Private Robert Patterson


The background of this North Irish Horseman is not known at present, other than that he was said to have been born in February 1898. That would suggest that he was the Robert Patterson born on 28 February 1898 at 13 Singleton Street, Belfast, the sixth of ten children of van driver William Patterson and his wife Margaret (née Todd). At the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 15 Sheridan Street, Belfast, with his parents and eight of his siblings.

On the outbreak of war, Patterson was working as an apprentice fitter with John McLean & Sons, Engineers and Elevator Builders, of 76 Grosvenor Road, Belfast. He enlisted in the North Irish Horse, probably on 26 January 1915 with another McLean and Sons apprentice, Stanley Bower. (His regimental number is not known for certain, but it is probable that it was No.1422).

Patterson was only 17 at the time he enlisted, and he had done so without the permission of his parents or his employer. Both sought his discharge. On 29 January John McLean & Sons wrote to the regiment:

With reference to two boys, who we understand applied for enlisting, in your command, we beg respectfully to ask that these two boys be returned, as they are our apprentices and under age, the boy Stanley Bower being born in August 1897, and the boy Robert Patterson born in February 1898, both these boys have gone without the consent of their parents, who have been here with us and want them returned home at once. We beg to point out that 50% of our men and boys, have joined the colours, and in no case do we object although many of them were our apprentices, but as these two boys are so young, and we have been so much inconvenienced and at such serious loss through want of workers, we are sure that you will recognise our justification and readily exceed [sic] to our request.

Following provision of his birth certificate, Bower was discharged 'having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment, being underage' (paragraph 392(vi), King's Regulations). It is therefore probable that Patterson, too, was discharged at this time.

It is not known whether Patterson re-enlisted later in the war.