Private William Frederick McDowell


William Frederick McDowell was born on 11 January 1897 at Glenbank, Lower Ballysillan, County Antrim, the tenth of twelve children of bleachworks manager Matthew McDowell and his wife Margaret (née Curry). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Ballysillan with his parents and seven of his ten surviving sibilings.

McDowell enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 8 September 1914 (No.1164). He gave his occupation as a linen warehouse apprentice and his age as 20 years 252 days, three years more than his actual age. On 30 November 1914 he was awarded three days' confined to barracks and lost two days' pay for being 'absent off pass'.

On 19 January 1915 he embarked for France with a reinforcement draft for A and C Squadrons – he was probably posted to the latter.

In June 1916 C Squadron combined with F Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and its men were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including McDowell, 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. McDowell was issued regimental number 41524.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

On 28 December 1917 McDowell was one of twenty-four former North Irish Horsemen who transferred from the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, to the Tank Corps (No.304868). Following training at the Tank Corps Depot at Bovington near Wareham, Dorset, he was posted to the 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion with the rank of gunner.

On 24 June 1918 he returned to France, joining the 17th Battalion in the field two months later. He probably saw action with the battalion in the last months of the war during the Advance to Victory offensive.

McDowell returned to the UK on 4 March 1919. On 3 April he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

McDowell later worked as a civil servant. On 25 September 1922 he married Annie (Nan) Johnston at Ballysillan Presbyterian Church. By 1964 he was living at 61 Wandsworth Road, Belfast. He died on 9 June that year.


At least two of McDowell's brothers also served in the war - Samuel McDowell in the 15th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, and Francis McDowell in the North Irish Horse.