Part of the Great Wars Trail and Columban Way Heritage Trail
Comber Square is part of the Columban Way, a heritage trail between Comber and Bangor covering 20 miles (32 km). A trail to experience the area’s rich and diverse history, Bronze Age relics, monastic settlements, Viking attacks, industrial heritage and military influences in both the First and Second World Wars, are just some points of interest you will discover along the way. Find out more about the Columban Way Heritage Trail.
Nowadays, Comber Square is still the focal point of the town. A restful place where locals and visitors alike can take a seat, meet friends and even rest weary legs from cycling the Comber Greenway from Belfast.”
Rollo Gillespie Monument
Rollo Gillespie Monument was built to commemorate the bravery of Major General Robert 'Rollo' Gillespie born in the town in 1766. A list of his battles can be found on the sides of the pillar. He fought in the armies of King George III against the French and their allies and served in the West Indies, India and Indonesia. In 1814, at the beginning of the Gurkha War, Gillespie led an attack on a Nepalese fort at Kalunga where he was fatally wounded. Having been shot through the heart, his reputed last words were “one shot more for the honour of Down”. Gillespie received a posthumous knighthood in the New Year Honours list 1815 and this memorial was unveiled 24 June 1845.
Comber War Memorial
The idea of a War Memorial for Comber was raised in 1919. One early suggestion was that it should take the form of a house for the District Nurse situated in grounds sufficient to permit a cottage hospital to be attached at a later date. This proposal was later rejected due to the wishes of relatives of the dead who wanted a Monument erected in the Square.
Comber & District War Memorial was unveiled on Saturday 14th April 1923 at 3PM. All businesses in the town closed, and local ex-servicemen paraded to the Square headed by Comber Amateur Flute Band. A large crowd gathered and, despite a heavy downpour, remained until the end of the ceremony. The unveiling was carried out by Mrs L.A. Hind (sister of the future Prime Minister John Miller Andrews), whose husband had been killed at the Somme in 1916. John Miller Andrews read out the names of the fallen, while the prayer of dedication was offered by Canon Charles Campbell Manning, until recently rector of St Mary's Parish Church in Comber, and who had served as a chaplain to the Forces in France where he won the Military Cross. Floral tributes were placed at the foot of the Memorial by relatives of the dead.
426 names of men who served in the Great War were included on the Memorial, including a panel of 79 who lost their lives. These included the three Donaldson Brothers, killed side by side at the Somme; also Comber's VC winner Edmund de Wind; and George James Bruce who had led a contingent of recruits out of Comber to Clandeboye Camp in 1914.
A captured German field gun was presented to the town in honour of the late Edmund de Wind VC. This sat in the Square until August 1940 when it was removed for scrap metal to help the war effort during the Second World War.
In 1952 Memorial Gardens were laid out in Comber Square in memory of those who fought and died in the Second World War. Comber's War Memorial was included within these gardens.
Edmund de Wind
Edmund De Wind VC was the only Comber man to win the Victoria Cross, awarded posthumously, in recognition of his valour and self-sacrifice. Born 1883, the son of the chief engineer of the Belfast and County Down Railway, he emigrated to Canada in 1911 and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary
In 1917, he transferred to the 36th Ulster Division. While being overrun by a German offensive, De Wind escaped heavy fire to clear the enemy from his trench. He single-handedly held a post against attack for seven hours at Race Course Redoubt near Grougies, but was mortally wounded.
A large German gun was presented to Comber in honour of de Wind at the end of the War and placed in the Square. Sadly, the gun was used for scrap metal in the Second World War, but its inscribed plaques were removed for posterity to St Mary’s Church as well as a plaque in his memory.