Private John Rice


John Rice was born on 10 January 1869 at 3 Lagan Street, Belfast, the second of at least eight children of cook John Rice and his wife Ellen (née McMullen).

On 22 January 1891 at Armagh he enlisted in the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen's Bays) (No.3648), joining the regiment two days later at Canterbury. Prior to that he had served six years in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (militia). He embarked for India on 1 September 1891. On 19 August 1892, tried by a regimental court martial for sleeping while on sentry duty, he was awarded 14 days' imprisonment with hard labour.

Rice then served in Egypt from October 1894. While there, on 19 May 1896, he was tried by a district court martial for resisting an escort and conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. He was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment with hard labour (but with three months' remission). On completion of his sentence he was sent home, where on 5 November 1896 he was discharged, being 'incorrigible and worthless'.

At the time of the 1901 Census Rice was living at 29 Bryansford Street, Belfast, with his parents and three younger sisters, and working as a cook. In 1903 and 1904 he was imprisoned for assault (see article below).


The Belfast News-Letter, 16 November 1904


Rice enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 8 and 10 August 1914 (No.970). It is probable that he reported his earlier military service (though not the circumstances of his discharge), for just days later, on 20 August, he embarked for France with C Squadron. There he saw action on the retreat from Mons and the advance to the Aisne.

C Squadron then served as corps headquarters cavalry until April 1915, when it was attached as divisional cavalry to the 3rd Division.

On 3 November 1915, however, Rice was discharged for misconduct (paragraph 392(xi), King's Regulations).

On 1 September 1916 he re-enlisted at Belfast as a sapper in the Inland Water Transport Section of the Royal Engineers (No. WR/320579). He recorded his employment as a dock labourer and stated that he had had no prior military service. He continued to serve in that role in the UK until demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 26 February 1919.

By 1926 Rice was living at 48 Canton Street, off Beersbridge Road, Belfast. In April that year he wrote to the authorities seeking his service medals:

I beg to inform you that up to the present I have not received any medal of any description. The last Regiment I served on was The Roy Engrs (TB). I enlisted on 1st September 1916 and Discharged on 26/2/19. Please look into this at your earliest convenience and oblige.

In reply he was informed that he did not qualify for any medals, having not served overseas. Rice replied stating that he had served overseas with the North Irish Horse. Ordinarily this would not have helped, as he had been discharged for misconduct and was therefore ineligible. In this case, however, and exception was made "in view of his subsequent good service with the R.E."


This page last updated 17 November 2023.