Trumpeter James Craig



James Craig was born on 16 November 1899 at McAuley's Terrace, Ballymena, County Antrim, the second of two children of farmer (later dealer and goods carter) Charles Craig and his wife Mary (née Hamilton). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living in Albert Street, Ballymena, with his parents, his American-born half-sister, and his older brother. In the years following he worked with his older brother in the Milford Foundry, Belfast and Kane Bros. Foundry, Harryville, Ballymena.

Craig enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Ballymena on 4 September 1914 (No.1129). He gave his age as 18 years 349 days – his true age was just 14 – and his trade as iron turner. From 20 November to 29 December 1914 he was treated for an illness at hospitals in Belfast and Holywood.

Private Craig's father died on 23 March 1915.

Three weeks later James was awarded 10 days' confined to camp and deprived of a day's pay for being absent without leave from the Antrim camp. On 1 June, however, he was promoted to the rank of trumpeter. He was again found absent without leave from from the night of 9 October to the morning of the 11th, this time receiving a week's confinement to camp and loss of three days' pay.

On 11 January 1916 Craig embarked for France with E Squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 34th Division.

Further disciplinary offences followed. On 8 August 1916 he was given five days’ Field Punishment No.1 for ill-treating a horse and on 2 September another fourteen days for disobeying orders and insubordination. By then it seems the young Horseman had had enough. After a week of the punishment he reported his true age and requested a discharge. On 9 September he was sent to No.5 General Base at Rouen and then to England.

Craig was discharged at Antrim on 24 September 1916, 'having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment and being under 17 years of age at date of application for discharge' (paragraph 392 vi(a), King's Regulations). He military character was recorded as ‘indifferent’.

On 23 October 1916 the Ballymena Observer, (which had not yet heard of James's discharge), reported news from his brother:

Mrs. Craig, of 33 Albert Place, Ballymena, has received a postcard from her son Pte William Craig, Royal Innis. Fus. stating that he has been wounded and is now in Southport Hospital. Pte Craig served in the Dardanelles Expedition and he has a brother in France with the North Irish Horse.

James Craig re-enlisted on 12 February 1917, this time with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (No.31251). He was still only 17 years old. He embarked for France soon after. On 31 August 1917 the Ballymena Observer reported that:

Lance Corporal James Craig, R. Innis. Fus. ... has been wounded and is now in a Canadian Hospital ... . He first enlisted in the North Irish Horse and afterwards joined the Inniskillings.

The wound, to his left hand, was serious enough to prevent any further front-line service. On 19 February 1919 he was discharged as 'surplus to military requirements, having suffered impairment since entry into the service' (paragraph 392 xvi(a), King's Regulations).

Following his discharge Craig returned to Ballymena, where he again worked as an iron turner. On 7 July 1920 he married Jane Wilson at the Kells Presbyterian Church, Connor, County Antrim. The couple and their children later emigrated to Canada, where James became foreman in the Tool and Die Department of General Motors Canada in Oshawa, Durham, Ontario. He died at his home, 561 Grierson Avenue, on 3 March 1951, and was buried in the Mount Lawn Cemetery, Oshawa.


Image sourced from, Public Member Trees - contributor Neil Irwin.