In memoriam

Private William James Turkington



William James Turkington was born on 15 November 1891 at Killygarvan, County Tyrone, the fifth of seven children of farmer William James Turkington and his wife Hannah (nee Mullan). Soon after, the family moved to Belfast, where Turkington's father found work as a railway porter. By 1914 William James (junior) was working as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway.

Between 23 November 1914 and 9 February 1915 he enlisted at Belfast in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron (No.UD/207). He rose to the rank of squadron quartermaster-sergeant but, according to the Belfast News-Letter, "in order to get to the front more quickly he gave up his stripes and proceeded on active service", arriving in France in June 1917. There he joined his squadron, which since June 1916 had been part of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps.

In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was dismounted 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. Turkington, like the majority of the men, was transferred to the battalion on 20 September. He was issued a new regimental number – 41173.

In November and December 1917 the 9th 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.

Turkington was one of the 82 casualties, though whether he was killed on the 22nd or 23rd is uncertain.

As he has no known grave, Private Turkington is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France, Panel 10.



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