Private Richard Arthur Flanagan

 

Richard Arthur Flanagan was born on 26 May 1895 at Gortgorgan, Derrylin, County Fermanagh, the third of four children of farmer and carpenter Richard Flanagan and his wife Madeline (Linnie) (née Patterson). His mother died when he was just a year old, and his father remarried a year later. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Gortgorgan with his father, step-mother and brother, and working on the family farm. He also worked as a carpenter.

Flanagan enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen on 23 August 1915 (No.280). On 27 December 1916 he embarked for France, where he joined his squadron, which by then was serving as part of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment.

In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Flanagan was one of 70 men given the job of conducting the regiment's horses to Egypt, to be handed over for use by mounted units there. They embarked from Marseilles on board HMT Bohemian on 25 August. After a month at Alexandria they returned to France, via Italy. On 5 October 1917 they arrived at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur for infantry training, and after just a few days were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – which had been renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt on 12 October. Flanagan was issued regimental number 41604.

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

On 28 December 1917 Flanagan was one of twenty-four former men of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment who transferred from the 9th (NIH) Battalion to the Tank Corps (No.304866). Following training at the Tank Corps Depot at Bovington near Wareham, Dorset, he was posted to the newly-formed 17th (Armoured Car) Battalion, which on 27 April 1918 embarked for France.

The 17th Battalion was engaged in ten separate actions from June to November 1918. On 29 September it was ordered to assist Australian and American troops in an attack on the Hindenburg Line at the village of Bony. According to the battalion diary:

The Armoured Cars proceeded along the Bony Road. Owing to the attack not proceeding as it was anticipated some Armoured Cars proceeded along the road while it was strongly held by the enemy and came under shell fire at short range. ... The road was in full observation from the village of Bony and at the entrance to the village 3 Cars were hit and set on fire, the Crews taking cover in shell holes on the road side. Progress was stopped but one Car in the middle of the road and a heavy M.G. fire was kept up by the enemy making it impossible to reach the Crews of the Cars which had been put out of action (fully ¾ of a mile in front of the Australian Infantry).

Flanagan was one of the crew forced to abandon his car. He was made a prisoner of war and was held at Jeaumont in France, then Dülmen in Germany until the end of the war.

Flanagan was repatriated to the UK on 11 December 1918. On 28 March 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.