Sergeant Robert Irwin



Robert Irwin (or Erwin) was born on 2 April 1881 at Tullyheron, Waringstown, County Down, one of seven children of farmer Thomas Erwin and his wife Mary Jane (nee Waddell). A coachman and groom, Irwin married Margaret McCullough in Lurgan on 1 January 1906. The couple had two children – Mary Jane born in 1907, and Elizabeth Eileen born nine years later. By 1911 he was living with his father, wife and first child at Tullyheron.

Irwin may have served in the Boer War – there was a Robert Irwin in the 46th (Belfast) Company, 12th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry. He served in the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry at some point between 1903 and 1908, and between 2 and 16 January 1909 enlisted in the North Irish Horse (No.263). He left the regiment when his period of service ended, either in January 1913 or January 1914.

On 10 August 1914 Irwin re-joined the North Irish Horse at Belfast (No.988). He was made acting lance corporal on 22 July 1915 and corporal on 18 November 1915. Twice while training at Antrim he was disciplined for minor offences – on 19 November 1914 fined 6 days pay for being absent from 12 noon to watch-setting, and on 12 February 1916 reprimanded for neglect of duty whilst squadron orderly corporal.

On 22 February 1916 he embarked for France, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, probably the latter. He was promoted to sergeant on 24 May 1917.

In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was dismounted and most of its men, together with some from the 1st Regiment, were transferred to the infantry. After training at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, the men were formally transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 September and soon after were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – re-named the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt. Irwin was issued regimental number 41560. He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

On 28 December 1917 Irwin was one of a number of men of the 9th Battalion who transferred to the Tank Corps (No.304845). He was sent for training to the Tank Corps Depot, at Bovington near Wareham, Dorset. Initially posted to the 17th Battalion, on 31 August 1918 he joined the 18th Battalion and was deployed with it to France on 2 October 1918.

He returned to the UK for demobilisation on 21 January 1919 and was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 19 February.


The image above from 1912, identified only as 'Sergeant Irwin' is probably Robert Irwin. However it could also be Richard Irwin. The full picture can be seen here.