Private Robert James Boal


Robert James Boal was born on 8 May 1894 at 6 Derg Street, Belfast, the second of six children of carpenter and joiner John Boal and his wife Catherine (née Harper). His father also had at least four children by a previous marriage. By the time of the 1911 Census Robert was living in Derg Street with his parents and four surviving siblings and working as a joiner. By 1915 he was working for builder James Miskimmin of Glenburn Park.

Boal enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 21 May 1915 (No.1573 – later Corps of Hussars No.71448). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France on 17 November 1915 with F Squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 33rd Division.

In May and June 1916 F Squadron combined with C Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, and A, D and E Squadrons combined to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

On 16 June 1916 Boal was briefly hospitalised, suffering from a lacerated left leg caused by a kick from a horse. Following his recovery, on 16 July he was posted to E Squadron of the 1st NIH Regiment, which at the time was serving as corps cavalry to VII Corps. It later served XIX Corps, and then V Corps.

On 15 September 1917 Boal was deprived of 3 days' pay and ordered to forfeit another 2 days' pay for being 'absent off leave' for two days.

In February-March 1918 the 1st NIH Regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit, serving as corps cyclists to V Corps until the end of the war. Boal remained with the regiment in its new role, probably seeing action on the Advance to Victory offensive, until the end of October 1918, when he fell ill with influenza and broncho pneumonia. Evacuated to England, he was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester where he remained until the following February, when he was sent to the UVF Hospital at Belfast, then the Bangor Hospital, for convalescence. He was released on 17 March 1919.

Boal was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 17 April 1919.