Sergeant William McIlroy

 

 

William McIlroy (standing) was born at Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, in 1876. A carter by trade, prior to the war he had served in the Royal Irish Rifles.

He enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Belfast on 23 October 1914 (No. UD/87, later D/21235), aged 38 years and 8 months. Three days later he was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

He arrived in France with the squadron on 6 October 1915, which was at the time attached to the 36th (Ulster) Division as divisional cavalry. In June 1916 the squadron became part of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment. The regimental diary for 5 July 1916 describes an artillery barrage faced by two troops of the squadron in Aveluy Wood during the Battle of the Somme, noting Sergeant McIlroy's involvement:

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 September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was dismounted and absorbed into the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Most of the men of the regiment, including those of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron, were transferred to the battalion. However Sergeant McIlroy was not. He may have been found not physically fit for infantry service, given his age. He returned to the service squadron depot at Enniskillen on 20 October 1917.

He was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on 4 March 1919.

 

This image, part of a group photo of officers and NCOs of the squadron, appeared in the Belfast Evening Telegraph of 28 January 1915. The full image can be seen here.