Second Lieutenant James Dowling


James Dowling was born on 29 May 1893 at 2 Virginia Street, Belfast, the seventh of ten children of carpenter (later building contractor) William Dowling and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Rea). By 1911 he was living with his parents and four of his siblings at 49 Marlborough Park, Belfast, and working as a commercial clerk. Soon after he became a timber merchant.

Dowling enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 10 August 1914 (No.985). Just ten days later he embarked for France with C Squadron, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

He remained with the squadron until January 1916, when he was attached to the 28th County of London Regiment.

On 19 March or 7 May 1916 (the records differ) Dowling was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 15th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He may have seen action with the battalion on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July that year.

However on 17 July the commanding officer of the battalion wrote the following memo:

I beg to report that, in my opinion, 2nd. Lt. J.Dowling of this battalion, is inefficient and is unlikely to make a suitable officer in the near future. His heart is not in his work, he lacks thoroughness, and is a poor disciplinarian. 2nd. Lieut. J.Dowling has been shown and has initialled this letter.

Dowling left France for London on 14 August. He agreed to resign his commission, which took place on 17 October 1916.

Dowling returned to work as a timber merchant. On 1 September 1919 he married postmaster's daughter Lucinda Arthur at Belfast. By 1946 he was governing director of builders' providers firm James Dowling Ltd of Corporation Street, Belfast, and chairman of the North of Ireland Brickmakers' Association. He died at his residence, Lismore, Greenisland, County Antrim, on 20 January that year, and was buried in the Drumbo Presbyterian Churchyard.


Crescent Presbyterian Church Roll of Honour, Belfast


Image courtesy of Nigel Henderson, History Hub Ulster.