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Private John James Durneen

 

Durneen

 

John James Durneen (also spelt Durnan, Durnien, Durnian) was born on 26 July 1896 at Clogher, County Tyrone, the first child born to farmer James Durneen and his wife Margaret Eleanor (previously Johnston, maiden name McCrea). By 1911 he was living at 77 Main Street, Fintona, where he worked as an apprentice draper to George Bullock.

Between 27 and 29 November 1915 Durneen enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim (No.1987 – later Corps of Hussars No.71655). In 1916 or 1917 he embarked for France, where he was posted to A Squadron of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

In February and March 1918 the 1st Regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit, serving as corps cyclists to V Corps. On 26 March during the German spring offensive Durneen and another man, Reginald George Armstrong, were on reconnaissance duty near Toutencourt, west of the old Somme front, when they were killed by a stray shell. The Tyrone Courier and Dungannon News of 11 April 1918 reported that:

Mr. James Durnan of Clogher has received official intimation that his son, Pte. John Jas. Durnan, N.I.H., was killed in action on 26th ult. His Captain writing to the father says that deceased was returning from special reconnaissance work and was instantly killed by a stray shell. His death was a great loss he added, to the regiment as he was always bright and cheerful and done extremely well and lately was given a most responsible position – that of corps guide. Deceased was aged 22 and was formerly in business with Bullock & Co., Draper, Fintona, and later in Mulholland Bros., Cookstown. He was a year and nine months in the army."

Durneen and Armstrong were buried together at Toutencourt Communal Cemetery, Somme, France, Durneen in grave I.B.2. The gravestone inscription reads:

71655 PRIVATE
JOHN JAMES DURNEEN
NORTH IRISH HORSE
26TH MARCH 1918

FOR EVER WITH THE LORD

 

Gravestone image kindly provided by Steve Rogers, Project Co-ordinator of the The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org. Press clipping sourced from the excellent website Dungannon War Dead Database, created by the Friends of the Somme, Mid Ulster Branch.