Private John Montgomery


John Montgomery was born on 4 July 1892 at Dunsinare, County Monaghan, the last of nine children of miller (later farmer) John Montgomery and his wife Elizabeth (née Donaldson). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Dunsinare with his parents, two sisters and two other relatives.

Montgomery enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 26 February 1914 (No.914). He embarked for France with C Squadron on 20 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

On 3 July 1915 the Larne Times reported that:

Trooper John Montgomery, of the North Irish Horse, Danemire [sic], near Monaghan (whose father died a few days ago at an advanced age), who is home from the front on a short furlough, said, in an interview, he was called up on the outbreak of the war, and on 22nd of August landed at Havre. He was through the now famous retreat from Mons, when the British Army were forced to retire from the overwhelming hordes of Germans. He received his baptism of fire at Soissons, and described the sensation as "terrible at first, but," he added with a smile, "it's a thing one gets used to, and after a while we began to look upon it as almost nothing. It was part of the day's work. From Soissons they were forced to continue the rear guard action to Crepy, where they had a couple of days' rest, which was badly needed after the trying period that preceded it. They were soon in action again, and had the satisfaction of driving the Germans out of a farm of which they had gained occupation.

The British Army was then moved to the present scene of operations and the North Irish Horse had the honour of forming the bodyguard of the British Commander-in-Chief. Their duties consist principally of what Trooper Montgomery describes as police work. They are also employed to a large extent in carrying the wounded out of the trenches. At Crepy he had his horse shot from under him, but escaped unwounded himself. Up to the present he had come through without a scratch, but, of course, there were times that to escape seemed miraculous. There are several Monaghan men at the front, and the trooper remarked he was along with Trooper Jim Turbitt, of Urcher, Stranardan, who also had the good fortune to be unhurt so far.

In further conversation he said he had one experience of the asphyxiating gas. They were five miles behind the fighting line when they felt a suffocating sensation. They immediately put on the respirators with which they had been supplied, and their smoke helmets, which were quite large, and a piece that could be pulled down all round their heads. With these on they did not mind the gas, but the horses felt it very much even at that distance.

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 transferred to the infantry. Like most, Montgomery was posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – on 20 September, joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. He was issued regimental number 41306. It is likely that he saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917, and probably also during the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918.

Montgomery was wounded in the left arm, probably in the fighting around Wulverghen and Mt Kemmel on the Ypres front in April 1918. Evacuated to the UK for treatment, he saw no further front-line service. On 14 December 1918 he was discharged, being no longer physically fit for military service due to his wound (paragraph 392 xvi, King's Regulations). He was also granted a pension – the fact that as late as 1922 his level of disability was assessed at 60 per cent suggests his wound was a severe one.