Private Robert Alexander Nelson


Robert Alexander Nelson was born on 8 July 1890 at Lismoney, Cookstown, County Londonderry, the ninth of eleven children of farm labourer William Nelson and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Gourley). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at nearby Ballyforlea with his parents, two younger siblings and a nephew, and working as a labourer.

Nelson enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Cookstown on 18 January 1913 (No.783). He reported that he was a blacksmith, and as a result, three months later was promoted to the rank of shoeing smith.

On 5 August 1914, the day after war was declared, Nelson married Lily Bates at the Church of Ireland Parish Church, Lissan. The couple had three children over the next four years.

Soon after he was mobilised, Nelson fell ill, complaining of "headaches, giddiness and cardiac pain". After three days in Belfast Military Hospital a medical board found that heart problems made him permanently unfit for military service.

On 14 September 1914 Nelson was discharged (paragraph 154(xi) Special Reserve Regulations). His character was recorded as 'very good'.