Private James William Britton


James William Britton was born on 11 April 1877 at Tullyholvin, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, first child of farmer and ex-RIC sergeant James Britton and his wife Eliza Anne (nee Buchannan).

His father died in 1890 and his 35 year-old mother the following year with consumption, leaving five young children. Britton married Margaret Jane Reid at Boho on 13 February 1908 and by 1911 they were farming at Moylehid, Lisbofin, County Fermanagh.

On 2 October 1914 he was one of the first to enlist in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen (No.UD/6).

The squadron embarked for France in October 1915 as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division. Britton initially remained at Enniskillen, but joined the squadron in the field in 1916 or 1917.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and most of its officers and men transferred to the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Britton was part of a party of 70 men who were ordered to travel to Egypt with the regiment's horses to hand them over to the troops there. On their return they were trained as infantrymen, joining the 9th Battalion at Ruyaulcourt on the Cambrai front on 6 October 1917. Britton was issued number 41601 and posted to C Company.

The 9th Battalion was on the front near St Quentin on 21 March 1918 when the German Spring Offensive commenced. Over the next week they beat a fighting retreat to near Amiens, sustaining many casualties and many more captured.

Britton was initially listed as missing. He had been captured (unwounded) at Erches, near Roye on 27 March. He remained a prisoner for the remainder of the war, being held at Bohain, France, then Giessen and Limburg in Germany.

Britton was released soon after the Armistice and arrived at Dover on 2 December 1918, before returning to Ireland for demobilisation. He applied, unsuccessfully, for a land grant under the Irish Land (Provision for Sailors and Soldiers) Act 1919 - his address at the time was Farnaconnell, Boho, Enniskillen.