Private Isaac Liggett

 

Isaac Liggett was born on 28 March 1897 at Florence Court, Portadown, County Armagh, the sixth of nine children of labourer Joseph Liggett and his wife Susannah (née Carson). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Florence Court with his parents, four of his six surviving siblings and a sister-in-law, and working as a message boy.

Liggett enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at Portadown on 4 September 1914 (No.12001), stating his age as 19 (he was only 17) and his occupation as labourer. He was posted to the 5th Battalion, but soon after transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps (No.1550), joining the divisional cyclist company of the 10th Division.

Liggett's four older brothers were also serving in the army at this time. In February 1915 his father received the following letter from Buckingham Palace:

I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have at the present moment five sons serving in his Majesty's forces. I am commanded to express to you the King's congratulations, and to assure you that his Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example, in one family, of loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign and Empire.

On 8 April 1915 Liggett forfeited twelve days' pay for a disciplinary offence. At Houslow on 2 September he was confined to barracks for ten days and lost 8 days' pay for overstaying his pass by 8 days, and on 15 October he was confined to barracks for 10 days and lost 5 days' pay for being absent 5 days.

On 3 October 1915 Liggett's mother wrote to the War Office stating that he was under-age and asking that he not be sent on active service:

I would be thankful to you if you would keep him for home service or else discharge him as my other sons are all at the front and one of them severely wounded so I would ask your honour to keep this one at home as he is the youngest.

Despite this, however, Liggett embarked for France on 20 October 1915. In April 1916 the Portadown News reported that:

Private Isaac Liggett has written a long letter to his mother in which he tells of how the German shells passed over his head while in his dug out somewhere in France. At one time so intense was the fire that he thought L [sic] was let loose.

On 31 March 1916 Liggett was awarded 5 days' Field Punishment No.1 for being 'late for parade and highly irregular conduct'. A month later he was given 24 days' Field Punishment for being 'absent from tattoo roll call till found in billets at 6.30am, and not complying with an order'.

He returned to the UK on 11 June 1916, where he was posted to the Army Cyclist Corps Training Centre at Chiseldon, Wiltshire. Further disciplinary breaches followed. On 9 August he was confined to barracks for 2 days and lost a day's pay for being 'absent from tattoo roll call until found in bed at reveille', and on 12 September, 7 days' confined to barracks and loss of 6 days' pay for being absent for 6 days.

Later that month Liggett applied for a transfer to the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers in order to join his brother: "I have been invalided Home from France with slight wounds and Hemoride [sic] which makes it difficult for me to continue cycling", he added.

Six weeks later he sought a transfer to the 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, but that battalion declined the request. Following this disappointment, on 27 November 1916 Liggett deserted and returned to Ireland. On 19 January 1917 year he married Joanna Keane at the Edenderry Memorial Methodist Church, Lurgan.

The following month he enlisted in the North Irish Horse (regimental number between 2358 and 2367 – later Corps of Hussars No.71775). His true status was soon discovered, however, and he was charged with desertion and fraudulent enlistment. Fortunately for Liggett the army decided to treat him leniently. The trial was dispensed with and he remained with the North Irish Horse, only having to make good cost of his lost equipment and 'the value of the free kit obtained by him on re-enlistment'.

Liggett remained with the regiment until January 1918, when he embarked for Egypt with a draft of North Irish Horsemen from the regimental reserve depot at Antrim. There he was attached to the 1/1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers), serving with that regiment in the Palestine campaign.

On 26 May 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

After the war Liggett returned to Portadown. He died at his home, 3 Florence Court, on 7 January 1969, and was buried in the Seagoe Cemetery.

 

Liggett's four older brothers also survived the war. George, serving in the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, was wounded in the left elbow in late 1917. James Alexander served in the 9th Battalion, Scottish Rifles, and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, receiving multiple wounds and contracting malaria. Joseph served in the Royal Field Artillery, seeing action in France from August 1914. Thomas, serving in the Royal Irish Rifles, was awarded a Military Medal in 1918. (see articles below.)

 

Portadown News, 6 November 1915

 

Portadown News, 25 December 1915

 

Portadown News, 19 October 1918