Sergeant John Orr



John Orr was born on 22 March 1867 at Brookeboro, Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh the first of at least five children of carpenter John Orr and his wife Anne (née Short). On 10 April 1886 he enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, re-enlisting in the regiment ten years later (No.1202). On 4 September 1891 he married Rebecca Cranston in the Agahvea Church of Ireland Parish Church. The couple had eight children over the next fourteen years.

At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Brookeborough Town with his wife and seven surviving children and working as a carpenter.

The only record of Orr's service in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron is in the caption attached to the newspaper article above, dated 30 December 1914, which stated that Sergeant Orr had served through the South African War and was now serving with the Inniskilling Dragoons. If so it is probable that he enlisted in October 1914, as three of his sons and two of his brothers also joined the squadron that month. Within six months, however, he would have been discharged, probably on account of his age.

On 6 May 1915 the Fermanagh Times reported that:

John Orr, Brookeborough, was charged with a third offence of drunkenness and the Chairman said as he had three sons in the Army he would only be fined 5s, but that that would be doubled if he came back.

Orr re-enlisted at Belfast on 17 September 1915, this time in the Royal Engineers (No.64596). He gave his age as 42 (six years less than his true age) and his trade as wheelwright. He mentioned his previous service in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, but nothing was said about anything more recent.

Following an assessment of his trade skills ("very good carpenter & wheelwright"), on 20 September he joined his unit – the 121st Field Company – at Borden in England. On 25 October, however, he was posted to No.7 Depot Company.

Orr was discharged on 27 June 1916 being 'no longer physically fit for war service' (paragraph 392 (xvi), King's Regulations) due to 'debility (age)'.

On 4 September 1941 the Belfast News-Letter reported that:

Mr. John Orr, of Munmurry, Brookeborough, and his wife Rebecca celebrate their golden wedding to-day. Mr. Orr served with the Royal Engineers in the last war, in which three of his sons also saw service. One son in the Royal Irish Rifles made the supreme sacrifice.

He died at Munmurry on 11 April 1953.


Three of Orr's sons – Henry Orr, John Robert Orr and William Orr – and two of his brothers – Henry Orr and Thomas Joseph Orr – also served in the war in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron.


The image of Private Orr is part of a family military photograph which can be seen in its full context here.


This page last updated 23 January 2023.