Private Charles Baird


Charles Baird was born on 1 January 1887 at Union Street, Lurgan, the third of seven children of carpenter Charles Baird and his wife Ellen (nee Adamson). His father had also had five children by a previous marriage. By 1911 he was living at 44 Union Street with his parents and five siblings, and working as a carpenter.

Baird enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 1 and 3 September 1914 (No.1094). He embarked for France on 18 December 1914 with the first group of reinforcements for A and C Squadrons – Baird was posted to the latter.

On 13 February 1915 a letter from Baird was published in the Lurgan Mail:

On Sunday morning Mr. Charles Baird, of Union Street, who has four sons serving with the colours – Thomas (Royal Engineers); Robert (9th R.I.F.); Charles (North Irish Horse); and John (Army Service Corps) – received the following letter, dated 19th January, from his son Charles, who is serving with the North Irish Horse at the front:–

"I am just sending you a few lines to let you know that I am still alive. This is a wonderful country, but I cannot describe it to you on paper as it would occupy too much space. I am at present in a town called Bailleul, making the fifth or sixth town I have been in since I came out here; their names are Le Havre, Rouen, Boulogne, Steenwreck [sic]. I may say some are about the size of Belfast and others something like Lurgan. The roofs of the houses are covered with red tiles – no slates like ours, and all the farmers' houses are the same. This town of Bailleul which I am in at present was taken from the Germans, and most of the people, having fled from the country, have left most of their furniture behind. Most of the houses are occupied by our soldiers, and they may be seen sleeping in the Town Hall, Customs House, and convent, while the larger buildings are used as hospitals. There are also four square miles of tents used for hospitals. I haven't seen any churches since I came out, and I don't know what kind of religion the people have, as after the morning service there is no observance of Sunday like what we have at home. The shops are kept open all day, and every day seems alike. The women attend funerals and you should see how they bury their dead. They carry a little banner with a big cross on the top, and the coffin is just plain wood, not stained nor varnished – only a black cloth thrown over it with a white cross on it. At the top of the door of most houses there is a small image of our Lord on the cross, and also at the cross roads in the country districts there are similar figures on a larger scale. Every house has shutters on the windows, upstairs and downstairs, and as these are kept closed, it is nearly always dark indoors.

"I am sleeping in an old house that the Germans once occupied, and you would be surprised to see the motor waggons that pass every day filled with dead soldiers from the trenches and hospitals. A big hole like a well, about 7ft. square, is dug, and in this the men are buried. I saw some Lurgan boys' graves in this place. A German shell recently blew up one of these graveyards, and it is a horrible sight. The big guns are shelling from daylight to dark, and they make the very houses shake every time they go off. It is great sport to see the English airmen chasing the German aeroplanes thousands of feet in the air, and on a dark night, when searchlights are brought to bear on the clouds in order to locate hostile aircraft, you can see for miles. It is the airmen who give the range for the big guns. We were close to the trenches recently, and saw the boys going out to them, and some days later returning with a considerable decrease in their numbers. He is a very lucky one who comes home safe from this country, as one's life is very uncertain; but I hope, if it is God's will, to get home safely.

"You would laugh to see the dogs drawing little carts behind them; they are used in the same way as donkeys are at home. The people have very peculiar ways; for instance, if you ask someone what time of day it is, and supposing it is half-past 12 o'clock, he will say it is twelve and a half; or, if a quarter to 12 o'clock, he will say it is three-quarters past 11. I could tell you dozens of things, but I haven't much time and there is no means of writing; the floor is the only 'table' I can find to write on. I am sending you my Xmas box, and I hope you will get it. Good-bye to all, and write soon."

On 4 April 1916 Baird transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers (No.24301). He was posted to C Company. The 9th Battalion was part of the 36th (Ulster) Division's attack north of Thiepval on 1 July 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Baird, serving as a Lewis gun ammunition carrier, was one of the many casualties of that day. He was seriously wounded, and though he recovered, was never fit enough to resume active service. On 27 July 1918 he was discharged, being no longer fit for service due to his wounds (paragraph 392 xvi, King's Regulations).


One of Baird's brothers and two of his half-brothers also served during the war. Lance Corporal Robert Baird, also serving in the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, aged 41. Sapper Thomas Baird served in the Royal Engineers. In April 1918 he was reported to be in hospital in England suffering from trench fever and rheumatism. Private John Baird served in the Army Service Corps and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. In April 1918 he was reported to be wounded and in hospital in France.