Diamond War Memorial Project

Private Robert Nelis

1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Regimental Number 8160
Born: ---- Died: 1915-08-14 Aged: 28 Enlisted: Omagh.

Name commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. Name also inscribed on St Columb’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland) Memorial to the men connected with that cathedral who died during the 1914-18 War, and commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Youngest son of Robert Nelis, 16, George’s Street, Londonderry, and of Minnie Nelis, ‘Clonleigh’, Elm Grove, Ripponlea / High Street, Windsor / 75, Bent Street, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne, Australia. Sister of Mrs Robert McIntyre, 16, George’s Street, Londonderry.

Robert Nelis was a member of the congregation of Londonderry City Mission Clooney Hall Methodist Church, and the Hamilton Fife and Drum Band.

According to the 1901 Census, fourteen-year-old Robert was then working as a barber’s apprentice. He joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1904 at Londonderry. He then served with the 1st Battalion in Crete, Malta, North China, and India, where he was transferred to the Army Reserve on completion of nine years’ service with the colours, and emigrated from there to Australia. On the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he rejoined the colours from the Reserve, and came as far as Egypt with the first Contingent of the Australians. He rejoined his unit at Omagh in January 1915, and was posted to the 3rd Battalion at Londonderry, and joined the 1st Battalion in Rugby in February 1915 before they left for the Dardanelles.
The name of Robert Nelis was read out at a memorial service held, in St Columb’s (Church of Ireland) Cathedral, Londonderry, on Sunday, July 30, 1916, to pay homage to the memory of the men of the city of Derry, who had died, or been presumed dead, during the second year of the First World War.
On the first anniversary of the death of Private Nelis, his mother and sisters had the following lines inserted in a Londonderry newspaper:

‘No chilling winds, no storms of earth
Shall e’er disturb his rest;
He sleeps with all the ransomed now
Upon his Saviour’s breast,
Where the wicked cease from troubling
And the weary are at rest.’

Private Robert Nelis’s father, Robert (senior), was born around 1851/52 in the city of Londonderry, and, in the 1901 Census, was listed as an unemployed Commercial Clerk and Bookkeeper. Private Robert Nelis’s mother, Minnie, was born circa 1854/55 in County Donegal. Robert (senior) and Minnie produced a number of children. Ellen Nelis was born around 1874/75 in the city of Londonderry, and circa 1901 was working as a seamstress in a shirt factory. Laura Nelis was born around 1876/77 in County Donegal, and circa 1901 was also working as a seamstress in a shirt factory. William Nelis was born around 1878/79 in County Donegal, and circa 1901 was working in a grocery. Minnie Nelis was born around 1884/85 in the city of Londonderry, and circa 1901 was working as a seamstress in a shirt factory. Robert Nelis was born around 1886/87, and Matilda Nelis was born around 1893/94. Laura, Minnie and Matilda (Tillie) Nelis all signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant (September 1912) resisting Home Rule for Ireland.