Private Matthew Edgar


Matthew Edgar was born on 21 August 1894 at 12 Tobergill Street, Belfast, the third of five children of granite polisher James Alexander Edgar and his wife Margaret (née Newell). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 40 Emerson Street, Shankill, with his parents, his two surviving siblings and a niece, while serving a five-year apprenticeship as a clerk.

Edgar enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 2 June 1915 (No.1654). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France on 23 February 1916. There he was posted to one of the five North Irish Horse squadrons then serving as divisional cavalry units.

In May and June 1916 A, D and E Squadrons of the North Irish Horse combined to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, and C and F Squadrons joined the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, each serving as corps cavalry units until August-September 1917, when the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men, together with some surplus to the needs of the 1st NIH Regiment, were transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers, an infantry regiment. Most, including Edgar, were transferred on 20 September and posted to the 9th (Service) Battalion – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – joining it in the field at Ruyaulcourt five days later. Edgar was issued regimental number 41431 and posted to C Company.

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

Edgar was one of the many posted as missing following the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive. It was later learned that he had been captured, unwounded, on 27 March at Erches, near Roye, when much of the battalion had been overwhelmed by the fast-moving German advance. On 10 May 1918 Edgar's father wrote to the Infantry Records Office in Dublin:

In reply to your Communication of 9th May re Private Matthew Edgar No.41431, 9th Battn. Royal Irish Fusiliers, stating that he is missing, I write to inform you that he is a prisoner of war in Germany. As requested, I forward you a postcard received by his mother from him.

Edgar remained a prisoner until the end of the war, held at camps in Bohain, Giessen and Limburg. He was repatriated to the UK on 9 December 1918, and on 11 March the following year was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve. His military character was recorded as 'very good'. He was later awarded a pension for 'bronchial cattarrh' which was attributed to his military service.

Following his discharge, Edgar returned to his family at Emerson Street and worked as a clerk. On 31 August 1921 he married Anne Fowler in St Matthews Church of Ireland Church in Belfast. They later lived at 9 Pretoria Street, Edgar working as a customs and excise officer. He died in the Belfast City Hospital on 2 July 1961.