Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private Robert McConnell

 

McConnell

 

Robert McConnell was born on 21 September 1894 at Croughfern, Belfast, the first of six children of general labourer Samuel McConnell and his wife Mary (formerly Dolan). By 1915 he was living with his family at High Street, Greencastle, Belfast, and working as a general labourer.

McConnell enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim between 13 and 15 November 1915 (No.1859). He embarked for France in 1916 or the first half of 1917, where he was posted to either the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment.

In September 1917 the 2nd Regiment was dismounted and most of its men, together with some from the 1st Regiment, were transferred to the infantry. After training at the 36th (Ulster) Division Infantry Base Depot at Harfleur, the men were formally transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 20 September and soon after were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – re-named the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt. McConnell was issued regimental number 41445.

It is likely that McConnell saw action with the battalion in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and perhaps also in the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive.

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. McConnell was initially listed as missing between 9 and 19 April, but his death was later accepted. He was possibly killed 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 McConnell is commemorated on Panel 141 of the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

 

Tyne Cot Panel 141

 

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