James Buchanan

Bank: Ulster Bank

Place of work: Downpatrick branch

Died: 1 April 1918


James Robert Buchanan was born in Leitrim, Ireland, on 1 February 1887, the son of Thomas and Anne Buchanan. He was educated at Sligo school, and in 1904 went to work for Ulster Bank. By 1915 he was accountant at the bank's Downpatrick branch.


In December 1915 Buchanan volunteered for military service, becoming a cadet in the Royal Irish Rifles. He was commissioned in the same regiment in October 1916, and subsequently served in France and Flanders. Lieutenant James Robert Buchanan was wounded in action at Amiens on 31 March 1918 and died in a Red Cross hospital in Rouen the next day, 1 April 1918. He was 31 years old.


His commanding officer later wrote, 'He was in every way the best officer I ever had....He was always keen for the fight, always cheerful...I don't know of any officer who was more liked both by brother officers and men.'


Back at the bank, the April 1918 edition of the staff newsletter recalled that after he'd joined up, his colleagues had found the following words written inside his desk: 'Joined up in the Great War 1915, killed ____'.


The newsletter also noted that 'from the first day of 'joining up' [Buchanan] had the premonition that he would not survive the field of battle and while on quite a recent visit to head office he unbosomed himself to a friend to the effect that he had the feeling he would never return. Such a statement was not made in a moment of despondency. Nay! quite averse to fighting and having, as he admitted before enlisting, no taste for soldiering, he dared all for an ideal, and that ideal the cleansing of the world and the ultimate betterment of mankind, supporting militarism for the time being in the hope of crushing it forever and bringing in an enduring peace.'


James Buchanan is commemorated on two memorials at Ulster Bank’s Belfast head office: its roll of honour for staff who served in the First World War and its memorial for those who fell.


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