In memoriam

Private William James Abercrombie

 

 

 

William James Abercrombie was born on 28 February 1893 at Bohevny, Florencecourt, County Fermanagh, the first of four children of farmer Hugh Abercrombie and his wife Emily Evangelina (nee Frazer). His father died when William was was just five and his mother remarried soon after, to James Brownlee. By 1901 he was living at Blacklion, County Cavan, with his mother and maternal grandmother, and ten years later at Bohevny working on the farm of Andrew Stafford.

Abercrombie enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen between 14 and 23 August 1915 (No. UD/279). He embarked for France at some time during 1916 or in the first half of 1917 as a reinforcement for his squadron.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron came together with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was dismounted and most of its men transferred to the infantry. After a brief period of training at the 36th (Ulster) Division's Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, Abercrombie was transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 September and soon after was posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. He was issued regimental number 41507.

Abercrombie saw action with the battalion and was wounded during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. He rejoined his unit later that year.

On 30 September 1918 the 9th Battalion was ordered to advance on the Belgian village of Vijfwegen. The fighting centred on a small rise, Hill 41, which had been well fortified by the Germans and afforded a wide field of fire on troops attempting to move past it. During this and the following day they sustained numerous casualties – eight officers and 139 other ranks, including 29 killed in action and seven more who would die of their wounds.

Private Abercrombie was one of the men killed at this time, either on 30 September or 1 October. He was buried with a number of other casualties on the battlefield next to the Terhand-Vijfwegen road, just east of Methven Wood (map reference 28.K.23.a.6.8), the site marked with a cross. After the war his body was exhumed and reburied in the Dadizeele New British Cemetery, Moorslede, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, grave IV.F.24. His gravestone inscription reads:

41507 PRIVATE
W. J. ABERCROMBIE
ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS
30TH SEPTEMBER 1918 AGE 30

THY WILL BE DONE

 

Note: Commonwealth War Graves Commission records state Abercrombie's age as 30 at the time of his death, but he was actually 25. This suggests he may have overstated his age when he enlisted.

 

 

Image of Private Abercrombie sourced from Ancestry.com, user name MichelleABurke. Gravestone images Copyright © Phillip Tardif with all rights reserved as set out in this Use of Material policy.