Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant William Stewart Smyth



William Stewart Smyth was born of 7 December 1886 at Drumack, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, the seventh of ten children of farmer Thomas Smyth and his wife Margaretta (nee McCaughey). He was a noted rugby player, before the war playing as a forward for Collegians and representing Ireland twice in 1910, against Wales and France. By 1911 he was living with his widowed mother and two younger siblings at 43 Ravenhill Road, Belfast, and working as a timber clerk.

Smyth enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 5 and 16 November 1914 (No.1342). He embarked for France on 17 November 1915 with F Squadron, which was then divisional cavalry to the 33rd Division. In June 1916 F Squadron became part of the newly formed 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment. In September the following year the regiment was dismounted and absorbed into the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. Smyth became Company Quartermaster Sergeant and received a new number - 41220. 

He was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 23 March 1919.

Smyth represented Ireland in Rugby once more - against England in 1920. Two of his brothers were also rugby internationals. Thomas played for Ireland fourteen times between 1908 and 1912; and James (Patrick) three times in 1911.

Another brother, Alfred, was killed in the war. The following article appeared in the Belfast News-Letter of 23 March 1917:

The death is announced in our obituary column this morning of Mr. Alfred John Smyth, second son of the late Mr. Thomas Smyth, Hazelview, Rasharkin, County Antrim, and Mrs. Smyth, 2, Mount Easton, Cliftonville, Belfast. Deceased, who was serving in the Durham Light Infantry, fell in action on the 6th inst. He was a brother of the well-known trio of international Rugby forwards – Dr. Thomas Smyth, Sergeant Wm. Smyth, North Irish Horse, and Mr. James (“Paddy”) Smyth.

The image below shows the Irish Rugby team prior to its match against France at the Parc des Princes, Paris, on 28 March 1910. William Smyth is seated, viewer's left. His brother Thomas is standing, far left. (Ireland won 8-3.)


Image sourced from http://gallica.bnf.fr. Parc des Princes, le 28-3-1910, France contre Irlande, équipe d'Irlande [rugby]: [photographie de presse]/ [Agence Rol]. http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb40486623k

My thanks to Stephen Cooper and Willow Murray for identifying the Smyth brothers in the picture, and for providing some of the above information.