Private Leonard Downes

 

 

Leonard Downes was the son of James and Mary Downes, of Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. He enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron in 1915 (No.UD/267). He arrived in France on 6 October 1915 with his Squadron, as cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

In June 1916 the Squadron became part of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment. Downes was reported wounded in August of that year. The Battalion diary for 5 July 1916 stated:

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).

In August 1917 the squadron was dismounted and became the 9th (North Irish Horse) Regiment, Royal Irish Fusiliers. All those at home at the time, including Private Downes, were transferred to the Corps of Dragoons (No. D/21276).

Downes was discharged to Class Z Army Reserve on 11 July 1919.

 

Image of Private Downes from the Larne Times of 12 August 1916 kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster (www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com).