In memoriam

Private Christopher McWilliams



Christopher (Christy) McWilliams was born on 10 June 1898 at Mullaghmeen, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, the seventh of fourteen children of agricultural labourer and former soldier in the Royal Engineers James McWilliams and his wife Anne (née Mulligan). Educated at Ballinamallard, at the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, with his parents and seven of his siblings, and working as a yarn winder.

McWilliams enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen between 7 June and 2 August 1915 (No.UD/268). He was aged just seventeen. On 6 October 1915 the squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division, embarked for France. McWilliams, however, remained at the reinforcements depot at Enniskillen, probably on account of his age.

In 1916 or the first half of 1917 he embarked for France, where he joined the squadron in the field.

In June 1916 the Inniskillings squadron had 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 until August the following year. In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was disbanded and most of its officers and men were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – which was renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. McWilliams, like the majority of the men, was transferred to the battalion on 20 September. He was issued a new regimental number – 41085.

In November and December 1917 the 9th (NIH) Battalion played a role in the Battle of Cambrai, first going into action in the attack on the village of Moeuvres on 22-23 November. The battalion war diary for those days reads as follows:

[22 November] The Battn moved up at 6.30 a.m. to a position N. of Bapaume & Cambrai Road arriving at 8.30 a.m. Here the Battn waited for an order to attack Inchi when Moeuvres was taken by the 12th Royal Irish Rifles. At 11.45 a.m. the 12th R. Ir. Rifles captured village of Moeuvres. It was unable to clear trenches East of village. At 5.30 p.m. Battn moved up to support 12th R. Ir. Rifles in the village of Moeuvres. At 5.45 p.m. 12th R. Ir. Rifles reported driven out of village. At 8.30 p.m. Battn less 'D' Coy counter attacked village of Moeuvres but was driven back to trenches immediately south of the village, where it took up a defensive position for the night.

[23 November] Battn attacked Moeuvres at 10.30 a.m. At 11 a.m. Battn reported in village. At 11.45 a.m. enemy counter attacked from trenches West of village. 12.15 p.m. counter attack driven off. At 4.30 .p.m village evacuated by Battn on account of supports not coming up. 5 p.m. 'C' & 'D' Coys took up position on Sunken Road South of village and 'A' & 'B' Coys went back to trenches North of Bapaume & Cambrai Road.

Casualties for 22nd & 23rd: Officers killed 1. Officers wounded 6. ORs 82 casualties.

McWilliams was one of the 82 casualties, though whether he was killed on the 22nd or 23rd is not known.

As he has no known grave, Private McWilliams is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France, Panel 10. If his body was recovered by the Germans after the battle, it was probably buried in the German extension to the Moeuvres Communal Cemetery, and after the war re-interred in the British extension, in which lie 263 unidentified casualties.


McWilliams' brother,William James McWilliams, also served during the war in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron.



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This page last updated 5 July 2023.