Private James Roxburgh


James Roxburgh was born on 30 October 1878 at Ballygawley, Aghadowey, County Londonderry, one of at least eight children of labourer James Roxburgh and his wife Elizabeth (née Callagher).

It is probable that he served in the military at some point prior to the war, possibly in the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers).

At the time of the 1911 Census he was living as a boarder at 21 Carnalea Street, Belfast, the home of Edward Guiller and family, and working as a plater's labourer.

On 31 August 1912 Roxburgh married Elizabeth McDonagh in St Anne's Church of Ireland Parish Church, Belfast. The couple had three children over the next seven years, living at various addresses in Belfast including 30 Roxburgh Street, 106 Nelson Street and 66 Medway Street.

On the day war was declared, 4 August 1914, Roxburgh enlisted at Hamilton, Scotland, in the Royal Garrison Artillery (No.41373). He gave his age as 24 years (well under his true age), and his trade as rivetter. He did not state that he had had any prior military service. Posted to No.4 Depot at Great Yarmouth, on 1 September he was awarded 14 days' detention for an unspecified offence. On 23 September he was posted to the 20th Company RGA. On 12 December 1914 at Dundee, Roxburgh was convicted by a civil court of theft and fraud (see below).


The People's Journal, 19 December 1914


After serving a sentence of 14 days' imprisonment he returned to duty, and on 6 February 1915 was discharged from the army.

Three days later Roxburgh enlisted at Belfast in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron (No. UD 210). He gave his age as 32 and his occupation as labourer. He did not mention his service with the RGA, but stated that he had served in the 6th Dragoon Guards.

On 7 April 1915 he faced a District Court Martial charged with 'stealing goods the property of a comrade (one overcoat from Lance Corporal McCammon); stealing goods the property of a comrade (one pair of boots from Private H Armstrong)'. Found guilty, Roxburgh was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour, then to be discharged with ignominy. The discharge took place on 7 September 1915 and his military character was recorded as 'bad'.

It appears that Roxburgh enlisted once again during the war, as the birth record for his daughter Lily in September 1919 gives her father's occupation as 'soldier'.


This page last updated 5 February 2023.