Lieutenant David Roy


David Roy was born on 15 December 1895 at 16 Enfield Street, Belfast, the last of eleven children of commercial traveller Joseph Roy and his wife Ellen (nee Lavery). Educated at Antrim Road National School and the Municipal Technical Institute, Belfast, by 1911 he was living with his parents and three siblings at 125 Old Lodge Road, Belfast, and working as an apprentice clerk. After working for both the Lancashire and Yorkshire and the London and North Western Railway Companies, he completed his apprenticeship in 1915.

Roy enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 1 May 1915 (No.1507 – later Corps of Hussars No.71412). On 11 January 1916 he embarked for France with E Squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 34th Division. In May that year E Squadron joined with A and D Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX then V Corps.

Roy was promoted to lance corporal on 10 May 1916, acting corporal on 18 February 1917, and corporal on 3 March 1917. On 6 June 1917 he applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for the Royal Irish Rifles. On 3 July he left France for the UK where, after a period of leave, on 7 September he reported for duty at No.7 Officer Cadet Battalion at Fermoy. On 30 January 1918 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.

Soon after, Roy embarked for France, where he was attached to the 16th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers). It seems likely that he joined the battalion at the end of April with twelve other officers, helping replace the many lost during the German Spring Offensive.

On 24 July the 16th Battalion war diary reported:

Mont Noir Posts heavily shelled with Gas, night 23/24th. 1 Officer 28 O.Rs. "Wounded – Gas". No.1 Coy also shelled – 1 Offr 1 O.R. "Wounded".

Roy was one of the casualties that night. The mustard gas damaged his eyes and throat – he vomited for a day, his eyelids were blistered and his eyes closed for four days. On 15 August he was evacuated to England, where he was admitted to Hamilton Military Hospital. Two weeks later a medical board in London found that the lesions had healed, his health was good, and he was fit for service. After three weeks' leave he reported for duty at the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.

Roy was demobilised on 6 April 1919. He relinquished his commission on 1 April 1920 with the rank of lieutenant.

On 13 July 1921 he married Agnes Clyde Aspell at Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, Shankill, Belfast.

After the war Roy returned to work with the railways. He died in tragic circumstances on 2 May 1934. The details can be seen in the newspaper articles below.


Belfast News-Letter, 3 May 1934


Belfast Telegraph, 4 May 1934


Belfast Telegraph, 5 May 1934


At least three of Roy's four surviving brothers served during the war. Alexander Roy served in the North Irish Horse. Hugh St Clair Roy, a veteran of the Boer War, rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Royal Air Force – in 1916 and 1917 he was awarded a Military Cross and Bar.

Belfast Evening Telegraph, 22 November 1916