Lieutenant John Edward Pittaway


John Edward Pittaway was born on 3 August 1898 at 15E Block Barracks, Canterbury, one of four children of 10th Hussars sergeant-major John Edward Pittaway and his wife Louisa (nee Coe). Pittaway moved to Ireland with his parents after 1901. Educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, by 1911 he was living with them at 37 Skegoneil Avenue, Belfast, his father the regimental sergeant-major of the North irish Horse.

Pittaway enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast, with the rank of 'boy', on 31 March 1914 (No.934). He was just 15 years old. On 21 May he was promoted to the rank of trumpeter. Mobilised on 8 August 1914, he applied for a commission in the 'mounted branch' of the army on 19 January 1915 – this was not accepted, presumably due to his age.

Pittaway embarked for France with D Squadron on 1 May 1915. Before that, while in training at Cople, Bedford, he was charged with being absent from stables and was deprived of two days' pay. On 4 June at Carvin, France, he was awarded two days' field punishment No.2 for being late for stables.

From 7 May to 11 June 1916 he was attached to the 1/7 Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, and the following month was promoted to lance corporal.

On 29 April 1916 Pittaway had applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for the Royal Irish Fusiliers. It was not until after his eighteenth birthday, however, that he was permitted to begin officer training. On 13 October 1916 he left his unit for the UK. Initially posted to No.2 Officer Cadet Battalion at Pembroke College, Cambridge, soon after he transferred to No.1 Royal Field Artillery Cadet School at St John's Wood.

On 8 April 1917 Pittaway was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the Royal Field Artillery Special Reserve. While awaiting orders for France, he was involved in a tragic boating accident on Lough Ree, in which two fellow RFA officers lost their lives (see article below).

Later that year Pittaway embarked for France, where he was attached to the 86th Army Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, A Battalion. In November, during the Battle of Passchendaele, he lost his hearing due to concussion from his artillery gun, also causing a discharge of "purulent fluid" from both ears. In December 1917 he was evacuate to England with appendicitis.

On 14 March 1918 he returned to France, where he rejoined his brigade in the field. However two months later the problem with his ears recurred. He was admitted to No.61 Casualty Clearing Station at Vignacourt, and then the 14th General Hospital at Wimereux. On 7 August he was evacuated to England, where he was admitted to Birkdale Officers' Hospital. A medical board at the 1st Western General Hospital, Fazakerley, Liverpool, on 27 August found he was suffering from a perforated eardrum, but that it was neither serious or permanent.

Pittaway returned to France once again on 20 September 1918, rejoining his unit there. He was promoted to lieutenant on 8 October 1918.

On 18 January 1919 he was demobilised and on 1 April 1920 he relinquished his commission.


Lieutenant Pittaway's father, Captain John Edward Pittaway, also served in the North Irish Horse during the war.


Weekly Telegraph, 9 June 1917