Lance Corporal John Boston


John Boston was born on 7 June 1897 at Doagh, Doagh Grange, County Antrim, the fifth of eight children of millworker Robert Boston and his wife Lizzie (nee Wylie). He also had four half-brothers and sisters from his father and one from his mother. By 1911 he was living with his parents, four siblings and three half-siblings at Ballyearl, Ballylinny, County Antrim, and employed as a yarn worker.

Boston enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 11 January 1915 (No.1393), claiming his age as 19 years and 190 days, two years more than his actual age. In the first half of 1915 he embarked for England with F Squadron, where they awaited orders for France. On 12 July, however, Boston was one of about two dozen men of the squadron who volunteered for service as Military Mounted Police with the 54th (East Anglian) Division, which was under orders to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. They sailed from Devonport on HMT Manitou on 29 July 1915, joining the landing at Suvla Bay between 10 and 16 August.

On 23 November 1915 Boston reported sick with severe jaundice and frostbitten feet. He was evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt, where he was admitted to the 19th General Hospital at Alexandria. From there he was shipped to the UK where, on 26 January 1916, he rejoined the North Irish Horse.

Boston remained at the regimental reserve depot at Antrim until 18 January 1917, when he embarked for France and was posted to B or C Squadron of the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment. On 3 August he was awarded five days' field punishment No.2 for "making an improper reply to a NCO".

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was disbanded and most of its men were transferred to the infantry. The majority, including Boston, were transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – on 20 September. Boston was issued a new regimental number – 41309 – and posted to C Company.

On the night of 3 November 1917 C Company mounted a major raid on the German trenches near Havrincourt on the Cambrai front. The battalion war diary for that day states:

At 4.30 p.m. 'C' Coy left Ruyaulcourt and marched up to the line to carry out a raid. The enemy's front line was successfully penetrated, from the Canal ... to about 150 [yards] E of it. The fighting was very severe as the enemy refused to surrender. Our men stayed in the enemy trenches for twenty min. and bayonetted and shot at least forty Germans. We suffered some casualties, mostly from bombs:- 1 officer severely wounded; 1 officer slightly wounded; 1 N.C.O. killed; 3 O.R. missing, believed killed; 13 O.R. wounded; 1 R.E. (N.C.O.) severely wounded.

Boston was one of the wounded, in the right thigh. He was treated at No.108 Field Ambulance then No.21 Casualty Clearing Station, before being sent to No.3 Stationary Hospital at Rouen. On 14 November he was evacuated to the UK and treated at Edinburgh War Hospital. He joined the 10th (Reserve) Battalion on 31 January 1918.

Two months later Boston returned to France, where he rejoined the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion on the Ypres front. From 11 to 18 April the battalion saw heavy fighting between Wulverghem and Kemmel. Boston received a shrapnel wound to his right knee and thigh. After treatment at the 53rd General Hospital at Boulogne, on 21 April he was evacuated to hospital in England.

After a partial recovery, on 2 October 1918 Boston was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Two months later he was transferred to the Army Service Corps motor transport section (No. M/416975). On 8 March 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.