Private William John Arbuthnot


William John Arbuthnot was born on 16 January 1885 at Curglass, Cookstown, County Tyrone, the second of five children of labourer William John Arbuthnot and his wife Ellen (nee Gilles). By 1911 he was living with his parents and a sister at Drumbanaway, County Tyrone, and working as a farm labourer.

Arbuthnot enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 23 February and 28 March 1912 (No.692). He embarked for France with C Squadron on 20 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

On 28 November 1914 the Mid-Ulster Mail published the following article:

Driver W. J. Arbuthnott, of the North Irish Horse, son of Mr. W. J. Arbuthnott, Drumbanaway, writing to a friend says:--"I am quite well, but I do not know the minute I may be laid low. Still I keep a brave heart and take everything light-heartedly and gay, and as long as the Lord spares me I will do my duty as a soldier and a man. Taking God for my guide I fear no foe. I have come through a few battles safely. All the rest of the boys are well and doing good work at the front, especially the Cookstown chaps. We are very well looked after with food and clothes, and we never want for anything, and not one of the Cookstown party of the North Irish Horse has got a wound, though all have shown up bravely at the post of duty. Sergeant Ashcroft, John Maxwell, Samuel Espey, Willie Crooks, Willie Anderson, George Henry, and Albert James McKenna, are the Cookstown fellows in the same troop as me. The French people are very kind to us. Almost all the work on the farms is done by bullocks and the carting by dogs. It seems wonderful to us how bullocks and dogs could be trained for such work. The main crops are wheat and sugar beet, with lots of vineyards. I have seen the Indian troops in action. They are doing good work, but are very hard to keep back. They run up and down charging the enemy with bayonets.

In March 1916 he spent 24 days in the No 4 Stationary Hospital at Arques suffering from scabies.

When Arbuthnot's term of service ended, he chose to leave the army. He returned to Ireland and on 24 November 1916 was discharged as 'time expired'. This is a mystery for two reasons. First, time expired discharges for men aged under 41 years had been abolished in June 1916. Arbuthnot was aged just 31. Second, based on his enlistment date, his time should not have expired until February or March the following year.

Record show that after the war Arbuthnot lived at 49 Granville Street, Radnor Park, Clydebank.