Lieutenant Harold Percy Kerr


Harold Percy Kerr was born on 6 December 1892 at John Street, Sligo, the only child of shipping agent and merchant Percy Campbell Kerr and his wife Agnes Raby Kerr (nee Dudgeon). Harold was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, where he played in the school's highly successful rugby team (see article below). By 1915 he was working as an assistant manager in the shipping firm Laird Line, and living at Wine Street, Sligo.

Kerr enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Boyle on 20 May 1915, reporting for duty at Antrim two days later. He was issued regimental number 1563. On 11 January 1916 he embarked for France with E Squadron, which was then serving as divisional cavalry to the 34th Division. Five months later E Squadron came together with A and D Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII Corps.

On 16 December 1916 Kerr applied for a commission in the infantry, with a preference for the Connaught Rangers. He left his regiment for the UK on 7 January 1917 where, after a period of leave, on 8 March reported for duty at No.9 Officer Cadet Battalion, Gailes Camp, near Irvine, Scotland. On 27 June 1917 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 17th (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles at Ballykinlar.

Two months later he married Margaret Jane Cummings at the Church of Ireland Parish Church, Rathfarnham, Dublin.

By early November 1917 Kerr had embarked for France, where he was posted to C Company of the 14th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. It is likely that he saw action with the battalion during the Battle of Cambrai in late November and December that year.

In early 1918 Kerr was on leave at home in Sligo when on 5 March he fell ill with influenza. A medical board at Dublin on 2 April found he was severely debilitated from the illness and in need of hospital treament. He was admitted to Dublin Castle Red Cross Hospital. By June Kerr was in the Officers' Convalescent Hospital, Monkstown House, County Dublin, but his recovery continued very slowly. Although a medical board on 8 June found him fit for home service, another on 27 August decided he was unfit for service of any kind for 6 months, reporting:

"[He] is thin & debilitated. Is nervous & despondent. His teeth are in a very bad condition, & his mouth is full of carious stumps. Large crop of acne on back."

In the meantime, however, Kerr was told he had been released from military duty, without pay and allowances, from 23 July. Unable to work, Kerr wrote to the War Office:

Considering the fact that my ill health was certainly caused by service in France and that I am now unable to support myself and my wife you might kindly say what remuneration I can obtain until my period of rest is completed.

And following the 27 August medical board:

I have a good knowledge of horses and their management and I also have a knowledge of shipping and Railway work, learned in my father's business. Will you kindly say early if you can give me employment with any of these branches. I feel quite well enough to do light work, or, if not, if you can grant me some amount to live with. My health was broken down at first by service in France, and through no other cause. I have a wife to keep and you must be aware that no firm would employ me for six months, even if I was perfectly fit. My father's business is at a standstill owing to war so I have nothing to hope for in that direction.

It appears that Kerr's pay and allowances were not cut off. He was promoted to lieutenant on 27 December 1918, and demobilised on 9 March 1919. Soon after this, the War Office decided that Kerr should not have been paid over that period, and asked officials in Dublin to recover the amount owing – £124.0.1. A report from the Dublin Metropolitan Police, however, stated:

... that Harold Percy Kerr lives at 65 Grosvenor Square with his wife and one child. So far as police can ascertain he has no means, & is depending on his salary as a clerk in the Claims Department of the B. & I. Steam Packet Co. Ltd., South Wall, & he does not appear to be the class of person who could easily satisfy the amount claimed.

Whether the money was ever collected is not known.

Kerr continued to work in the shipping business. By 1927 he was manager of the Dundalk and Newry Steam Packet Company.

At the beginning of World War 2 he unsuccessfully applied for enrolment in the Officers' Emergency Reserve.


The Irish Times, 29 November 1933


The Sligo Champion, 25 December 1926