Private Alfred Ernest James Kyle


Alfred Ernest James Kyle was born on 8 August 1895 at Mourne Beg, Castlederg, County Tyrone, the fourth of five children of farmer Frederick Kyle and his wife Mary Jane (nee Kyle). The 1911 Census shows him living with his parents, aunt and three siblings at Mourne Beg.

Kyle enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 30 January 1914 (No.895). He embarked for France with A Squadron on 17 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and Advance to the Aisne.

On 19 September 1914 an article was published in The Londonderry Sentinel about a 'Trooper Kyle' of the North Irish Horse. This was probably Alfred Kyle (though possibly William Kyle (No.941), also of A Squadron).

Owing to the rigours of the Press censorship little news has come through of the doings of the North Irish Horse at the front. Indeed, it is not generally known that three hundred of these sturdy young yeomen have been in the fighting line for over a month.

It was at Cambrai that they got their baptism of fire, and all accounts go to show that the gallant Northerners came through the ordeal brilliantly. Among the wounded was Trooper Kyle, a young Castlederg man, who has just been invalided to the headquarters of his squadron – B – at Brandywell-road grounds, Londonderry. He had an arm broken when engaged in pursuing a company of fleeing Germans towards the close of the battle, but has recovered so rapidly that he hopes to rejoin his comrades in France when the next draft is sent out in the course of a few days.

A "Sentinel" representative who sought an interview with Trooper Kyle found him almost indisposed to speak of his experiences, "for you know," he explained, "I have seen so little as compared to most other soldiers." A few pertinent queries, however, which were answered readily, established the fact that he had much interesting information to divulge.

Trooper Kyle joined the North Irish Horse last year, and had the benefit of camp training before the mobilisation at the outbreak of war. He went out with the first batch, being conveyed direct from Dublin to Havre. There they remained two days at a rest camp, after which they entrained for a point near the fighting line. At this time the Allies had retreated to the Cambrai-Chateau [sic] line. The North Irish were told off to act as infantry scouts at Cambrai. When the Germans made their violent attack on the morning of the Cambrai battle two troops of the North Irish Horse, numbering fifty-six men, of whom Trooper Kyle was one, under Lord Cole, were ordered to the thick of the fight, and throughout the long and trying day were engaged stemming back the German advance.

The British outpost, he says, were taken completely by surprise, inasmuch as the German advance parties were attired in khaki and French uniforms. The British thought they were friends until they opened fire on them. Such an act of cruel treachery so incensed the Allies that they fought with the greatest desperation, but still the outposts were almost annihilated. It was only the fine work of the British artillery that saved a few of these gallant fellows.

Asked his impression of battle, Trooper Kyle replied that after the first round of cannonading one did not seem to mind much what happened. In the rush and roar of the fight it was hard to think of details.

Time after time the Germans were driven back at Cambrai with terrible slaughter, and at night the British lines were intact, but many sad sights met the gaze over the large battlefield. On the following morning, of course, it is known that for strategical reasons a further retreat commenced.

After being wounded Trooper Kyle was taken to a local hospital and later on removed to a Brighton institution. He speaks in grateful terms of the great kindness of the French people to the British troops and the attention given to him when he was wounded.

Questioned as to the tactics of the enemy, the trooper related an incident which goes to corroborate what we have read of German barbarities. It was told him by a comrade. During the battle at Cambrai a Briton wounded in the leg was lying on the ground unable to budge, when a German soldier asked him in English, in an apparently friendly way, if he had been hit. Pointing to his wound, the man replied that he had a bullet in his leg. The German immediately drew a revolver and discharged it at the wounded soldier's head, shouting: "Here's another for you."

Apart from his injured arm Trooper Kyle looks quite fit, and will doubtless soon be allowed to realise his ambition to rejoin his friends at the front.

So attractive is the North Irish Horse to the young men of the province that B Squadron, which is commanded by Lord Farnham, has now its full complement of 120 men. Meanwhile recruiting is closed. There will, however, be further vacancies at an early date after a draft of 100 trained men has been sent to France.

Whether Kyle did return to France is not known at present, but it seems unlikely, for on 26 June 1915 he was discharged as being no longer physically fit for military service (paragraph 392 xvi, King's Regulations).

After his discharge Kyle returned to farming. On 13 June 1918 he married farmer's daughter Nettie Roulston at the First Castlederg Presbyterian Church.