In memoriam

Lance Corporal Harold Lionel Irvine





Harold Lionel Irvine was born on 24 February 1894 in Darling Street, Enniskillen, the ninth of ten children of boot merchant William Irvine and his wife Mary Jane (née Mayne). His mother died when he was just nine years old. At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 12-13 Darling Street with his father and four of his siblings, and working as a clerk in the Enniskillen branch of the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society Ltd.

Prior to the war Irvine served in the 3rd Battalion, Fermanagh Regiment of the Ulster Volunteer Force, and the UVF's mounted regiment the Enniskillen Horse, in which he acted as trumpeter. On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, before (between 19 February and 3 March) transferring to the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron (No. UD/223 – later Corps of Dragoons No.21264).

On 6 October 1915 he embarked for France with his squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division. In June 1916 the Inniskillings became part of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps.

On 4 July 1916, in the first week of the Battle of the Somme, the Inniskillings squadron sustained a number of casualties from enemy artillery fire. Irvine was among them, suffering shell-shock. The Fermanagh Times of 27 July reported that:

Mr. Wm. Irvine, Darling Street, Enniskillen, has been notified by the war office authorities that his only son, Corporal Harold Irvine, 6th (Reserve Squadron) Inniskilling Dragoons, was wounded in action, (shell shock) on the 4th inst.Corporal Irvine joined the 11th Battalion Royal Inniskillings (Fermanagh and Donegal Volunteers) at the outbreak of war, and was immediately promoted to the rank of sergeant. He served with that battalion for some months, subsequently being transferred at his own request to his present regiment reverting to the rank of trooper, and in a very short time he was promoted to his present rank. Before going over seas he was stationed in Enniskillen, Antrim, Newtownards and Seaford, respectively.

Irvine was evacuated to the UK for treatment, subsequently serving at the Inniskilling squadron's reserve depot at Enniskillen.

On 24 October 1918 he reported sick but was sent back on duty by the regimental doctor. Two days later he was admitted to the town's military hospital, where he was found to be suffering from pneumonia. He died there that evening. A coroner's inquest was subsequently held into the circumstances surrounding his death. (See article below.) The inquest found that Irvine "came to his death from pneumonia on Saturday, 26th October, 1918, in the Military Hospital, Enniskillen, and we believe he did not receive proper care on his first examination on 24th October by Surgeon-Major Bruce, the military doctor attached to this station."


Fermanagh Times, 31 October 1918


Lance Corporal Irvine was buried with military honours on 29 October at Breandrum Cemetery, County Fermanagh, grave 3.221. The gravestone inscription reads:



Fermanagh Times, 31 October 1918


Irvine's father later received a letter of condolence from 2nd Lieutenant John Irwin, who wrote:

He and I were together in France and at home, and it grieved me to hear of his death. As a brother soldier and as a chum, I could not let the occasion pass without expressing my sympathy with you when I heard of his death.


Note – Irvine's original gravestone (below) incorrectly showed him as belonging to the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers). This was recently corrected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.



Second gravestone image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project, First gravestone image and newspaper image from the Belfast Evening Telegraph kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster ( Second image of Irvine sourced from the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society Roll of Honour, held by the National Library of Scotland.


This page last updated 30 June 2023.