Corporal John Donaldson


The background of this North Irish Horseman is not known at present, other than that he was born around 1872 in Drumcree, near Portadown, County Armagh, and that he was a Roman Catholic.

Donaldson enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at Armagh on 7 March 1896 (No.5591). He gave his occupation as 'French polisher' (another record states he had worked as an engine-man), and stated that he was serving in the Mid-Ulster Artillery. Initially posted to the 2nd Battalion, after two years he joined the 1st Battalion and embarked for Egypt, serving there until the end of September 1899. From 30 September 1899 to 21 October 1900 he served in South Africa in the Boer War.

In October 1904 Donaldson embarked for India with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, remaining there until January 1912. While there he qualified as a cook, and was promoted to corporal. He was discharged at his own request after 18 years' service on 16 March 1914. Despite having been disciplined for a number of disciplinary breaches while in the army, his military character was recorded as 'good' – "honest and industrious".

Donaldson enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 5 September 1914 (No.1110). On 25 September he was promoted to corporal. In December 1914 he embarked for England with D Squadron, where they were billeted at Cople, Bedford awaiting orders for France. While there, on 1 March 1915, he married Charlotte Elizabeth Knight.

In April 1915 Donaldson fell ill with myalgia (rheumatism). He returned to Ireland and on 27 May was admitted to a hospital in Belfast. A medical board on 8 June reported:

... he left the 1st R I Fus in March 1914 & joined the NIH in Sept. In Jany 1914 he had a severe fall in barracks in Shorncliffe and since has suffered more or less from stiffness and inability to raise the right arm – this condition has become aggravated & he can now scarcely use his arm or hold or lift anything heavy in his right hand. ... He looks much older than the given age: 43 years.

The board attributed his illness to "exposure while acting as cook in camp". Although he was fit for light duty "as a superintendant cook, for which he is specially qualified", it was recommended that he be discharged as permanently unfit for military service.

Donaldson was discharged (paragraph 392 (xvi), King's Regulations) on 28 June 1915. His military character was recorded as 'fair'. Following his discharge from the army he returned to live with his wife in Cople.