Private William John Smith


William John Smith (or Smyth) was born of 18 November 1883 at Drumullan, Magherafelt, County Londonderry, the second of four children of flax dresser John Smyth and his wife Sarah Ann (née Shirlow). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living in Vernon Street, Belfast, at the home of his cousin Robert Shirlow, and working as a gas stoker. Later that year, on 18 October, he married Sarah Maxwell of Cookstown, in the Great Victoria Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast. The couple moved to 43 Rutland Street where they had three children over the next nine years.

Smith enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 2 or 3 October 1914 (No.1258 – later Corps of Hussars No.71306). On 20 January 1915 he embarked for France with a reinforcement draft for A and C Squadrons – he was probably posted to the former.

A Squadron served as escort to the BEF's Commander-in-Chief at St Omer until January 1916, when it was posted as divisional cavalry to the 55th Division. In May that year the Squadron came together with D and E Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps 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 it is probable that this was the time that Smith was posted to the 19th (Queen Alexandra's Own Royal) Hussars, then the 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars

On 8 February 1919 Smith was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

After the war Smith returned to his family home at 43 Rutland Street. Records over the following years give his occupation as 'checker' and 'gasman'. He died in the Whiteabbey Sanatorium on 17 February 1942 and was buried in the Dundonald Cemetery, Belfast.