Private Alexander Wilson Briggs


Alexander Wilson Briggs was born on 25 May 1899 at 52 Rutland Street, Belfast, the second of eight children of painter John Briggs and his wife Sarah Hill Purdon Briggs (née Wilson). At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 51 Rutland Street with his mother and siblings. (His father was working in Omagh.)

Briggs enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron between 2 and 14 August 1915 (No. UD/276). He must have overstated his age, as he was only 16 at the time.

This squadron had been created at Enniskillen at the beginning of the war to play the role of divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division. Just before the Division embarked for France, its senior officers sourced a large number of their orderlies from the Inniskillings squadron – as many as thirty men. Private Briggs was one of these, embarking for France on 3 October 1915.

His true age was soon discovered, however, and he was returned to the UK. On 6 March (or 6 February) 1916 he was discharged, 'having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment' (paragraph 392(vi), King's Regulations).

Undeterred, on 28 July 1916 Briggs re-enlisted in the North Irish Horse (No.2221 – later Corps of Hussars No.71716). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France sometime between 1916 and 1918, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment. This regiment served as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps from its establishment in May 1916 until February-March 1918, when it was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit, serving as corps cyclists to V Corps until the end of the war.

Briggs remained with the regiment until 31 January 1919, when he re-enlisted in the Corps of Dragoons (Corps of Dragoons No.27986 – later Army No.390861). Posted to the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays), he served in France until 20 September 1919, then Egypt until 10 May 1920. He was discharged on 15 March 1921, being 'no longer physically fit for war service' (paragraph 392(xvi), King's Regulations). His military character was recorded as 'very good'.

He was awarded a pension due to a wound ('GSW') to his left leg, which had had to be amputated. In October 1922 his degree of disability was assessed at 60 per cent.


This page last updated 5 July 2023.