Private Benjamin Mitchell



Benjamin (Jack) Mitchell was born on 4 November 1895 at Massereene, Muckamore Grange, County Antrim, the fourth of six children of stone mason Robert Mitchell and his wife Caroline (nee Hobson). By 1911 he was living with his parents and four surviving siblings at Massereene Street, Antrim, and working as a grocer's shopman.

Mitchell enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 23 August 1915 (No.1723 or 1725).

In November 1916 Mitchell was one of 100 North Irish Horsemen who volunteered to transfer to the Royal Irish Rifles. The formal transfer took place on 7 December (Mitchell was issued regimental number 40846), and on the same day they embarked for France, where they joined the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, on the Somme front.

On 20 March 1917 the Northern Whig reported that 'Jack' Mitchell of Massereene had been wounded. It is likely that this took place between 4 and 8 March, when the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, took part in a short but fierce attack in the sector in front of Bouchavesnes. The initial attack on 4 March had been a complete success. Within 40 minutes the objectives – Pallas Trench and Fritz Trench behind it – were seized. The consolidation took longer, with artillery bombardment and counter-attacks from the enemy. Mitchell's battalion, initially held in reserve, received orders to come up in relief at 6.00 pm. At midday on 5 March the Battalion was ordered to relieve the 2nd Royal Berkshires in the front line. This they accomplished that night. The battalion's war diary states:

... The shelling was again heavy. 1 OR was killed 3 OR wounded.  D Coy held the new front line, C Coy were in Pallas Trench, A Coy in a new trench leading from Pallas to old British front line, B Coy in old British line.
[6 March] Shelling still severe but consolidation continued.
[7 March] 5 OR killed 19 OR wounded.
[8 March] 11pm. Battalion relieved in the front line by 2 Rifle Brigade, move to a base in Bouchavesne and Lock Barracks.

Following the operation the brigade diary reported that the 1st Battalion had lost 11 other ranks killed, 45 wounded and 22 missing from 4 to 8 March. Mitchell had been badly wounded in the right ankle, and was evacuated to the UK, where he was admitted to hospital.

On 7 November 1917 Mitchell was discharged as being no longer physically fit for war service (due to his wounds) – paragraph 392(xvi) of King's Regulations. He applied for, and was granted, a pension – his disablement rated at 50 per cent by October 1919. His condition, however, gradually improved, and by March 1922 the disability was just 1-5 per cent.

On 28 September 1923 Mitchell married Mary Elizabeth Russell Kernaghan at the First Presbyterian Church, Antrim.


Image from the Belfast Evening Telegraph, 22 March 1917, kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (