Private James O'Brien


James O'Brien was born 12 July 1890 at Cavanakill, Ballymyre, County Armagh, the fifth or sixth of seven children of farmer William O'Brien and his wife Agnes (nee Allen). His father died when he was just ten years old. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Cavanakill with his mother and working on the family farm.

O'Brien enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 18 January and 16 February 1912 (No.664). He embarked for France with C Squadron on 20 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

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, O'Brien joined the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – on 20 September. He was issued regimental number 41276 and posted to C Company.

In October 1917 the 9th (NIH) Battalion was serving on the Cambrai sector, having moved there after sustaining heavy casualties at Langemarck. The battalion took its turn in the front line at Havrincourt Wood from 7 to 15 October. According to the official war diary it was "a tour in which our casualties were particularly low, viz: 3 slightly wounded." This took place on 9 October, a "generally quiet day on our front & weather broken & cold. 3 O.R were slightly wounded by shell-fire." The wounded men were Privates James Moore, James O'Brien and James Lewis. Moore and O'Brien, being men recently transferred from the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, were the first Horsemen wounded while serving with the 9th (NIH) Battalion., Royal Irish Fusiliers.

O'Brien later rejoined his battalion and was one of the many posted as missing following the fighting withdrawal from St Quentin to near Amiens from 21 to 28 March 1918. It was later learned that he had been wounded in the left arm, so severely that it had to be amputated.

O'Brien was discharged on 21 February 1920, having been granted a pension.