Lance Corporal William Bell O'Donoghue



William Bell O'Donoghue was born on 17 June 1896 at Carrickasticken, Forkhill, County Down, the second of five children of farmer John Benjamin O'Donoghue and his wife Sarah Walters O'Donoghue (née Bell). The family later lived at University Avenue, Belfast, where John was employed as a carrier. William's mother died when he was just ten years old and his father left soon after. He was then raised on the farm of his uncle John Bell at Clonlum, Killevy, County Armagh. In 1911 he was employed as an accountant in the office of another uncle, who was clerk of the Newry Union.

O'Donoghue enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 6 October 1915 (No.1737 – later Corps of Hussars No.71531). He embarked for France in 1916 or early 1917, possibly with E Squadron on 11 January 1916.

In May 1916 E Squadron came together with A and D Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps.

O'Donoghue was wounded in the left thigh, shoulder and buttock during the Battle of Langemarck on 16 August 1917. He was evacuated to a base hospital and then to the UK, where he was admitted to a hospital in Stockport. Further detailed were provided in a report in the Belfast News-Letter under the headline 'Gallant North Irish Horseman':

An officer of one of the squadrons of the North Irish Horse, writing to the relatives in Newry of Lance-Corporal William Bell O'Donoghue, ... says – "He was in [the] line with me on 16th August, and, though I cannot tell you details, we were having a pretty rough time. O’Donoghue behaved most splendidly. I have been his troop officer for some time now, and he behaved in a 'tight corner' exactly as I knew he would. I trust that he will soon be with you, and that his recovery will be quick and thorough. If he is well enough in time to come to France again before the war is over I sincerely hope he will come back to my troop. We can do with any number of the same stuff as he." This gallant young soldier is a nephew of Dr. Elizabeth Bell, of Belfast, and prior to joining the army, in which he has two brothers serving, he was an assistant in the office of the clerk of the Newry Union.

Although he recovered, O'Donoghue was not fit for front-line service, and in January 1918 he was transferred to the Labour Corps (No.531434). He remained with that regiment until 15 November 1918, when he was discharged as 'surplus to military requirements, having suffered impairment since entry into the service' (paragraph 392 (xvi)(a), King's Regulations).

O'Donoghue was granted a pension due to his wounds, his level of disability being assessed at 40 per cent.

After his discharge O'Donoghue returned to work at the Newry Union. In 1922 he was appointed Asistant Clerk of the Union. He was later appointed Clerk. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1956 New Year's Honours List.

O'Donoghue married Helen Augusta Reilly at St Mary's Parish Church, Newry, on 19 August 1933. He died on 27 May 1973 and was buried in the Killevy Parish Churchyard.


Belfast Telegraph, 31 August 1967


Belfast Telegraph, 28 May 1973


Two of O'Donoghue's brothers also served in the war: Benjamin Walters O'Donoghue in the South Irish Horse; and John Joseph O'Donoghue in the 18th Australian Infantry Battalion. John was awarded a Military Medal, the recommendation reading:

On Sept 20th 1917 near Westhoek, although wounded in the back and shoulder by shrapnel he continued to serve his gun during the advance. On reaching the final objective he established himself in a forward shell hole and covered the work of consolidation on his sector. Although wounded, he remained on duty until night.


Image of O'Donoghue from the Belfast Telegraph, 31 August 1967.