Saddler John Rea


John Rea was born on 22 March 1883 at Corbally, Killead, County Antrim, the second of two children of domestic servant Annabella Rea. At the time of the 1901 Census he was living at Corbally with his aunt, farmer Ellen Campbell, her two sons, his brother and a nephew, and working as a saddler. On 1 July 1904 he married Lizzie Taggart in Randalstown Presbyterian Church. The couple had four children over the next sixteen years. At the time of the 1911 Census they were living at Killealy, Ballyrobin, County Antrim, John working as a saddler. They later moved to Main Street, Crumlin.

Rea enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 6 May 1916 (No.2163 – later Corps of Hussars No.71704). He was immediately promoted to the rank of saddler. He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France on 15 April 1917. There he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment. This regiment served as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps from its establishment in May 1916 until February-March 1918, when the regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit. This meant a 25 per cent reduction in the regiment's numbers, and as a result, on 4 April 1918 Rea was transferred to the 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars.

Rea remained with that regiment until 4 November 1918, when he was transferred to the Labour Corps (No.636501), retaining his rank as saddler. On 31 March 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve. His military character was recorded as 'good'. He was granted a pension due to bronchitis and defective vision, his level of disability assessed at 30 per cent in May 1920.