Corporal Thomas Caskey


The background of this North Irish Horseman is not known at present, other than that he was from Portrush, County Antrim, and was born around 1885.

Caskey enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 7 September 1914 (No.1149). On 20 January 1915 he embarked for France with a reinforcement draft for A and C Squadrons. Caskey was posted to C Squadron.

On 20 April 1916 the Ballymoney Free Press newspaper reported that:

In the course of an interesting letter from France to a friend in Portrush, Lance-Corporal Thomas Caskey, North Irish Horse, states – "I have been soldiering a bit since I came back from my leave; in fact the evening I arrived from the base I was sent up just behind the firing line with a party to bring down prisoners. The bombardment and noise of exploding mines were terrific. I was up next night burying dead, and it was a ticklish job. We were shelled with shrapnel all the way going up, and only for the shelter afforded by the parapet, I don't think I would be writing this letter now. I can tell you it is a bit exciting – crouching in a trench with bits of shrapnel plugging into the sand-bags all around one. When we got up I was surprised on being told that we were in the first-line trench. What a mess! The trenches were almost flattened out, and here and there only one side of the trench. We hadn't much time to reflect, however, as up and over we had to go, pick up the poor fellows and drag them to the nearest shell-hole, and there, beneath the glimmering star-shells and the roar of guns and rifles, we scraped as much earth over then as we could. When one thinks of it, no doubt it is a poor burial; but it was the best that could be done in the circumstances. I was up there five nights before being relieved. The weather just now is lovely, and I am feeling in great form. One of the prisoners whom we brought down was ten or twelve years in the Ritz Hotel, London, and he said that up to three months ago they thought they had us beaten. Now, he says, we have them going, and that they will be beaten before the summer is out. He added that the German soldier is now fighting half-heartedly. Let us hope this is true." In a further letter Lance-Corporal Caskey mentioned that when down at the base hospital he met a young man named Rhodes, of the King's Royal Rifles (Church Lads' Brigade Battalion). On being informed, in reply to a query, that Lance-Corporal Caskey belonged to Portrush, the young man Rhodes spoke in laudatory terms regarding the Portrush boys in the King's Royal Rifles, and of their conduct in the trenches.

In June 1916 Caskey's squadron combined with F Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and its men transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Caskey, were transferred on 20 September and were posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion, joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. He was was issued regimental number 41286.

He probably saw action with the battalion at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

No information has been located about Caskey's service with the 9th (NIH) Battalion through the latter part of 1917 and during 1918. On 11 June 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.