Private James Alexander McWilliams


James Alexander McWilliams was born on 18 November 1900 at Gillis, County Armagh, the fourth of six children of farm labourer Robert McWilliams and his wife Susannah (nee Webster). His father had served in the military and was in the army reserve at the time of his marriage in 1891. By the time of the 1911 Census James was living in Gillis with his parents and five siblings.

Given James’s age, it is likely he enlisted in the North Irish Horse in late 1917 or in 1918. He did not see overseas service, probably spending his time in training at the North Irish Horse reserve depot at Antrim.

Discharged following the war, he later re-enlisted, serving in the 1st Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles. On 24 December 1924 he married Lily McKee at Christ Church, Bessbrook, Armagh.


McWilliams' older brother, Robert John, served in the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. He was killed on the Somme on 1 July 1916.


Private Robert John McWilliams


Image sourced from Ancestry public member trees.