Private James Alexander Ritchie


James Alexander (or James Hanna) Ritchie was born on 1 March 1884 at Pollee, Skerry, near Broughshane, County Antrim, the seventh of nine children of agricultural labourer Charles Ritchie and his wife Mary (née Alexander). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at nearby Ballylig and working on the farm of his uncle John.

Ritchie enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 1 and 20 November 1916 (No.2306). The following month, on 7 December, he married Jane Thompson in the First Presbyterian Church, Ballymena. The couple's first child, James Alexander, was born at Rathkeel the following year.

Ritchie trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France in the first half of 1917, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiments.

In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Ritchie, were transferred on 20 September and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. Ritchie was issued regimental number 41356.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and during the retreat from St Quentin from 21-28 March 1918. He was wounded soon after, probably in the fighting between Wulverghem and Kemmel on the Ypres front from 11 to 18 April.

Having recovered and rejoined his battalion, Ritchie was twice wounded during the Advance to Victory offensive from August to November 1918.


At least one of Ritchie's brothers, David, also served in the war, as a sergeant in the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916.