In memoriam

Private William John Wallace

 

 

Although the identity of William John Wallace is not entirely certain, it appears that he was the child born as Oliver John Wallace on 13 August 1890 at Tullyhona, Florence Court, County Fermanagh, the eighth of fifteen children of farmer Oliver Wallace and his Scottish-born wife Margaret (nee McFarlane). By 1911 he was living at Tullyhona with his parents and seven of his siblings, and was probably working on the estate of Lord Cole.

Wallace enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron at Enniskillen in October 1914 (No. UD/53).

On 1 December 1915 he married Mary Nolan, a domestic servant of Strand Street, Enniskillen. Their child Reginald was born on 5 October the following year.

Wallace embarked for France as a reinforcement for his squadron in the second half of 1916 or first half of 1917.

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, Wallace 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 41096. He probably saw action with the battalion during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

During the first half of 1918 it was reported that Wallace had been wounded. This probably occurred during the fighting around Wulverghem on the Ypres front during the German offensive in April.

From August to November 1918 the 9th (NIH) Battalion saw much fighting in Belgium during the Advance to Victory offensive. Following the crossing of the River Lys on 20 October the advance resumed; in front of the 9th (NIH) Battalion were the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers and 12th Royal Irish Rifles. For three days the 9th Battalion was held in reserve, the advance being slowed by a lack of French success on the left and delays in bringing artillery over the Lys. On 23 October the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers entered the village of Heirweg, but were driven out by a strong counter-attack. Private Wallace was killed on this day – he may have been attached to the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers at the time.

Initially listed as missing, Wallace's burial place was later located in the east of Heirweg (map ref. 29.J.16.c.7.7). Following the war his body was recovered and re-buried in the Harlebeke New British Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, grave VI.B.18. His gravestone inscription reads:

41096 PRIVATE
W. J. WALLACE
ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS
23RD OCTOBER 1918 AGE 26

 

Private Wallace's older brother, Donald Wallace, also served in the war, in the North Irish Horse.

 

 

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