Private William Houston Magee


William Houston Magee was born on 9 October 1888 at 178 Old Park Road, Belfast, the second of four children of linen lapper (later publican) Richard Magee and his wife Margaret Ann (née Adair). Two of his siblings died when very young, and his parents in 1903 and 1908. On 12 January 1910 he married Sarah (Sadie) Keith at her home at 26 Lomond Street, Belfast. He gave his occupation at the time as clerk, and his address as 14 India Street. The couple had three children over the next ten years.

Magee enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 3 May 1915 (No.1514). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot before embarking for France sometime between 1916 and the first half of 1917, possibly with E Squadron on 11 January 1916.

In May and June 1916 E, D and A Squadrons of the North Irish Horse combined to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, and C and F Squadrons joined the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, each serving as corps cavalry units. In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Magee, were transferred on 20 September and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. Magee was issued regimental number 41218.

On the night of 3 November 1917 C Company of the 9th Battalion staged a major raid on the enemy trenches at Havrincourt Wood. Although it was judged a success, they sustained twenty casualties. It is probable that this was when Magee was wounded, in the left leg. On 24 June 1918 he was discharged, being 'no longer physically fit for war service' (paragraph 392 (xvi), King's Regulations). He was granted a pension, his level of disability being assessed at 30 per cent.