, like many others of his generation, gave all of this up and volunteered to fight for his country. Many workers and staff from the “Wee Yard” also enlisted, with over 1,000 Workman Clark employees being in the Armed Forces by the end of 1914. Ted was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant with 5th (Royal South Downs) Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles on 15th August 1914. This reserve battalion was under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Valentine Plaisted McCammon who was later to die of wounds at 20 General Hospital in Camiers on 28th April 1918. A Post Office Telegraph message dated 4th September 1914 instructed Ted to report to Victoria Barracks in Belfast as soon as possible. Ted also underwent training at Palace Barracks in Holywood.

Ted was subsequently attached to the 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment in France, arriving in Rouen on 7th May 1915. Two other junior officers – 2nd Lieutenants Gribben and Morton – posted to the same battalion in May 1915 were known to Ted socially, each being members of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club. All three were commissioned into the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in the same time period.

Edward Gribben was born on 11th September 1888 at Cultra to Edward Gribben, a Jeweller, and Isabella Gribben (nee Coates). He was an Engineer Motor Works Manager before the war. Like Ted, he served with 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and in Ted’s letter of 29th September 1915, he says that Gribben had been badly knocked about and had been hospitalised. Gribben returned to active service and was awarded the Military Cross in September 1917 whilst serving on attachment to the Royal Flying Corps. Edward Gribben held the rank of Captain in the Royal Air Force when he relinquished his commission on 1st April 1920 but returned to active service with the Royal Air Force in 1939.

William Edward John Morton was born on 9th January 1888 at Victoria Terrace in Holywood to William Morton, a Manufacturers’ Agent in cotton and linen goods, and Anna Morton (nee Coulter) and worked in the family firm before the war. Lieutenant Morton was killed in action on 5th September 1915 at the age of 27 whilst serving with 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. On 6th September 1915, Ted wrote, he was hit by a shell I heard he was wounded & went along to him but he was unconscious & never recovered consciousness & died soon after I went to him. Like so many others, Lieutenant Morton has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.

Throughout his overseas service, Ted wrote regularly to his family and these letters from the Western Front make up a considerable portion of the Edward Workman Archive. Many of these surviving letters were written in frontline trenches and were intentionally bland to assuage his parents’ fears. Indeed, on occasion, little other than the weather and the need for additional clothing and cigarettes is discussed. There are also surprising instances of what day-to-day life was like in the trenches and in “quieter places”, to use one of Ted’s phrases. He regularly acknowledged deliveries of food and comfort parcels from home, which included a number of surprising delicacies, such as fresh grouse. In a letter dated 11th September, Ted wrote, I forgot to tell you that Aunt Eva’s grouse carried splendidly & were much appreciated.

The letters were invariably signed off with “your loving boy Ted” or “your boy Ted”. Some of Ted’s letters are transcribed below and no attempt has been made to correct spellings or to add punctuation.

In a letter dated 5th May 1915, Ted wrote:

Dear Mother
Just a line to say that am still in the same place. We are kept very busy with parades, etc. I am going a message to a town near here so I am going on horseback & Gribben is going with me it will be a bit of a change. I got cigarettes & sweets from you and a box of cigarettes from Aunt Eva so I am alright for the present for cigarettes they just came in time. I have been sleeping outside as it is quite warm & more comfortable than a stone floor. I have been very fit ever since I have been out here I hope I will keep so. I am battalion instructor in bomb throwing as the Captain who was instructing is away it is rather amusing as I haven’t seen a bomb go off yet however I can manage alright.
Your loving Ted
P.s. Did you know that I am now a Lieut. The three of us & two others at home were promoted the other day. I haven’t put my other star on yet as they haven’t heard officially here.

2nd Lieutenants Gribben, Morton and Workman were officially promoted with effect from 22nd May.

At the Front

In a letter dated 10th May 1915, Ted described going (with Gribben and Morton) to the frontline trenches for the first time.

Dear Mother
We left on Saturday by train & spent the night in the train We were very comfortable as we had a half carriage compartment at the end of a carriage to ourselves two slept on the floor & one on the seat & we brought provisions with us which Alice very kindly helped me to buy. When we got near our destination we could hear the guns going in the distance & then we were told to be ready to get out quickly as the station was sometimes shelled however when we got there we didnt see any signs of it we then got out & fell in behind some men of our own regiment who were coming up & marched to a place where there were some wooden huts & there we halted we could hear the guns quite plainly & sometimes saw a shell bursting. We then wandered about for some time as we had no hut or nothing to eat or our valises or anything finally about 12 of us were put in one of the huts & some Scotch territorials very kindly gave us something to eat ham sardine bully beef & cake etc which we ate then our provisions valises turned then & we got them out and went to sleep There were star shells going up all over the place big guns firing & and we could hear a good deal of machine gun & rifle fire & there were some houses burning in the distance. This morning we got up pretty late & had a bath in a basin & our breakfast it is quite warm & we are just lying about waiting to be told what to do There is not nearly so much firing this morning but we saw several aeroplanes about & and could see puffs of smoke where they were firing at them some of them seemed to be quite close to us but they seem to be very hard to hit as very few shots went near them. It was a bit alarming at first to hear the shells but we very soon got used to it as none seemed to come anywhere near us. I havent heard from anyone yet but I expect letters will probably turn up here.
With best love
Your boy Ted
If you get a chance you might send me some eatables such as ham tongue sardines butter also cigarettes thick socks and a face towel.

In one of his more expansive letters (dated 6th June 1915), Ted sets out in some detail what one of the raids was like. It is one of the few hand-written letters to have been transcribed and typed and provides a remarkable record of a raid in which the 28 years old Ted played a significant role. At this time, Ted was five feet seven and three quarters inches tall and weighed only 9 stones 13 pounds. Indeed, this is reflected in one of his letters where he mentions having to cut off the bottom of his oilskins because they were constantly getting wet. Like all his brother officers at the time, he carried a revolver which immediately identified him as an officer and thus a prime target. It is a matter of record that German troops were taught to shoot officers first in order to create confusion and at that time the life expectancy of a young front-line officer was known to be measured in days.

Dear Mother
I will try to give you a short account of our 10 days in the trenches. I did’nt say very much about it and I had’nt much time and I thought it might make you anxious, but now we are all clear for a bit and I understand we are going to a quieter place. We started off for the dug-outs in the evening and arrived up at them in the night, they were in a wood and there were bullets whistling through it all the time; several men were wounded that night but none of them in my Company. The woods seemed very dangerous at first as there were bullets continuously whistling through the whole time we were there. However, we soon found we were in a hollow and practically none came near; we only had a few wounded the whole time in the wood. We had a peaceful day the next day but the morning after we were awakened about 2.30 a.m. by heavy rapid fire and shells coming over us, after about an hour we were all told to get ready to turn out so we packed up our things and waited, then we began to hear rumours of gas and several men who had been gassed were brought in. Then about 7 o’clock we were sent out, one Company went to some Trenches and two to reserve, and the other one stayed. We were sent to reserve and had to line the edge of a Wood, there was very little cover and there were a good many rifle bullets and shrapnel flying about, but only a few were wounded. We could smell the gas quite strongly in this Wood, it was strong enough to make our eyes water. In fact everything I tasted for the next 24 hours tasted of gas; it is rather a sweet smell, with a sting in it and not like anything I could compare it to. However, they say that when proper precautions are taken it does no harm and apparently only those who were not properly prepared were overcome by it, so it is not such a terrible thing as it seemed at first. We were always very careful everywhere where we were likely to get it. To return to the Wood we lay there for an hour or two, and then they started throwing some high explosive shells at us; these are very alarming but only very local in their effect. Two burst within about ten yards of me and never did me any harm; they only sent about a couple of dozen and only one did any harm. Then in the afternoon we got the order to move to another position. I went out to find out how to get there and some Snipers got sight of me and had a plug at me but I dropped down and wriggled along for about 100 yards and got into a Trench. I could’nt get much information from the men in the Trench, so I returned without mishap. Then we started off along a hedge to our next position, they turned a machine gun on us, but we got along all right, only losing one man and two wounded. We then got along the side of a road in a sort of Trench, it was starting to get dark and as we came along about 20 Germans ran across the road in front of us. I suppose they saw us coming and got scared. The Captain and I and the Quartermaster Sergeant opened fire with revolvers and several of the men with rifles and we got five between us. It was the only part of the day I thoroughly enjoyed. I then went along the side of the road with a man to get in touch with another Company. We had a rather uncomfortable time as we had to keep in the Trench as we could hear bullets striking the road and the Trench was full of mud and water, sometimes over our knees. However, we got along all right and got in touch then we came back a different way and found the Company had retired and were going back to the dug-outs. They were very pleased to see us as they thought we were lost, so altogether we had a very exciting day. I saw plenty of beastly sights, but I am glad to say they did not affect me at all. I find the worst part of these things is the waiting, as long as you are doing anything you don’t mind much, but lying still being shelled is very terrifying, rifle bullets do not worry you much, you just feel you should keep down to avoid them, but high explosive shells are always alarming. The next few days were quiet and then went up to the Trenches. I told you pretty well about them. I think they were all right except for want of undisturbed sleep. We had to use periscopes by day to look over. One day when I was looking over my periscope was hit and a bit went into my arm, but it was only a scratch. At night time it was quite safe to look over. We got down quite safely to the dug-outs, and the only adventures I had were the two trips down to bring up Officers which I told you about. I think that is all of interest. I expect I am going for another ride this afternoon. It is very hot here today. We had a service in the open this morning.
With best love to all
Your boy, Ted

On 24th August 1915, the war diary for 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles recorded that Lieutenants Workman, Gribben and Morton had joined the battalion. Shortly after joining the battalion, Ted wrote a letter (dated 11th September) to his mother which contained an allusion to the conditions amongst talk of necessities and the weather.

Dear Mother
The story seems to have been many parcels lately I had 3 in a lump last night one from Sis & 2 from you. I forgot to tell you that Aunt Eva’s grouse carried splendidly & were much appreciated I am glad to say that we are back up for a week tomorrow. I am glad to get out of this place it is the worst I have been in every way. It is quite warm which is more pleasant. Could you send me some more thick socks they seem to disappear here. I am not in much of a hurry for the coat I only told you so that it could be ready for the cold weather. Has my coat & boots turned up yet if they do you might send them back to me.
With best love

Ted’s first significant action with the new battalion was the Second Attack on Bellewaarde in Belgium on 25th September 1915. This action was an attack on German-held trenches in the vicinity of Hooge and Bellewaarde Lake. The object of the attack was to distract attention from a major attempt to break through at Loos in northern France and to contain the enemy’s reserves. Like many other raids, before and after, success was measured in yards and, inevitably, subsequent counter-attacks resulted in much, if not all, of the gained ground being lost – often within mere hours. The Battalion War Diary also records that, the attack was carried out with the greatest determination and gallantry but with a heavy human cost. Nine Officers were killed or reported missing and four were wounded. 222 Other Ranks were killed or reported missing and 140 were wounded. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database records 72 fatalities for the battalion on 25th September – seven Officers, 16 Non-Commissioned Officer and 49 Riflemen. Whilst Ted came out of the attack unscathed, three men whom he had known from home were killed in the engagement, all of them being commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. Lieutenant Averell Digges-La Touche, a 5th Battalion man, was born at Bryansford on 24th December 1884 to Major Everard Neal Digges-La Touche and Clementine Digges-La Touche (nee Eaver). Second Lieutenants Melbourne Ross (born 30th January 1885) and Kenneth Ross (born 1st September 1890) were sons of George Harrison Ross, an aerated water manufacturer, and Henrietta Matilda Ross (nee Russ) of Cultra.

The Edward Workman Archive includes the above depiction of the battle area, which shows Hooge as a small village just outside Ypres (now Iepers) and about three miles from the, probably, better-known village of Passchendaele. The Menin Road out of Ypres was the army’s primary route to the front lines protecting the ancient town and the salient of the same name which protruded into the German-held territory – a source of great irritation to the German high command. The Menin Road exit from that walled city is the site of the Menin Gate which is now an impressive Memorial to the Missing and bears witness to the carnage endured by the troops. This important memorial lists the names of c.55,000 soldiers, including Ted’s friends, who tragically disappeared without trace into the mud of Flanders. Every night and for close on one hundred years, at 20:00hrs the traffic is stopped by the police and the local Pompiers (Firemen) play the Last Post as the town’s way of remembering and thanking the soldiers who perished, many of them in the action at Hooge where Ted fought. The action in this zone was brutal in the extreme and resulted in very high casualties on both sides, many of these inflicted in terrible hand-to-hand fighting in mud and water-filled trenches where men even struggled to pass each other.

Only rarely does Ted let the mask slip and records in some detail the brutal actions in which he had played a significant part and very infrequently makes an oblique reference to just how bad it was. In this letter dated 18th October, Ted writes about the engagement on 25th September.

Dear Mother
I think some of my postcards must have gone astray I acknowledged the trench boots & the oily coat they are just what I want. I have acknowledged several parcels since some grouse came today & some cake & shortbread yesterday The cigarettes arrived today I told you that the cardigans had arrived & been distributed but I expect you havent got the letter yet. Thank Granny very much indeed for them I am sure they will be appreciated especially the cigarettes. We are doing just much the same as on the fortnight we had before. We have quite a comfortable farmhouse for the four officers of my Company & I have a bed so it is quite like peace time the worst of it we have drills etc as at peacetime home which I am not very keen on however it is safe which is some consolation & we can only hear the guns in the distance. I enclose a note saying all I know about Capt Cupples but I cant get anything definite as he only joined battalion just before going up to the trenches & I didn’t even know him by sight nor did the men. I cant really tell you very much about the attack it was more like a bad dream than anything our artillery started shelling the enemy replied & it was quite deafening & it seemed as if nobody could have got out of the trench alive but most of it must have been going over as not many were hurt. When we got over we found two machine guns turned on us they were in the ?[word hidden]? & nobody could advance very far in the centre. A few got into the German trenches on the flanks & stayed there all that day but had to come back at dark. I was in the centre I got up part of the way but found there were only a few men left near me and a number of Germans in the trenches in front & the machine gun firing away all the time so I got all the men I could back into a bit of old trench & waited for the support they only got about as far I was & then all that were left got into shell holes Orr felling fell just alongside me killed by the machine gun which had spotted where we where & so we could not move till it got dark. We then managed to crawl in. It rained in the afternoon & as we had to lie down all day from daylight to dark I felt pretty done as I couldn’t sleep and had no sleep the night before & been up to 3 the night before. However I don’t seem to be any the worse for it
Your loving Ted

Two officers are mentioned in the letter. Captain William Cupples, 3rd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, was recorded as “Wounded” in the Battalion War Diary but is recorded as “Killed in Action” in other sources. A son of William Cupples and Mary Cupples (nee Balmer) of North Parade, he was a medical student when the war started and died two days after his 20th birthday. Captain Walter Leslie Orr, 25, was a son of Fingal Harman Orr and Constance Emelie Orr (nee Moyers) of “Claremont Villas” at Glenageary in Kingstown.

On 1st January 1916, the London Gazette listed the names of men worthy of special mention from Field-Marshall Sir John French’s Despatch published at the end of October 1915. The Mentioned in Despatches Certificate, issued to the Workman family after the war, specifies that the award related to an event when Ted was attached to the York and Lancaster Regiment. Whilst the engagement for which the award was made is not known, it must have been between 1st June 1915 and 23rd August 1915. The Despatch refers to an engagement at Hooge on 9th August and it is possible that the award relates to that engagement.

Request for leave

It is evident from surviving correspondence that Ted was coming under some pressure from his family to come home and assist with the running of the very busy yard. On the 6th January 1916, he finally wrote to his adjutant on jotter pages, probably the only paper he had, seeking approval to take leave to attend to his ill father and assist with the yard’s war efforts.

To the Adjutant
2nd Royal Irish Rifles
I have the honour to request that you place this my application for leave before the proper authorities. I was at the start of the war a managing director of the firm of Workman & Clark shipbuilders BELFAST. At that time they were not doing any government work and I applied for a commission in the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles & obtained it. However, at the present time about 25 per cent of their work is for the government and largely munition work. Owing to these new developments, the firm find that they have not sufficient skilled supervision to do the work that is required. So they have applied through the Munitions Department for my return and have asked me to apply for three months leave though my battalion. I should like to add that though my father is a director of the firm he has been unable through ill health to take any part in the management of it. So that I am the only member of the family who would be able to take an active part. Under the circumstances I should be grateful if an extended leave of 3 months could be granted to allow me to attend to my business, I served 8 months at home in BELFAST and over 8 months with the Expeditionary force so that I have been 16 months away from my business.
I remain sir
your obedient servant
E Workman Lt
2nd Royal Irish

This was approved but in an extraordinary twist of fate the officer requested him to resubmit the case on foolscap, presumably “for the record”. We will never know if this was ever done because, within a few days, he received the injury that was to lead to his death within a week.

The Raid

In mid-January 1916, an order was issued to conduct a substantial raid on the enemy trenches to capture prisoners and gather information on the enemy’s strength and positions. Ted was to play a significant part in this action and for his courage under fire he was subsequently awarded the Military Cross.

On 19th January 1916, whilst commanding B Company of the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, he was tasked with leading part of the raid on the enemy trenches at the River Lys near Armentieres. Under heavy rifle, machine gun and artillery fire Ted and some of his men made it into the German trench and captured a number of prisoners. Whilst holding these prisoners at pistol point and still in the German trench, he was struck on the head by a rifle butt and was knocked to the ground but recovered sufficiently well to be able to lead his men and prisoners back to their own trenches.

The Edward Workman Archive includes several eye-witness accounts which record, in graphic detail, the events leading to the injury. On 13th February 1916, in a letter to his father, Lieutenant Cyril Kendrick Edwards, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, wrote:

The shelling was very furious just before we attacked and their machine-gun fire was ripping the sandbags on the top of the parapet before we sent up a large number of smoke bombs which were of great assistance. The machine-gun fire was not nearly so accurate and the artillery directed some of its fire to the left where we sent over a large cloud of gas. At that moment the Rifles attacked, and they were not long in getting in to the German trenches which had suffered very severely by our shell-fire. Workman, it appears, used his revolver to good effect and seeing some Germans a short distance away he rushed up to them crying "Vergeben sie sich" (Surrender). One of the Germans made as if to run away and Workman pressed the trigger on his revolver only to find that it was empty. Seeing this, one of the Germans hit him over the head with the butt of his rifle or "knobkerry" and at the same moment was bayoneted by Workman's men who captured the others and helped Workman back. In our trenches Workman, although wounded, kept giving orders under the strain of the retaliatory bombardment which lasted for half an hour, at the end of which time we were relieved and Workman went to hospital.

Two men from Ted’s company received gallantry awards for their roles in the raid. William James Alexander Campbell, an iron moulder from Belfast, was awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Conduct Medal that he had been awarded in August 1915. He survived the war, being transferred to the Class Z Army Reserve on 21st March 1919. William Campbell was awarded a 30% Disablement Pension in 1920 in respect of gunshot wounds to the shoulder and thigh and he later lived in one of the ex-servicemen’s houses built on Ainsworth Avenue by the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust. A banner for the Sons of Ulster RPB 375 features William Campbell carrying a wounded comrade and, according to family sources, he helped Ted off the field of battle. William Campbell’s first child, born in 1919, was named Edward Workman Campbell.

Robert Wilson, a power loom weaver from Lurgan, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was later transferred to the 3rd Garrison Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers and was discharged due to war-related illness on 8th September 1917, with Silver War Badge Number 257503.


Ted was initially taken to No 2 Casualty Clearing Station where, obviously in pain and suffering severe concussion, he was still able to compose a quickly scribbled note to his beloved mother; his condition is perhaps evident by the state of his handwriting.

Dear Mother
Just a line to say that I have got wounded I am writing this in bed so it is rather shaky I am wounded in the head but not very bad I expect to be moved tomorrow
Your loving Ted

On 21st January, the Sister in Charge at No 2 Casualty Clearing Station, Miss Lucy Eleanor Jolley (who was to be mentioned in despatches in June 1916), wrote:

Dear Mrs Workman
Just a line to let you know your son went off down to one of the Base hospitals this morning. He has written you a line himself but I thought you might like to hear he had got off all right. He is wounded in the head but not a penetrating wound, so I hope it will not be long before he recovers
Yours sincerely
L E Jolley
No. 2 CCS

Ted was subsequently evacuated to the Duchess of Westminster’s (No 1 Red Cross) Hospital at Le Touquet and the family received an official notification of his hospitalisation by telegram on 22nd January. In an extraordinary example of his father’s influence, the family – Frank, Sara, Sis and her husband, Captain Cecil Lindsay (17th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles) – were able to travel to Le Touquet to be by his side before he died.

Ted’s final days

In a very poignant typed single page, the family archive records their presence with Ted in his final days.

Mother and Pap crossed from Folkestone to Boulogne on Monday morning 24th January. They were met at Boulogne quay by Janie Carmichael and Mr Langridge who is a voluntary worker, recognised by the Red X, who meets and looks after all relatives of the wounded. Mr Langridge put through their passports etc, and inside 1 hr they were in a car bound for Le Touquet 20 miles off. They reached the Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital (1 Red X) which is in reality a Casino, at 4-30 o’c and were met by Major Pritchard the M.D. of the hospital, who was acting Commandant during the temporary absence through illness of the Commandant. Major Pritchard at once told them that there was no hope of Ted being able to pull through. Captain Fraser, the Surgeon, told them that Ted had five wounds on the head and a bomb wound on the side, the latter not serious. He had performed the operation of trepanning on Saturday morning and it was quite satisfactory. It was the septic poisoning caused by a terrible germ, which comes from the ground in Belgium and of which they have not yet found the anti-toxin, that made his case so serious. Mother and Pap then asked for permission that Cecil and Sis should cross, explaining all particulars of the case and after some discussion, the Commandant had never heard of more than two people being allowed to visit a patient before, he agreed to wire the War Office. Mother and Pap then went in to see Ted who had had a very bad day. Mother asked Ted if he knew her and he said ‘Is that you Sis?’ Later Mother said ‘Ted, do you know your Mother?’ and he answered ‘Yes’. The only consecutive sentence he said was ‘I am sorry Mother’ but he mentioned several names the only one recognisable being ‘La Touche’. Later he recognized Pap and took his hands. He was pretty restless all Monday, moaned all the time and said ‘Pain pain’. Mother’s presence seemed to soothe him and he liked to hold her hand and feel her face. He was in a large ward but the next morning he was moved into a little private room. Mother stayed with him all the time only going to the hotel for dinner and only left again early in the morning when they came to dress the wounds.

On Tuesday morning Ted was a degree better and word came that Cecil and Sis were allowed to cross. Cecil and Sis arrived about 4- 30 and saw Ted but could not tell whether he recognized them or not. That evening Sis stayed with Ted for two hours while Mother rested, he seemed to know her and like to hold her hand. Every evening Captain Green-Wilkinson, the Church of Ireland chaplain, came in and prayed. Mother came down again about 10-30. Ted was pretty restless. Sis then went to rest and Mother stayed alone with Ted. A little later the doctors came to dress his wounds and when Mother went in again he seemed very tired. The Dr asked Mother if she thought Ted knew her, she said ‘No’ but when she bent over Ted and said ‘Do you know your Mother, Ted?’ he answered ‘Yes’. About 1o’c the Sister insisted on Mother going out to have a cup of tea, when she came in again she noticed Ted greatly changed and she asked if they would send for Cecil and Sis but the Sister said she was sure he would rally again he had had so much strychnine and brandy. However he seemed gradually to fail and he passed away with a smile on his face at 3- 50 on Wednesday morning 26th Mother and Sis alone were with him. Later in the morning when they all went down he had been moved into a little lodge at the gate which the nurses had decorated with white narcissus and he was covered with the Union Jack. The hotel were they put up was run by the British Red X, the work is done entirely by V.A.D’s and no payment is required, Miss Boycott manages it by kind permission of the B.H.Q. Red X Janie Carmichael came out from Boulogne and was with them all the time. The Duchess of Westminster was most kind in enquiring continually for Ted.

This document is remarkable in that it demonstrates the speed with which the close family were able to get to France in the early years of the last century for a very moving visit. Also, in those pre-penicillin days, it refers to something in the ground for which they have not found an anti-toxine. Ted being treated with Strychnine and Brandy would be seen nowadays as almost medieval. Sadly, and despite the best efforts of the surgeons and the medical staff, Ted developed a severe infection which led to his death from meningitis on 26th January, exactly one week after receiving his injury.

Ted’s Burial

Ted was laid to rest by his fellow soldiers on 27th January in a simple military ceremony in the Camiers Road Military Cemetery at Etaples in France (which had been renamed as the Etaples Military Cemetery by 1918). This is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in France and contains graves for 11,435 named fatalities, including 651 German military personnel and 9 non-combatants, from the First World War.

The Edward Workman Archive includes an account of the funeral by Janie Carmichael and a poem.

Ted lies peacefully in the little Military Cemetery amongst the pines and sand dunes, a little way out of Etaples. It was a great relief that Sis and Cecil got permission to come, it was rather unheard of, and as far as I was concerned most unexpected. Only the other day a poor fellow died here alone, an Uncle in London moving heaven and earth and unable to get to him. It was a mercy that Ted had not to suffer long, if he had to go it was best so. He died at 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning and was moved to the lodge and in the evening to the little chapel near the graveyard. Miss Boycott the Head here, was very kind, and has not yet put me on duty, so I was able to attend to them a little and took up their dinner which they wanted me to stay and take with them. They got a lovely cross of narcissus and pink tulips and this morning we motored with the clergyman to the chapel, the coffin was in the middle with a Union Jack over it and three soldiers on each side. Two sisters who nursed him and two Doctors were there. There was a little altar with the RedX and St John’s emblems on it at the end. There was a short burial service, and then the three soldiers put the coffin on a carrying thing with wheels and we crossed the road to the cemetery. The coffin was lowered and there was another short service and the last post was sounded. It was all very quiet and simple.


The Edward Workman Archive contains many tributes to Ted and from a very wide cross-section of the social spectrum ranging from the Duchess of Westminster, through senior local politicians, down to the family coachman, and even his nanny who, by that time, was living in Australia. There were also condolences from organisations and societies with which the Workmans were involved – for example, the East Belfast Unionist Association and the Central Presbyterian Society. Ted’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Charles Sprague, wrote, the enterprise was very successful, and the success was to my mind, mainly due to the exceptional coolness, good leading and pluck of your poor son.

Some of the letters were written to people outside the family and passed to the Workman family. In a letter dated 31st January to Mrs Ellen Anna Matilda Charley of Seymour Hill, Captain Geoffrey Schuyler Norman, Adjutant of 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, wrote of Ted, he did magnificently, and, as everyone says, the success of his party was entirely down to him. Captain Norman, who was born at Cairns in Queensland, was awarded the Military Cross in the 1917 New Year’s Honours list and survived the war. Ellen Charley’s son, Major Harold Richard Charley, wrote to the Sara Workman from a Prisoner of War Camp on 11th February. On the postcard he wrote, These indeed are sad times & we all have our sufferings – you & Mr Workman have indeed had more than your share. To lose a son like Ted is a cruel blow, but you have the consolation that he could not have died a nobler death than that of doing his duty to his Country. Major Charley was serving with 2nd Royal Irish Rifles when he was wounded at Caudrey on 26th August 1914 and captured the following day. He was incarcerated in the Minden POW Camp and, after being transferred to Murren, he started workshops for British prisoners in 1916. In 1917, having been released by the Germans, Major Charley was Officer-in-Charge for Technical Instruction for British soldiers interned in Switzerland and became Commissioner of the British Red Cross Society in Switzerland in 1918.

Sergeant Major Frank Ernest Arthur Field, who served in Ted’s Company, wrote to his sister Emma about the attack. After telling her that he had come through successfully again without a scratch, he wrote of Ted, I have lost the finest Company officer in the Army, the best soldier I ever met.

Some of these letters of condolence are included in the Edward Workman Archive page of this website. Perhaps the most poignant one was from his dear friend, Major George Horner Gaffikin, 9th Royal Irish Rifles, who wrote to Ted’s mother from France on 3rd February. George Horner Gaffikin, the only son of William Gaffikin of King’s Castle in Ardglass, was educated at Uppingham and Clare College, Cambridge. Before the war, he was the organiser and commander of the East Down Regiment UVF and received his commission in the Ulster Division in November. George Horner Gaffikin was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette, 15th June 1916) and was promoted to the rank of Major in the same month. Major Gaffikin was killed whilst leading a charge against heavily fortified German positions on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of Albert. Acting Captain William Montgomery, in a letter to his father, wrote “I am still funking writing to Mr Gaffikin about his son, George. He got his death wound when fighting desperately side by side with me in the wildest hand grenade and machine-gun fight man could live or die in”. A newspaper death notice for Major Gaffikin is attached to his letter of condolence.

Dear Mrs Workman
I can’t help writing you just a few words to tell you how terribly I shall miss poor Ted. I was afraid there was very little hope when you were sent for, but somehow so impossible that he would have to go that I went on hoping all the same. I’ve lost several good friends in this war, but none of them was like Ted. I think you know how very fond of him I was. He was my best chum and I don’t know what I shall do without him. He was such an understanding chap, and of all his good qualities I think that was what I loved him for most. He led a really good life and at the same time had absolutely nothing of the prig about him. I never knew him do anything of which you would have been ashamed and I can’t imagine him thinking of it either. I feel very proud to have been a friend of his and I think he was fond of me too. We used sometimes to say at home after he had gone off on Sunday night ‘What an awful thing it would have been if we had never known Edward.’ His going has left a great empty gap, but it is his gap, and I couldn’t let anyone else fill it. I don’t want to. I hope you won’t think it impertinent writing like this. I know that must feel his loss far more than I can, and I can’t say or do anything that will make it any the less but I hope you will let me share a bit of it with you for I loved him too. I can’t say any more. Please don’t answer this. There is no need for I am sure you will understand.
From George
Please thank Cecil very much for sending me the cards. It was good of him to remember.

Ted’s Military Cross

On 14th March 1916, the London Gazette reported that Ted had been posthumously awarded the Military Cross for gallantry on 19th January.

From papers in the Edward Workman Archive, it appears that Sarah Maria McCausland, Ted’s maternal grandmother, was not happy with the delay in Ted’s medal being sent to the family. On 5th May, she wrote to Lord Kitchener’s Secretary and received a reply that was dated 10th May. It is interesting that Sarah signed the letter as “S M McCausland” and the reply, Whitehall officials having assumed the correspondent to be male, was addressed to S M McCausland Esq. Ted’s Military Cross was despatched on 13th May 1916.

To Lord Kitchener’s Secretary
Dear Sir
It has been on my mind sometime to write and ask why the Military Cross, or even acknowledgement of it from the War Office has not been sent to the Parents of my Grandson, the Late Lieut Edward Workman who died of wounds in the Duchess of Westminster’s hospital Le Touquet on the 26th Jan last. Lieut. E. Workman’s C.O. Lieut Colonel Sprague wrote to Mr & Mrs Workman of their son’s cool & clear work at Le Touquet on 19th Jan and the loss he was to himself and Company, & saying he was awarded the Military Cross. The Regt said the same, but that is a very empty award with no proof of it – no Military Cross sent from the War Office. I asked Mrs Workman if they had received the her son’s award. Her reply was, “No Mother, nothing but never mind, it is my Boy I am mourning for.” It is the least recognition that can be shown to the poor Parents who have so sorely suffered in the sacrifice of their sons, to give them the M.C. they were awarded. In Lieut E Workman’s case, an only son, he had at great cost to himself done his duty to King & country – even to giving his life.
Yours sincerely
S M McCausland

Commemorating Ted

Frank and Sara paid tribute to their beloved son and the Workman Clark employees who died in the First World War by paying for the erection of the Belfast Shipyard memorial. Whilst the memorial was constructed by Purdy and Millard of Howard Street, Sophia Rosamund Praeger was commissioned to carve three relief panels and a silhouette of Ted, the latter forming the centrepiece of the memorial. The three relief panels featured men at work in the shipyard, a “farewell to soldiers” scene and Ted receiving attention in a German trench. Following the closure of the shipyard in 1935, the war memorial was removed but only part of it – the carved silhouette of Edward Workman, the panel detailing Ted’s civil and military accomplishments, and the panels listing the names of the shipyard fatalities – were transferred to its current location on the outer wall of the pumphouse building at the Thompson Dock in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Frank and Sara also erected a memorial Celtic cross at the family plot in Belfast City Cemetery in memory of Ted and, fittingly, it is angled to face the shipyard. Ted’s name is listed on the memorial erected by the Strandtown and District Unionist Club, which was unveiled by Sara Workman on Saturday 29th January 1921. They also paid for a room in the Presbyterian Church War Memorial building, which Sara Workman opened on 9th June 1926, to be named in Ted’s memory. He is also commemorated by name on memorials for

  • Belmont Presbyterian Church,
  • the Ulster Club,
  • the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club,
  •  the County Antrim Yacht Club,
  •  the North of Ireland Cricket & Football Club,
  • Charterhouse School, and
  • Trinity College, Cambridge.

Next: Workman Clark ships in the Great War