Lieutenant Alexander (Lex) Doveton John Brennan



Alexander Doveton John Brennan was born on 16 February 1895 at Modder River, South Africa, the first of five children of farmer Alexander Brennan and his wife Edith Sarah (nee Hudson). By 1901 his family had returned to their farm at Bentra, Templecorran, County Antrim, where they remained over the next decade. At the beginning of 1912 he began work as a linen apprentice for the firm of J.A. Thompson & Co.

Brennan enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 1 October 1914 (No.1226). He was promoted to corporal on 7 November 1914, and sergeant on 9 February the following year. On 17 November 1915 he embarked for France with F Squadron.

In the latter part of 1916 he fell ill, his mother writing to military authorities on 12 November:

I would be so very much obliged if you would furnish me with any information regarding my son, Sgt. A.D.J. Brennan North Irish Horse Reg. No. 1226, whom you reported ill in France on Nov. 3rd. If you could even furnish me with his address I would be thankful as we have had no word from him directly for 3 weeks.

At about the same time Brennan had applied for a commission. He returned to the UK for officer cadet training on 21 February 1917, reporting for duty after a period of leave to No.1 Cavalry Cadet Squadron, Netheravon, on 23 April.

Brennan was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant on 25 August 1917 and posted to the 2nd Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at Newbridge. In the early months of 1918 he embarked for France, where he was posted to the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars. The regimental history mentions him several times, beginning with an action in the Bois des Essarts on 25 March 1918.

At the end of July:

... a Hun dropped some bombs at Enoch. and Corporal Latimer of "A" Squadron was wounded, four horses were killed and six wounded. These casualties all occurred in the 3rd Troop of the "A" Squadron, then commanded by 2nd-Lieutenant Brennan. It was very bad luck, as this was one of the best troops in the regiment.

On 24 August:

Moved on at 5.30 a.m. to Ayette, where there was a halt for an hour or so. At 8 a.m. hurried orders arrived, and off the regiment went towards St. Leger in support to the Guards. "A" Squadron, under Captain Cardwell, was advanced squadron, and Lieutenant Brennan did some very good work, as also did all the 3rd Troop of "A" Squadron. They had a rotten time, as there was a lot of gas about, which caused several casualties.

According to Brennan's account, at the time of the Armistice:

I was in charge of the advance troops & was holding a position on a hill. It was just outside some village. I did not receive the notice till some time after the cease-fire was due. That night the members of my troop fraternised with villagers & mostly got drunk. I was young & conscientious & did sentry-go all night. I can remember being frightfully cold. I was so afraid of my troopers doing some mischief & of something appearing from the German side that I refused to have a drink or to leave my look out place. One villager came to offer me hospitality. He even went so far as to say I could have his wife which shocked me greatly. I think the village was "Hautrage" & there was a little town near called "Remouchamps".

On 25 February 1919 Brennan was promoted to lieutenant. He relinquished his commission on completion of his service on 18 March 1919. He was one of a large number mentioned in Field Marshal Haig's despatch of 16 March 1919 for "distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty" in the period 16 September 1918 to 15 March 1919.

Before the war Brennan had been an accomplished Rugby player. On New Year's Day 1920 he played in a Rest of Ulster team in a trial match against Belfast at Ormeau.

Brennan later moved to England. He married Grace Eileen Lalor in Sleaford, Linclonshire, in 1924. In June 1926 he was appointed an inspector for the Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries, later reaching the position of Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer. In 1953 he was awarded a CBE (Civil Division).

He died in England on 22 July 1975.



Brennan's medals, including the Mentioned in Despatches oak-leaf and Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal.


Brennan (back row third player from left) in Dublin with Lansdowne Rugby Football club, All-Ireland (Bateman Cup) winners 1921-22.


Brennan (marked 'x') with an unknown rugby team, perhaps the Rest of Ulster (see narrative above).


Brennan with his daughter Bridget at the Palace to receive his CBE


Another picture of Brennan, as a corporal in December 1914, can be seen here.


I am grateful to Charles Brennan for providing the images above, and for the information on Lieutenant Brennan's service in the Hussars at the end of the war. Last image sourced from Brennan Family Chronicles.