Private William Wilson Irwin


William Wilson Irwin was born on 17 September 1894 in Union Street, Coleraine, County Londonderry, the last of nine children of corn miller William Irwin and his wife Letitia (née Campbell). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living as a boarder at 25 Church Street, Coleraine, with his brother Joseph, and serving an apprenticeship.

Irwin enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 2 and 13 December 1915 (No.2035 – later Corps of Hussars No.71677). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve depot before embarking for France in 1916 or the first half of 1917, where he was posted to one of the squadrons of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

Irwin was one of ten men of the regiment gassed while on a working party at Ypres on 6 September 1917. It is not known whether he recovered sufficiently to rejoin his regiment at the front later in the war. He certainly returned home for a period, for on 14 February 1918 he married Annie Craig Adams of Coleraine at the Ballywillan Presbyterian Church. Their first child, Joseph Alexander, was born on 28 December that year.

On 13 March 1919 Irwin was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

By 1973 he was living at 4 Spencer Row, Coleraine. he died in the Coleraine Hospital on 30 October that year and was buried in the Coleraine Cemetery.


At least one of Irwin's brothers, Robert Beatty Wylie Irwin, also served in the war, as a lieutenant in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Mentioned in Despatches and awarded a Military Cross, he was captured during the German spring offensive in March 1918. During the Second World War he was lieutenant-colonel of the No.1 Londonderry Battalion of the Home Guard, and was awarded an OBE in the 1945 New Year's Honours.

William Irwin's son Joseph Alexander served in the Second World War as a Flying Officer (Pilot) of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He died on air operations on 6 March 1944. Another son served in the RAF in the Middle East and a daughter in the WAAF.


The Northern Whig, 24 December 1915