Second Lieutenant Thomas Edward McQuiston


Thomas Edward McQuiston was born on 14 August 1886 at 20 Baggot Street, Belfast, the first of ten children of carpenter (later Clerk of Works at the City Surveyor's Department, Belfast) Brice Ringland McQuiston and his wife Margaret (nee Martin). Educated at Ormeau Road National School, Belfast, by 1911 he was living with his parents and five surviving siblings at 90 Cromwell Road, Belfast, and working as a clerk with the Post Office Telephones. The family later moved to "St Margarets", 106 North Parade, Belfast.

McQuiston enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 13 November 1915 (No.1857 – later Corps of Hussars No.71596). He qualified as a signaller on 13 August 1916 and embarked for France on 27 September, where two weeks later he joined E Squadron in the field at Humbercourt.

On 6 June 1917 McQuiston applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for the Royal Irish Rifles. At the beginning of July 1917 he left France for the UK, where, after a period of leave, on 7 September he reported for duty at No.7 Officer Cadet Battalion, Fermoy. On 30 January 1918 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 20th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.

Later that year McQuiston embarked for France, where he was attached to the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (D Company, 13 Platoon).

On 27 May 1918 the Germans launched a massive surprise attack, to be known as the Third Battle of the Aisne, part of their Spring Offensive. They achieved much initial success, capturing tens of thousands of allied troops and much territory. The 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, was in the line at the time. Although forewarned of the attack, they were completely overwhelmed. The battalion's war diary stated:

There is no information available regarding the fighting of any ... Company [other than C] as all officers are missing & practically all other ranks.

The diary recorded seven killed, seventy wounded and 371 missing. McQuiston was one of the missing, captured near the Craonne Plateau. He was later reported to be a prisoner of war. On his return home after the Armistice he described the day's fighting:

At dusk on the ev[enin]g of the 26/5/1918, "D" Company, 8th D.L.I, to which I was attached took up position in an outpost line. My own, 13 Platoon, being on the right flank. I received a message, later on, from my Company Commander to the effect that enemy bombardment would commence at 12 midnight and would continue until 4 am on the 17/5/18, when an attack would be made. Following receipt of this message I received rations for the platoon for four days. Enemy commenced heavy bombardment about midnight on 26/5/18, during which my Lewis Gun was put out of action [and] repair. Enemy were observed approaching in large numbers on the right flank about 4.30 am on 27/5/18. I brought rifle and rifle grenade fire to bear on them at once, inflicting considerable casualties. I was however unable to hold up their advance and when enemy were roughly about 40 yards from my position I joined the remainder of my company with what was left of my platoon, somewhere about 15 men. I then found that enemy were also attacking on the left flank of my company, the Craonne heights having fallen into their hands. I reported to Lieut Hopper whom I found in command of company, Capt Hutchinson the company commander having been wounded earlier on. We discovered that we were absolutely surrounded and Lieut Hopper decided to put up a fight for it, which we did. At 6.30 am on the 27/5/18 enemy arrived in our trenches and captured the company. I found an opportunity of destroying all documents and letters in my possession.

McQuiston spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner, including at the Karlsruhe Camp. He was released soon after the Armistice, returning to the UK on 30 December 1918. He was demobilised on 27 March 1919, and relinquished his commission on 27 March 1921.

On 22 February 1922 he married Sarah Taggart McCullough in Belfast.


Thomas McQuiston's brother, Brice Elliott McQuiston, served during the war in the North Irish Horse.