Corporal William John Cairns


William John Cairns was born on 4 March 1899 at Roddenfoot, Ballymoney, County Antrim, the third of seven children of stone-breaker and general labourer Thomas Cairns and his wife Mary Ann (née O'Brien). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living in Castle Street, Ballymoney, with his parents and three of his siblings. Soon after, he was employed as a hardware apprentice.

Cairns enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Ballymoney on 19 October 1915 (No.1749 – later Corps of Hussars No.71539). He gave his age as 19 years, three years more than his true age.

He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot, remaining there throughout the war. On 29 January 1918 he was promoted to lance corporal, and on 11 February 1919, to corporal.

On 5 March 1919 Cairns was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

Following his demobilisation, Cairns returned to his home at 12 Castle Street, Ballymoney. In April 1920 he fell ill with what was suspected to be pulmonary tuberculosis. It is probable that this diagnosis was later confirmed, as his level of disability by April 1922 was assessed at 100 per cent (it had improved to 60 per cent six months later).