Lieutenant William Ernest (Ernie) Crawford



William Ernest (Ernie) Crawford was born on 17 November 1891 at 4 Cranbrook Terrace, Belfast, the second of seven children of drapery salesman Henry Edward Crawford and his wife Katie Anne (née Sadleir). Educated at the Methodist College and Belfast Mercantile College, at the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 'Arigna', Windsor Park, Belfast, with his parents and five surviving siblings, and working as an accountant. A noted Rugby footballer, he played as fullback for the Malone club from 1908 to 1914.

Crawford enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron between 19 and 26 October 1914 (No. UD/57). Soon after he was promoted to the rank of squadron quartermaster sergeant. On 6 October 1915 he embarked for France with his squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

Crawford was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on 18 February 1916 and posted to the 18th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). He was promoted to lieutenant on 18 August 1917.

On 11 May 1917 while on the Arras front he was wounded in the right arm and wrist, probably whilst attached to the 1/4 (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment. On that day the 1/4 Battalion took part in a surprise attack on Tool Trench and Cavalry Farm, all objectives being achieved.

Crawford was evacuated to the UK where he slowly recovered, though one of his arms was shorter and he lost power in three fingers. A medical board found him no longer fit for front line service and he spent the remainder of the war attached to the Ministry of Munitions.

On 15 August 1917 he married Florence Kathleen Edith Allman in St Philip's Church, Dublin.

Crawford's brother Frederick Harold was also serving as an officer in the London Regiment. According to a report in the Northern Whig of 4 December 1917:

Lieutenant Frederick H. Crawford, London Regiment, [was] wounded on 1st inst. ... He was also wounded on September 15, 1916. In July, 1916, he was accidentally wounded while bomb instructing, and was gassed in August, 1917. He is now in a Red Cross Hospital at Rouen suffering from severe gunshot wounds in the face and foot. His brother, Second-Lieutenant William Ernest Crawford, is in Castle Hospital, Dublin, suffering from the effect of a wound received in France on 11th May.

Crawford relinquished his commission on 30 September 1921. After the war he returned to work as an accountant. The following article appeared in the Belfast News-Letter on 21 March 1919:



He also studied law and in 1923 was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland. The Irish Times reported on 22 November 1923 that:

... yesterday ... Mr. William Ernest Crawford, Aringa, St. John's Park, Belfast ... [was] called to the Bar of Northern Ireland. Mr. Crawford, who qualified as a chartered accountant in 1914, is a Rugby International, and has played full back for Ireland for the past few years. He captained the Malone XV before the war. Later he joined the Lansdowne Club, Dublin, and became captain. ... [He has] previously been called to the Bar of the Free State.

From 1933 to 1954 he served as City Treasurer in the Belfast Corporation.

Crawford was best known for his achievements in Rugby. Betwen 1920 and 1927 he gained thirty caps for Ireland, captaining the team on fifteen occasions. He was an Irish selector from 1943 to 1951 and 1955 to 1957.



He died at his home, 24 Cranmore Avenue, Belfast, on 11 January 1959 and was buried in the City Cemetery, Glenalina Extension. Some of the obituaries from the time are reproduced below.


Irish Times, 12 January 1959


Belfast Telegraph, 12 January 1959


Belfast Telegraph, 12 January 1959



The first image, part of a group photo of officers and NCOs of the squadron, appeared in the Belfast Evening Telegraph of 28 January 1915. The full image can be seen here. The second image of Crawford is sourced from the World Rugby Museum website. The cemetery image is sourced from the Find a Grave website. Some of the information on Crawford's playing career provided by Willow Murray. Also see this page for more information on his sporting career.


This page last updated 9 February 2023.