Private Robert Bearns



Robert Bearns was born on 6 August 1898 at Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, the third of ten children of shoemaker Robert Bearns and his wife Mary Anne (Annie) (née Blair). At the time of the 1911 Census he was living in Moore Street, Aughnacloy, with his parents and his five surviving siblings (another would be born soon after).

Bearns enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron on 14 November 1914 (No. UD/164). He was only sixteen years old at the time.

The squadron, which had been formed as divisional cavalry for the 36th (Ulster) Division, embarked for France on 6 October 1915. A party of at least thirty men of the squadron, including Bearns, had embarked three days earlier, many if not all attached to 36th Division Headquarters. He later rejoined his squadron, though it is not known when this took place.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron joined with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps. In August-September 1917 the Regiment was disbanded and its men were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment, most being posted to the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion on 20 September. Bearns joined the battalion later that year or in January 1918 – the delay may have been due to illness, injury or being posted elsewhere. He was issued regimental number 41697.

Bearns was wounded in the right leg during the German spring offensive, probably in the fighting around Wulverghem and Mount Kemmel from 12 to 18 April 1918. Evacuated to England for treatment, on 23 November he was discharged from the army, being 'no longer physically fit for war service' (paragraph 392 (xvi), King's Regulations). He was awarded a pension due to the wound and a 'dropped foot' , his level of disability assessed at 30 per cent in February 1920.

On 11 March 1919 Bearns married Sarah Jane Atchison in St Anne's Church of Ireland Parish Church in Belfast. His address at the time was 137 Humber Street and he was working as a labourer. Sarah died on 26 March 1921 as a result of an infection from the birth of their second child (the child also died). Robert was remarried, to Evelyn McKeown, at the Church of Ireland Holy Trinity Church in Lislimnaghan, County Tyrone, on 10 May 1922.

Bearns served in the Royal Irish and Royal Ulster Constabulary from around 1920, and later as a civil servant. By 1954 he was living 105 Coleraine Road, Portstewart. He died in the Coleraine Hospital on 11 April and was buried in the Agherton Cemetery.


Image sourced from Public Member Trees – contributor 'helenmnelson01'.


This page last updated 17 March 2023.