Sergeant Robert Cooke Blair

 

 

Robert Cooke Blair was born on 6 December 1895 at Oldpark, Belfast, the sixth of seven children of printworks secretary William Blair and his wife Mary (nee Cooke).

Blair enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 6 and 16 July 1915 (No.1706 – later Corps of Hussars No.71512). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France on 11 January 1916 with E Squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 34th Division.

In May 1916 E Squadron came together with A and D Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps until February-March 1918, when the regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit. It then served as corps cyclists to V Corps until the end of the war.

In the latter part of 1918 Blair was one of five men of E Squadron awarded Military Medals for their gallant conduct during September in the Advance to Victory offensive. The commanding officer of the 38th (Welsh) Division had written:

I am deeply grateful for the magnificent assistance rendered to this Division by the squadron of V Corps Cyclists, North Irish Horse, during the past sixteen days. They have been gallant to a degree, unflagging in energy, and although placed under different Brigadiers almost daily, have never failed to supply me with early and accurate information. I desire especially to place on record my appreciation of the manner in which this sqn, on the 4th inst, took forward ammunition to the troops of the 114th Bde through a very heavy HE and gas barrage, across the Canal du Nord. I shall be very happy to forward any recommendations for immediate awards that the Squadron Commander may see fit to submit.

Blair was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 3 March 1919.

 

The above image, from the Belfast Weekly Telegraph of 26 February 1916, can be seen in its full context here.