Private John McWilliams


John McWilliams was born on 24 August 1888 at Derryboy, Newry, County Down, the fourth of twelve children of farmer Martin McWilliams and his wife Jane (nee Dodds). By 1911 he was living at nearby Lisduff with his great-aunt Martha Jane McWilliams and his younger brother James, and working on the farm.

McWilliams enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 11 March and 8 April 1910 (No.500). He embarked for France with A Squadron on 17 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

Later in the war McWilliams returned to Ireland. On 6 August 1917 he married Harriet Truesdale at Newry. Soon after, he returned to France.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and most of its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st Regiment, were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – re-named the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. McWilliams, like most of the men, was transferred on 20 September. He was issued a new number – 41297. He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917, and perhaps also during the German spring offensive in March and April 1918.

During 1918 (probably after May) McWilliams was posted to the 5/6 (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. He later returned to the 9th (NIH) Battalion.