Private Hugh Kelly


The background of this North Irish Horseman is not known for certain, other than that he was from Strabane, County Tyrone, and according to a 1918 document, was born on 4 September 1894. He may have been the Hugh Kelly born in Glasgow in 1894, the last of four children of Donegal-born parents Patrick Kelly and his wife Ellen (née Carrick). The family had lived in Strabane until about 1890, when they moved to Glasgow, Patrick working as a tramway car driver. Years later they returned to Ireland, and by the time of the 1911 Census were living at 99 Main Street, Strabane, Patrick working as a publican.

Hugh Kelly enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 5 or 6 January 1916 (No.2063). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France in 1916 or the first half of 1917, 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 Kelly, 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. Kelly was issued regimental number 41217 and posted to D Company.

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

Kelly was wounded during the 9th (NIH) Battalion's fighting withdrawal from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918 during the German spring offensive. The injury was not severe, however, and he was able to rejoin his battalion later that year.

On 4 September 1918, Kelly was wounded and captured during an attack near Wulverghem on the Ypres front. According to the 9th Battalion diary that day:

At 8am ... under an artillery barrage the Battalion, in conjunction with other Battalions on flanks, attacked. Good progress was made. D Company lost direction and got as far as Stinking Farm ... Not being protected on flanks the enemy attempted to cut them off and the Company had to retire. ... The enemy were not very numerous but their machine gun fire was heavy. The shelling was fairly heavy but was confined to vicinity of St Quentin Cabaret. ... Some of our men on the right were cut off and are thought to be made prisoners. The 29th Division took Hill 63 but did not come up far enough to cover our right flank. During the day there was an amount of sniping and machine gun fire and the enemy shelled St Quentin Cabaret and T.12.a with 5.9. In the afternoon he attempted a counter-attack by coming up along railway between B and A Companies, but was driven back by machine gun and rifle fire. At dusk our patrols were pushed forward to get the line behind Bristol Castle but were unable to do so owing to machine gun.

Kelly was held as a prisoner of war at a camp Stendal in Germany until the end of the war.