Private James Hamilton Smiton



James Hamilton Smiton was born on 17 February 1894 at Augher, Clogher, County Tyrone, the first of five children of shop assistant Joseph Smiton and his wife Lizzie (nee Giles). Some years later the family moved to Belfast, and by the time of the 1911 Census they were living at 81 My Lady's Road, James working as a general labourer.

Smiton enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 28 and 31 May 1915 (No.1640). He embarked for France in 1916 or in the first half of 1917.

In May and June 1916 the five North Irish Horse Squadrons then in France, together with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron, came together to form the 1st and 2nd North Irish Horse Regiments.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and most of its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Like most, Smiton was transferred on 20 September following a period of infantry training at the 36th (Ulster) Division's Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur. He was issued a new regimental number – 41279 – and posted to C Company.

On the night of 3 November 1917 C Company mounted a major raid on the German trenches near Havrincourt on the Cambrai front. The battalion war diary for that day states:

At 4.30 p.m. 'C' Coy left Ruyaulcourt and marched up to the line to carry out a raid. The enemy's front line was successfully penetrated, from the Canal ... to about 150 [yards] E of it. The fighting was very severe as the enemy refused to surrender. Our men stayed in the enemy trenches for twenty min. and bayonetted and shot at least forty Germans. We suffered some casualties, mostly from bombs:- 1 officer severely wounded; 1 officer slightly wounded; 1 N.C.O. killed; 3 O.R. missing, believed killed; 13 O.R. wounded; 1 R.E. (N.C.O.) severely wounded.

Smiton was one of the wounded. He recovered, however, rejoining the battalion later that year or in the early months of 1918.

From 21 to 28 March 1918 the 9th (NIH) Battalion took part in a fighting withdrawal from St Quentin to near Amiens, during the first phase of the German spring offensive. Smiton was one of the many men of the battalion captured during the fighting, at Erches near Roye on 27 March.

He remained a prisoner of war, at Giessen and then Sagan, until the end of the war, when he was repatriated.


Image from the Belfast Evening Telegraph, kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (