Brief history

 

 

The North Irish Horse on the home front

This page includes accounts of the activities of the North Irish Horse and its men in Ireland during the war, mainly drawn from newspaper reports from the time. More will be added over time.

 

1916

FIVE HOURS AT A FREE BUFFET

For Soldiers and Sailors.

Perhaps a short account of what is probably a typical five hours at one of our railway stations free buffet for soldiers and sailors may be of interest. ... On arriving at the station at 5-30 p.m. we were met by our own charming president of the St. John Association, looking most businesslike in her nursing costume, with its most becoming floating white cap, her scarlet epaulettes, and armette with its three stars distinguishing her from her helpers. It is always a pleasure to work with her, and when she told us a draft of 100 men was expected from Randalstown convalescent camp en route for Scotland ... we all set to work at once – some to put out a table on the platform with 60 cups and saucers, others to cut sandwiches, butter bread of various kinds, cut up currant loaves, see that the hot water should be ready, &c. The room itself looked most comfortable – a blazing fire with easy chairs round it, flowers on the counter, writing materials on one table, tea cups on three or four other small tables, books and magazines lying about. ... [After looking after the draft for Scotland] there was no time to stand around and wonder if they would ever return from the Front; for now the cups had to be washed and preparations made for men of the North Irish Horse who had come up from Antrim that day to transfer 900 American mules from the boat to the depot at the other end of the town, and were to return to Antrim that evening. Soon they began to drop in, glad to sit down, and wonderfully excited about their day’s experiences with the mules. One helper asked if they were "gentle with the creatures." "When you’ve each four mules from the boat to look after, you haven’t time to think of being gentle; but we weren’t bad to them," was the reply. A great many N.I.H. men visited the buffet that evening – so grateful for a cup of tea, and rarely forgetting the money box on the counter. Anyone who talks of pauperising soldiers by these free meals has only to visit for a short time any of these buffets, and he or she will realise that there is no question of pauperising the men or imposing on the helpers. The train for Antrim left at 9-30, and all evening the buffet was never without some muleteers. Someone asked if it were easy to lead them, and the answer was, "Not what you could call easy, but it was a great afternoon in town." The constant cheerfulness of the soldiers cannot be exaggerated, it seems always to be there. As the N.I.H. men were drawn up on the platform ready to leave when the train came in, by the courtesy of the officer in charge ladies walked up and down the lines with trays containing currant bread, cups of tea, sandwiches, &c. Many of the N.I.H. men, however, live in Belfast, and had come from a visit to their homes, and were "just after" their tea; but the nice way they spoke made the refusal quite pleasant. From 9-30 p.m. until 10-50, men still came in to the buffet; and then, no more being about, all food was covered up and the china washed.

(Belfast News-Letter, 29 March 1916)

FIRE AT ANTRIM.

Smart work by the Military.

An outbreak of fire, which threatened to assume serious dimensions, but which was promptly nipped in the bud by the officers and men of the North Irish Horse, occurred in the vicinity of Antrim yesterday afternoon. It appears that at about half-past one o'clock one of a number of large stacks of hay, situate[d] on lands owned by the Rev. Mr. Adams, was seen to be alight. The alarm was raised and news of the occurrence soon reached the camp, where the "Fire Bugle" was sounded. Immediately the camp was the scene of great activity. The men assembled in a remarkably short space of time, and equipped with buckets set off at the double across country, covering the mile of ground which separated the camp from the scene of the fire in a very few minutes. The alacrity with which the military entered upon their sprint was equalled by the enthusiasm with which they set about extinguishing the flames. Acting in conjunction with the local police force, their efforts were soon crowned with success, a plentiful supply of water being available close at hand. The fire was prevented from spreading to the neighbouring stacks, and the greater proportion of the stack in which the outbreak originated was saved from destruction. The troopers were in charge of Major Crabb, Captain Yates, Lieutenant and Adjutant Aston, Lieutenants Pittaway, Hamilton, Brockwell, Kelly, Harvey, Sherston, and Wright, while District-Inspector Heatley and Head-Constable Torrans were in charge of the police.

(Belfast News-Letter, 1 December 1916)

1918

A TREACHEROUS SOLDIER.

James Bell, water bailiff, Moneymore, charged Trooper Wm. Jordan, N.I.H., of Doneybraggy, with assault on 7th December.

Complainant said the defendant was with an escort at the time, and called complainant over to say good-bye. Bell went over with outstretched hand, when Jordan struck him a violent blow on the eye.

Mr. Andrew King said the Court should know that Jordan, who was an absentee from the army at the time, was convicted on Bell's evidence and fined for poaching. Pretending a forgiving spirit, Jordan induced Bell over to him to say good-bye, and then treacherously struck him.

A fine of 10s and costs was imposed by a majority.

(Mid Ulster Mail, 5 January 1918)

SERIOUS MOTOR SMASH NEAR ANTRIM.

Two soldiers badly injured.

On Wednesday evening of last week a serious motor smash took place near Ballycraigy, on the leading road to Belfast, between a motor car owned by Mr. Young, of the motor garage, Antrim, and a couple of motor cyclists connected with the North Irish Horse, at present stationed at Antrim. It appears that the two soldiers, Sergeant-Major McLean and Trooper Green were riding on the one motor bicycle, going in the direction of Belfast, when they can into violent collision with the motor car, with the result that both the motor car and motor bicycle were smashed, and Trooper Green had to have his leg amputated, and Sergeant-Major McLean had his face badly injured and suffered from internal injuries. They were subsequently conveyed by a passing motor car to the Antrim Infirmary where they were surgically attended to by Dr. Scott, dispensary medical officer, and afterwards removed by the motor ambulance to the military hospital in Belfast in a very weak and exhausted condition, suffering from the loss of blood.

Fresh light on the accident.

Mr. Frank Falls, Ballymena, who is employed by Mr. David King, of the cyclone motor and bicycle works, Wellington Street, Ballymena, gives a very graphic account of the accident ... He states that he was driving a motor car from Belfast to Ballymena in which were Mr. King, the owner, and Mr. Hugh Graham, a fellow employee. When nearing a part of the road between Dunadry Bridge and Muckamore, about 11-45 p.m., his attention was attracted to someone waving a red light on the road. On approaching the object he stopped his car and found that the light was in the possession of a man named Fleming, who had been driving the motor car with which the soldier cyclists collided. In his car were also Mr. Young, of the Garage, Antrim, and his wife, who were proceeding towards Antrim when the accident occurred. Mr. Falls further states that Sergt.-Major McLean, who had been driving the motor bicycle, had, as a result of the impact, been hurled through the glass wind-screen of the car and had his nose almost severed from his face. The unfortunate man had also a broken handle-bar of the bicycle impaled in his side. The other soldier, Trooper Green, had his foot practically severed from his left leg. It appears that he had been riding behind Sergt.-Major McLean, on the pillion seat of the bicycle, and it is presumed that he sustained his injuries by his ankle coming in contact with the edge of the radiator of the motor car. The Ballymena men immediately had the injured soldiers conveyed to the Antrim Infirmary, where they were attended by Dr. T. B. Hill Scott, as previously stated, and were subsequently removed to Belfast.

(Ballymena Observer, 21 June 1918)

SOLDIER CHARGED.

William Booth, Ballymena, charged John Patterson, Ballymena, who appeared in the uniform of the North Irish Horse, with alleged assault on 9th inst.

Mr. Mehaffey, C.P.S., said Patterson was an absentee from the N.I.H., and had been brought to the court by the police.

William Booth deposed that the defendant, on the day in question, followed him up Ballymoney Street into the Fair Hill. He asked complainant if he wanted fighting, and the latter said no. He turned to pull witness off a cart, and trouble had been going on since 12th July.

The Chairman -- Did he pull you off the cart?

Complainant -- No, I jumped off.

He didn't strike you then? -- No he didn't get time.

Patterson said that the complainant told people he had weapons ready for him. Defendant got a little drink and he thought he would have a shot at them.

Mr. Roche -- Then you will go to jail. If you think you can carry on as you like, you are making a grave mistake. The fact that you are a soldier gives you no license.

Mr. McGinley -- He is not long a soldier.

The Chairman said the magistrates were of opinion that both the men should be warned, and Booth should give no occasion.

Booth -- I never gave him any occasion.

The Chairman said that because Patterson had on the uniform, that was no reason why he should go and threaten people.

Their worships dismissed the case.

(Ballymena Observer, 20 December 1918)