Private William Buchanan

 

William (originally George) Buchanan was born on 1 June 1894 at Belnaleck, County Fermanagh, the third of nine children of herd (later farmer) James Buchanan and his wife Rebecca (née Wadsworth). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Drumgallan, near Enniskillen, where he worked on the farm of James Clarke, his parents and six of his seven surviving siblings living at nearby Drumrainey.

Buchanan enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen between 6 and 23 October 1914 (No. UD/31). On 6 October 1915 he embarked for France with his squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division. In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron joined C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps.

On 5 July 1916, while engaged on salvage duty at Aveluy Wood, Buchanan was wounded when his party came under heavy artillery fire. According to the regimental diary:

Orders were received from A.P.M. 36th Division at 9 am for the two troops dismounted to report to Capt O'Neill at Lancashire Dump for salvage duty. They carried out this duty bringing in equipment, rifles etc till 1 pm. The men had dinner and were just turning out again when Lieut Seymour received orders from 36th Division to return to Regtl Head Quarters. The men had just started to saddle up when a heavy bombardment of both high explosive, shrapnel & machine guns was concentrated on the Wood. The intensity of the fire necessitated Lt Seymour giving orders for the men to take shelter in some old dugouts & trenches close by. The bombardment lasted for 3/4 of an hour & then slackened but did not entirely stop. Up to now one horse was killed & four wounded. The men were then ordered to saddle up & lead their horses thro' Wood out on to the road and were waiting for the others to join up when the bombardment opened much heavier than previously especially on that part of the road where the men were waiting. Lt Seymour moved off up the road leaving 2/Lt Matthews & Sergt McIlvoy to round up the stragglers in the wood, as by this time horses were very restive and almost unmanagable. Lt Seymour with his party had reached about 1 mile along the road & turned down a lane leaving the horses in charge of Sergt Quinn. Almost immediately a heavy fire was brought to bear on the horses and Sergt Quinn was wounded. The horses stampeded in every direction, some back to Aveluy Wood. Eventually Lt Seymour was able to round up most of this party & got to Senlis. Lieut Matthews & Sergt McIlroy remained behind. Our losses numbered 16 horses killed or wounded and 2 missing. 2/Lt Matthews was wounded severely in the knee from high explosive and Pte Downes, Nicholl, Gourley wounded (hosp) and Ptes Buchanan, 195 Campbell, Totton, 105 Craig, Cpl Dickson, 209 Robinson slightly wounded (duty).

Buchanan returned to his squadron soon after.

In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Buchanan, 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. Buchanan was issued regimental number 41196 and posted to B Company.

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

Buchanan 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. He was later reported as 'wounded and not missing'.

On 30 March 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

 

At least one of Buchanan's brothers, Thomas, also served in the war, in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was killed in action on 21 October 1914 and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial.