Private Francis Wilson


Francis Wilson was born on 14 November 1892 at Ballyrussell, Newtownards, County Down, the fourth of five children of farmer John Wilson and his wife Martha (née Smyth). His father died when he was just eight years old. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Ballyrussell with his mother and siblings, and working on the family farm.

Wilson enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 16 October and 1 November 1916 (No.2295). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France in the first half of 1917, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiments.

In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Wilson, were transferred on 20 September and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. Wilson was issued regimental number 41525 and posted to A Company.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Wilson was one of the many posted as missing following the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive. It was later learned that he had been captured, unwounded, on 27 March at Erches, near Roye, when much of the battalion had been overwhelmed by the fast-moving German advance. He remained a prisoner until the end of the war, held at camps in Giessen and Limburg.

Wilson was demobilised, or discharged being 'no longer physically fit for war service' (paragraph 392 (xvi), King's Regulations), on 19 June 1919. He was granted a pension, being "very debilitated". By February 1921 his level of disability was assessed at 100 per cent, and he was a resident in an asylum. He died in the Downpatrick Mental Hospital on 1 May 1948 and was buried in the Granshaw Churchyard.