Lance Corporal John Hemphill


John Hemphill was born on 20 February 1889 at Ballyreagh, County Londonderry, the eighth of eleven children of labourer John Hemphill and his wife Catherine (née Mitchell). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Causway Street, Portrush, with his parents and four of his nine surviving siblings, and working as a fishmonger's assistant.

Hemphill enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 8 April 1915 (No.1478). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot before embarking for France on 11 January 1916 with E Squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 34th Division.

Soon after, however, Hemphill was injured. According to the Belfast News-Letter of 11 March:

Lance-Corporal John Hemphill ... has been sent from France to hospital at Maldon, Essex, with a broken collar bone and other injuries, caused by his horse rolling over him.

Following his recovery Hemphill returned to France, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st or 2nd North Irish Horse Regiments.

In August-September 1917 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 Hemphill, 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. Hemphill was issued regimental number 41394.

The Ballymoney Free Press newspaper of 21 February 1918 reported that Hemphill, "who was wounded in France about 3 months ago, has arrived home on leave from hospital." This suggests that he was wounded in November or December during the Battle of Cambrai.

Hemphill must have returned to France soon after, for the War Office Daily Casualty List of 8 June 1918 reported that he had been wounded. This probably occurred in the fighting around Wulverghem and Mount Kemmel on the Ypres front in April that year. It is not known if he saw any further front-line service in the war.

On 28 May 1919 he married Mary Johnston of Portrush at the Duncairn Presbyterian Church, Belfast.

Hemphill died at his home, 106 Main Street, Portrush, on 22 May 1962, and was buried in the Ballywillan Cemetery.