Private John Smith



John Smith was born on 12 December 1896 at Dundee, Scotland, the only child of Thomas Smith and his wife Eliza Ann (nee Nichol). Soon after, his father left for the Klondike gold-rush in Canada. After the death of the wife of Eliza's brother John Nichol in Belfast in 1901, she moved there with her son to help raise John's seven children. By 1911 John Smith was working as handle-holder in a spinning mill and living at 49 Glasgow Street, Belfast, with his mother, his uncle John Nichol, and six of Nichol's children.

John enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 23 November and 7 December 1916 (No.2319). He embarked for France in the first half of 1917, where he was posted to either the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment.

In September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and most of its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st Regiment, were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Like most of the men, Smith was transferred on 20 September. He was issued a new regimental number – 41371. He may have seen action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Smith's subsequent activities during the war are unknown at present, but he remained with the 9th Battalion, which saw much action through the last year of the war, until his discharge in 1919. According to family recollections, at some point he fell ill from blood poisoning from blisters while working as a signaller, serious enough to require evacuation to England for treatment, and he also did work on the front as a sniper.

On 31 March 1923 he married Mary Jane Wilson at Belfast. After the Second World War he and his family emigrated to the USA. He died at Parssippany, Morris, New Jersey, on 9 March 1989.


John Smith and Mary Jane Wilson on their wedding day. The best man is Smith's cousin John Nichol.


I am grateful to Private Smith's grand-daughter, Karen Ely, for providing the images and some of the above information.