In memoriam

Private Robert Irwin

 

 

Robert Irwin was born on 14 September 1894 at Gosheden, Cumber, County Londonderry, the fifth of ten children of merchant and grocer Robert James Irwin and his wife Emily (formerly Walker). By 1911 he was living with his family at Gosheden and working as a shop assistant.

Irwin enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Londonderry in November 1914 (No. UD/153). He embarked for France with his squadron on 6 October 1915. At the time they were serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

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, Irwin 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 41080. He probably saw action with the battalion during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and perhaps also during the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918.

On 9 April 1918 the 9th Battalion was on the Ypres front when the Germans began their offensive in that sector. The battalion saw severe fighting between Wulverghem and Kemmel for more than a week and suffered many casualties. Irwin was initially listed as missing, but his death was later accepted as having occurred "on or since 14 April". His death may have occurred in the early morning of 18 April when a composite battalion of 400 men from the 9th and 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, and 12th Royal Irish Rifles, were caught in an enemy bombardment while moving to positions on the western slopes of Mount Kemmel. According to the battalion diary for that day:

2 am. Moved to Kemmel, as composite Bn with 1st R. Ir. Fus. cmd. by Lt. Col. Kelly. Heavy casualties, while moving into position, from enemy shelling. Capt. Despard wounded and died soon after.

... and the 108 Brigade diary:

Battalion moved to Kemmel Hill, but whilst halted near foot of N. slope was heavily shelled, losing Captain Despard killed ... and about 70 other casualties.

Having no known grave, Private Irwin is commemorated on Panel 141, Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

 

 

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